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The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track
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The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  231 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Congress is the first branch of government in the American system, write Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, but now it is a broken branch, damaged by partisan bickering and internal rancor. The Broken Branch offers both a brilliant diagnosis of the cause of Congressional decline and a much-needed blueprint for change, from two experts who understand politics and revere ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Aparently Mann/Ornstein wanted to have something that didn't come off like a partisan screed. They failed. They basically said, "Well, Democrats created a bunch of bad institutional stuff that wasn't good during their 40 year control of Congress. Then Republicans took over and did it even more. And doing it more is really really bad."

They constantly were saying things were "unprecedented" without explaining how or why and were constantly saying why something that was done was "worse then what h
Stephen Tryon
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track

This is a terrific discussion of Congress for people who are willing to learn the lingo of insiders. The authors, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, are veteran political scientists who have spent decades working on congressional staffs or on think tanks dealing with congressional issues. Their assessment, therefore, benefits from their perspective of having watched the good, the bad and the ugly in Congress over an
Steven Peterson
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
A series of books has looked at the recent poor temper in American politics. This volume is a welcome entry into that literature. The two authors, Thomas Mann (of the Brookings Institution) and Norman Ornstein (of the American Enterprise Institute) are long time observers of the American political scenes, with special interest toward and knowledge of the American Congress. The Broken Branch, a co-authored product by the two, reflects their concern that something has gone haywire with Congress.

Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book by 2 long term Congressional watchers. It begins with a history, explaining the Constitutional mandate of Congress as the First Branch of gov't, with actually more power than the Executive or Judicial since it has not only impeachment power, but also the power to enact laws and keep the president in check. Their contention is that since 2000, Congress has fallen down on their jobs, essentially being lackeys to the president---Speaker Dennis Hastert proudly insisted that this is ...more
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book checks all the boxes in my personal wheelhouse of intersecting interests. It is also one of the more accessible books about Congress I read in my graduate studies. It's a great primer on the basics of why Congress has increasingly ceased to be a functional branch of government.

Besides being a handy short history on the subject of Congressional norms, the Broken Branch is not afraid to name names when it comes to discussing the dissolution of our politics. In a nutshell, it is mostly th
Mar 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
The authors are long time participants in, and scholars on, the Congress of the United States. They provide an important background on the history of Congress from the days of the framers and then dig into the last 40 years to show where things have gone horribly wrong.

The House of Representatives has become the lap dog of the administration, using majority party controlled rules to limit disclosure, debate and any real semblance of deliberative process. While the Senate has more deliberative ru
Rk Wild
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This very readable, scholarly work documents the U.S. Congress 20 to 30 year slide from a deliberative body with oversight of the executive branch, to a policy rubber-stamp for same-party presidents and a deny-policy-victory-at-all costs for opposition party presidents.

What is most disconcerting is the winner-take-all approach that the House and Senate ruling party has in "governing," including bending or outright ignoring long-standing rules and practices that were designed to provide cover for
The first one-third or so of this is an excellent history of how both houses of congress have evolved into what they are today--the development of rules, procedures, committees, appointments, precedent, etc. After that it's a much less interesting blow-by-blow account of the atrocities committed by both parties after the House and Senate polarized into ideological extremes and lost and sense of the common good and stopped compromising, deliberating, etc. That's all good reporting, but sometimes ...more
David Sousa
May 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Excellent overview of profound changes that have taken place in Congress in the past two to three decades, with special emphasis on abuses of power between the 104th and 109th Congresses. Mann and Ornstein are part of the Washington establishment, serious students of Congress who love the institution and bemoan its many failings. It's weak on prescription, but that's largely because the electoral roots of the "Congress problem" can't be addressed through reform.
Evan Howlett
May 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
An interesting read, but extremely dull. The authors seem unable to counter their constant need to re-affirm their collective experiences with Congress, and it gets extremely annoying around page 50. That seriously detracts from what otherwise would be a very candid, if depressing, look at the state of Congress today. I'd recommend this to political enthusiasts used to reading Poli Sci textbooks, as this has as much information as a textbook but unfortunately reads much like one as well.
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
They depress you with their explanation of how screwed up the legislative branch is, but then bring you back from the brink by giving simple suggestions on how to fix it. I also took comfort from the fact that the authors seemed to like both McCain and Obama (I read this before the election)and identified them as part of the solution rather than the problem.
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Although a bit dry in places, no one can argue with the expertise (and evidence) that the authors bring to bear. It's an interesting read that covers the entire Congress, but picks up with increased relevancy as they delve into the past 55 years or so. I think it's accessible to most readers, though I would have liked to seen more suggestions for reform that were "outside of the box."
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kept in my work bag and read on and off on breaks when I had time. An interesting history and it's clear Congress is not likely to get back on track soon, especially after the 2014 mid-term elections.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
I've always wondered, "why does congress do that?" This explains why. The authors, two congressional experts, describe the history and politics of why it is and what needs to change. Required reading for all citizens.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good book for understanding and setting the stage for what is happening today. Their next book "it's worse than you think" is a real eye opener from two congressional watchers from different political traditions.
Apr 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politicalbooks
Great insight into how the Republican Congress bent all the rules to make sure it got what it wanted. These assholes are amazing. Read it.
Sep 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fairly dense look at the history of Congress and how it got to be so divided. Interesting stuff.
Polly Callahan
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: government
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: government
Congress is totally broken and dysfunctional, y'all.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting read. It's hard to imagine there was once a time when Congress was a separate and independent branch of government, regardless of party. I look forward to reading the follow-up book.
Michael Taylor
Jul 24, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: u-s-congress
A look at the Congress of the '90s and early '00s which places it in historical context. A book written by insiders who have been studying Congress since 1969.
Anthony Faber
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A 2006 book on how Congress has gotten more dysfunctional in my lifetime with some suggestions of how to make it work better.
Ryan Mac
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great book about the various failures of Congress in oversight and legislating along with a call for action. Very interesting book and easy read, even for those who don't follow politics very much.
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Mar 27, 2008
Eric Fleury
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