A leading scholar of Congress and the Constitution analyzes Congress’s surprisingly potent set of tools in the system of checks and balances.
Congress is widely supposed to be the least effective branch of the federal government. But as Josh Chafetz shows in this boldly original analysis, Congress in fact has numerous powerful tools at its disposal in its conflicts with the other branches. These tools include the power of the purse, the contempt power, freedom of speech and debate, and more.
Drawing extensively on the historical development of Anglo-American legislatures from the seventeenth century to the present, Chafetz concludes that these tools are all means by which Congress and its members battle for public support. When Congress uses them to engage successfully with the public, it increases its power vis-à-vis the other branches; when it does not, it loses power. This groundbreaking take on the separation of powers will be of interest to both legal scholars and political scientists.
Josh Chafetz is professor of law at Cornell Law School. His work has appeared in top scholarly journals and in national publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
“A detailed, scholarly history . . . tracing the roots of Congress’s modern powers back to their English origins.”—Adam White, Wall Street Journal
“A distinguished and authoritative work in the field of U.S. constitutional law as well as in the cross-cutting field of congressional studies.”—David Mayhew, Sterling Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Yale University
"No institution embodies the dysfunction of modern American politics more than Congress. Josh Chafetz's pathbreaking book shows that Congress nonetheless has more powers and more opportunities to govern effectively than most scholars or political leaders realize. A major contribution to legal studies, political science, and, most importantly, American governance."—Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
"While many bemoan the inevitability of an imperial presidency, Chafetz expands our constitutional imaginary, demonstrating the many routes through which Congress's relations with the executive branch, the public, and its own members undergird a responsible and vibrant politics. This is an outstanding new contribution to an important field."—Mariah Zeisberg , University of Michigan
"At a time when it is fashionable to dismiss Congress and the entire system of separated powers as broken, Josh Chafetz offers a brilliant reconstruction and defense of both. Rich in historical detail and institutional insight, Congress's Constitution is required reading for anyone interested in how the legislative branch shapes the constitutional order even when it is not legislating."—David Pozen, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
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