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Act of Congress

How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't

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Hardcover published by Knopf (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book

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.

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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.

Product Details
Hardcover (448 pages)
Published: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780307700162
Other books byRobert G. Kaiser
  • So Damn Much Money

    So Damn Much Money
    The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of...
    With a New Foreword In So Damn Much Money, veteran Washington Post editor and correspondent Robert Kaiser gives a detailed account of how the boom in political lobbying since the 1970s has shaped American politics by empowering special interests, undermining effective legislation, and discouraging the country’s best citizens from serving in office. Kaiser traces this dramatic change in our political system through the colorful story of Gerald S. J. Cassidy, one of Washington’s most successful lobbyists. Superbly told, it’s an illuminating dissection of a political system badly in need of reform.

    The News About the News

    The News About the News
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    Freedom of the press is a primary American value. Good journalism builds communities, arms citizens with important information, and serves as a public watchdog for civic, national, and global issues. But what happens when the news turns its back on its public role? Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post, and Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor and senior correspondent, report on a growing crisis in American journalism. From the corporatization that leads media moguls to slash content for profit, to newsrooms that ignore global crises to report on personal entertainment, these veteran journalists chronicle an erosion of independent, relevant journalism. In the process, they make clear why incorruptible reporting is crucial to American society. Rooted in interviews and first-hand accounts, the authors take us inside the politically charged world of one of America’s powerful institutions, the media.

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