This book explores highly charged topics that give special meaning to the U.S. Senate's life and culture. They include the decades-long struggles between the Senate and the President for control in shaping legislation; the origins and substance of the Senate seniority system; the bizarre evolution of the filibuster from an effective minority weapon into a day-to-day Senate affliction; the relatively recent emergence of the majority leader, partially in violation of longstanding chamber rules, into the Senate's most important member; and the story of the Senate's long and bitter relations with the House of Representatives, as both chambers gradually grew into parliamentary polar opposites, one to act promptly, the other to stall and delay. The current Senate is confronted with continuing and growing difficulties, a legislature in transition, as it has always been in transition. Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, the Senate's great nineteenth-century triumvirate, could hardly have recognized the place fifty years later-and certainly not now.
Today, the Senate stands unmistakably at a low point within the broad historical cycles of boom and bust, growth and retrenchment, which have defined its evolution-along with that of the nation. Profiles of some of the more than 1,900 individuals who have served-statesmen, strivers, and scoundrels-illuminate this endlessly fascinating and perennially frustrating body. The judgments expressed in this volume-part narrative history, part memoir-are based on extensive research into the Senate's past and also on the direct observation by its two authors, whose combined involvement with the Senate totals more than one hundred years.
Neil MacNeil was chief congressional correspondent of TIME for nearly thirty years. MacNeil was a founding member of the PBS program Washington Week, where he reported on Congress every week for twelve years. Richard A. Baker is historian emeritus of the United States Senate. As Senate historian, Baker and his colleagues produced narrative historical publications and assisted Senator Robert C. Byrd in preparing his award-winning four-volume work, The Senate of the United States, 1789-1989.
Preface ; Getting There ; Prologue: Entering the Contemporary Senate ; 1: Seeking Senators of Judgment and Integrity: Electing the Senate, 1788-1958 ; 2: The Unquiet Challenge of Modern Senate Elections ; Natural Adversaries ; 3: Dancing with Presidents: A Wary Embrace, 1789-1901 ; 4: Struggling for Primacy: Origins of the Modern Presidency, 1901-1945 ; 5: Unequal Partners: Losing Ground to the Modern Presidency: From Truman to Clinton and Beyond ; 6: Living with the House of Representatives ; First among Equals ; 7: Varieties of Senate Leadership-1789-1952 ; 8: Leaders Empowered-the Modern Era ; World's Greatest Deliberative Body ; 9: Sharpening a New Tool: Senate Investigations, 1789-1945 ; 10: "The Most Necessary of All Powers": Senate Investigations, since 1945 ; 11: Senate Debate: Performance over Deliberation? ; 12: Cultivating Dilatory Tactics: The Emergence of the Filibuster, 1789-1968 ; 13: "Change is in the Air": The Modern Filibuster ; Bibliography ; Index