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Congress Explained

Congress Explained
Representation and Lawmaking in the First Branch

First Edition


November 2022 | 480 pages | CQ Press
Congress Explained: Representation and Lawmaking in the First Branch helps students understand the individual members who operate the pulls-and-levers of the branch to achieve their legislative goals. Instead of introducing Congress through abstract theories or a list of procedures and processes, Casey Burgat and Charles Hunt walk students through the inner workings of Congress and how its members have come to see their jobs as representatives. Beyond passing legislation, representation includes how members communicate with their constituents, act in their home districts, and reflect the people whom they are tasked to serve. Discussing member motivations, purposes, backgrounds, and constraints allows students to thoroughly engage with how Congress, government, and politics fulfill their core responsibilities to the American people.

Chapter 1: Introduction: A Broken Congress?
Chapter 2: Mastering the Basics: House and Senate
Chapter 3: Representation: Congress and their Constituents
Chapter 4: Congressional Elections: The Pathway to Congress
Chapter 5: Parties in Congress: Power and Polarization
Chapter 6: The Congressional Committee System: Dividing the Workload
Chapter 7: Policymaking in the Gridlock Era
Chapter 8: The Congressional Budget Process: Follow the Money
Chapter 9: Congress and the President: The Two Ends of Pennsylvania Avenue
Chapter 10: Congress, the Courts, and the Bureaucracy: Non-Legislator Legislating
Chapter 11: Congress and External Influencers – Interest Groups, Activists, and Media
Chapter 12: Conclusion: The Congress We Deserve

"This book sets the standard for Congress textbooks!"

Elizabeth Dorssom
University of Missouri - Columbia

Congress Explained provides a fresh look at how Congress works. In contrast to many other textbooks on Congress, it places representation - the link between citizens and lawmakers - as a central focus. In particular, the book's emphasis on the role of money in driving legislative behavior and influencing democratic outcomes brings the study of Congress into the 21st century and offers a realistic and interesting approach to legislative politics in the era of polarization and perpetual campaigning.

Alex Keena
Virginia Commonwealth University

"An excellent book to tell the story of the institution of Congress while highlighting its individual members - which is so hard to pull off. But this book does it very well."

Leah A. Murray
Weber State University

"This textbook cuts through the idealized and obsolete descriptions of how Congress works in order to explain what really makes the contemporary Congress tick in all of its dysfunctional functionality."

Anthony Dell'Aera
Worcester State University

"It makes the complexities of Congress more accessible to students who really do not understand the institution outside of Schoolhouse Rock."

Mary L. Carver
Longwood University

Excellent analysis with interesting perspectives, much more likely to engage undergraduate students than most books on Congress.

Roger Green
Political Science, Florida Gulf Coast University
July 27, 2023
Key features
  • This book offers students of Congress a brief, accessible guide to the structure, processes, data, and identity of the American Congress.
  • The blend of institutional and empirical approaches keeps the chapters engaging and allows students to learn about both Congress and political science.
  • The focus on individual member's stories and case studies makes the material appealing to students.
  • The book's focus on representation allows the authors to address on-the-ground identities and characteristics of specific lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and more.

Sage College Publishing

You can purchase this book and request an instructor sample on our US College site:

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