Congress

A Performance Appraisal


Andrew J. Taylor

First Edition • March 26, 2013 • 272 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813345727 • $37.00 USD$47.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813345734 • $25.99 USD$25.99 CAN

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With record low approval ratings—the lowest poll results since 1974—Congress is a failing institution in the eyes of many Americans. Is public opinion correct in judging the inefficacy of the legislative branch, or is the public mistaken in these harsh criticisms? Congress: A Performance Appraisal teaches students about this critical institution of American democracy by examining how successful the body is in carrying out its key functions, particularly representation, lawmaking, and checking the other branches of government. Rather than focusing on the institutional and procedural questions of how Congress is set up, what rules guide its actions, and how its members carry out their daily duties, Andrew J. Taylor asks: do these structures, procedures, behaviors, and outcomes serve the American people as they were meant to? Using a set of aspirations a good legislature should strive for and benchmarks to rate how close it comes to those aspirations, Taylor offers a unique approach to the discussion of Congress, its actions, and its efficacy as a legislature. Sure to prompt provocative classroom discussions, Congress is the perfect text for courses on American government and politics.


Andrew J. Taylor is professor of political science in the School of Public and International Affairs at NC State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and teaches courses in American politics. He is a recipient of Dirksen Congressional Center research awards and provides political commentary for a number of local media outlets. In 1999-2000 he was the American Political Science Association’s Steiger Congressional Fellow. Dr. Taylor has published in many journals including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and American Politics Research and is the author of the books, Elephant’s Edge: The Republicans as a Ruling Party and The Floor in Congressional Life.

1. The Much Maligned Legislative Branch
2. What We Should Want Congress to Do
3. How Congress Represents America
4. Congress and Public Life
5. How Congress Is Organized
6. How Congress Makes Laws
7. The Policy Congress Produces
8. Congress’s Checking and Balancing
9. Evaluating Congress

“An insightful and fair-minded assessment of today’s Congress. By establishing a set of well-reasoned benchmarks, he illuminates both what Congress does right and how it might be reformed.” —Eric Schickler, University of California, Berkeley

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