Act of Congress by Robert G. Kaiser
How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't

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Mr. Kaiser depicts the gruesome business of legislating in the wickedly honest fashion only a journalistic veteran, liberated from the restraints imposed on daily reporters, could get away with.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

An eye-opening account of how Congress today really works—and doesn’t—that follows the dramatic journey of the sweeping financial reform bill enacted in response to the Great Crash of 2008.

The founding fathers expected Congress to be the most important branch of government and gave it the most power. When Congress is broken—as its justifiably dismal approval ratings suggest—so is our democracy. Here, Robert G. Kaiser, whose long and distinguished career at The Washington Post has made him as keen and knowledgeable an observer of Congress as we have, takes us behind the sound bites to expose the protocols, players, and politics of the House and Senate—revealing both the triumphs of the system and (more often) its fundamental flaws.

 Act of Congress tells the story of the Dodd-Frank Act, named for the two men who made it possible: Congressman Barney Frank, brilliant and sometimes abrasive, who mastered the details of financial reform, and Senator Chris Dodd, who worked patiently for months to fulfill his vision of a Senate that could still work on a bipartisan basis. Both Frank and Dodd collaborated with Kaiser throughout their legislative efforts and allowed their staffs to share every step of the drafting and deal making that produced the 1,500-page law that transformed America’s financial sector.

Kaiser explains how lobbying affects a bill—or fails to. We follow staff members more influential than most senators and congressmen. We see how Congress members protect their own turf, often without regard for what might best serve the country—more eager to court television cameras than legislate on complicated issues about which many of them remain ignorant. Kaiser shows how ferocious partisanship regularly overwhelms all other considerations, though occasionally individual integrity prevails.
Act of Congress, as entertaining as it is enlightening, is an indispensable guide to a vital piece of our political system desperately in need of reform.

 

About Robert G. Kaiser

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ROBERT G. KAISER has been with The Washington Post since 1963. He has reported on the House and Senate; was a correspondent in Saigon and Moscow; served as national editor, then managing editor; and is now associate editor and senior correspondent. He has also written for Esquire, Foreign Affairs, and The New York Review of Books. His books include Russia: The People and the Power; So Damn Much Money; and, with Leonard Downie Jr., The News About the News. He has received an Overseas Press Club award and a National Press Club award, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has also been a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He lives in Washington, D.C.
 
Published May 7, 2013 by Vintage. 449 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Act of Congress
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Noam Scheiber on Jul 11 2013

His diagnosis of what ails Congress can be summarized as “too much democracy.” He laments the huge drop in the amount of time congressmen have spent in Washington since the 1960s...

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Jonathan Martin on May 10 2013

Mr. Kaiser depicts the gruesome business of legislating in the wickedly honest fashion only a journalistic veteran, liberated from the restraints imposed on daily reporters, could get away with.

Read Full Review of Act of Congress: How America'... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 17 2013

Remember that old saw about making sausages and making laws—that you don’t want to know too much about either one? Kaiser disproves it with this lucid if sometimes numbing book.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Karl Wolff on Apr 16 2013

...Act of Congress should be essential reading. He turns a complex issue into a simple story. This should be a book on every informed voter's reading list.

Read Full Review of Act of Congress: How America'... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

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Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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