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Qualified exceptionalism: the US Congress in comparative perspective

Owens, John E. and Loomis, Burdett A. (2006) Qualified exceptionalism: the US Congress in comparative perspective. Journal of Legislative Studies, 12 (3-4). pp. 258-290. ISSN 1357-2334

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13572330600875464

Abstract

The framers of the American Constitution devised a singular bicameral legislative body, which invested substantial power in both a broadly representative lower chamber and a second "deliberative" chamber that was both insulated from the voters and unrepresentative of the population as a whole. Until the early 20th Century, the singular U.S. Congress changed little, but with growing national responsibilities, it sought to construct organizational forms that could address a consistently stronger executive. Since the 1980s, the Congress has relied increasingly on stronger parties to organize its activities. This development, embraced in turn by Democrats and Republicans, has led to changes that have edged the Congress in the direction of parliamentary democracies. We conclude this analysis has real, but limited utility, as congressional party leaders continue to barter for votes and, in the context, of narrow chamber majorities, often rely heavily on presidential assistance on divisive issues that are important to their party brand. Yet, the traditional features of the American separated system - bicameralism, the committee systems, and the centrifugal forces emanating from diverse congressional districts, increasingly complex policy issues, and the fear of electoral retribution - also remain strong, and effectively constrain the influence of leaders.'Qualified exceptionalism' thus most aptly describes the contemporary American Congress, which remains 'exceptional,' but less than unique, as it responds to many of the same forces, in some of the same ways (e.g., strong parties), as do many other representative assemblies around the world.

Item Type:Article
Research Community:University of Westminster > Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, School of
ID Code:3997
Deposited On:24 May 2007
Last Modified:11 Aug 2010 15:32

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