Past Event

Checks and Balances

Perspectives on American Democracy at the Beginning of the 21st Century

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EDT

This event features Former Congressmen Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma and Martin Frost of Texas as keynote speakers. Other speakers include Professor Nelson Polsby, University of California, Berkeley; Professor Barbara Sinclair, University of California, Los Angeles; Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Professor Andrew Rudalevige, Dickinson College, Washington Attorneys and former White House Counsels C. Boyden Gray and Beth Nelson and journalists Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times.. Two prominent former staff directors, James Dyer of the House Committee on Appropriations and Billy Pitts of the House Rules Committee are also on the program.

Profound changes have taken place over the course of the past decade in how decisions are made in Washington. We will bring together a diverse and distinguished group of policy makers and scholars to analyze the nature of these changes and their implications for the quality of governance and the protection of democratic process.

This is the first collaboration between CCPS and the Center for American Progress. Established in 1979, CCPS provides an integrated teaching, research, and study program focusing on Congress and the presidency and the interactions of these two basic American institutions. The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.

Video & Transcript

Welcome & Overview of the Conference

The Presidency: A New Era of Executive Dominance?


Is Congress Meeting its Constitutional Obligations?

The Changing Role of Congressional Committees

Why Congress Matters: Perspectives on Stability and Change

Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4) format.


James W. Dyer is currently Managing Director of Clark & Weinstock, a management and public affairs firm with offices in Washington, DC and New York City. Prior to this position, he served as Clerk and Staff Director of the Committee on Appropriations in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1995 to February 2004. Mr. Dyer has served as the Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He has also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary of State as well as Budget Consultant to the Secretary of the Navy. He holds a B.A. from the University of Scranton and has done graduate work in Legislative Affairs at George Washington University. He also holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Scranton.

Mickey Edwards is the Director of the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship Program in Public Leadership and a lecturer in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Previously, Mr. Edwards was a member of Congress for 16 years, where he was a member of the House Republican leadership serving as Chairman of the party’s policy committee, a member of the Appropriations and Budget committees, and the ranking Republican member of the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. After leaving Congress, Edwards taught for 11 years at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before joining the Princeton faculty in January of 2004. He has also taught at the Harvard Law School and as a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University. In 2004, Edwards was appointed as an advisor to the State Department by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Martin Frost served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas for 26 years (1979-2005), rising to the third ranking elected leadership position for House Democrats (Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, 1999 to 2003) and serving two terms as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (1995-1999). Additionally, Mr. Frost served as Ranking Democratic Member on the powerful House Rules Committee from May 2001 to January of 2005. He earned Bachelor’s of Arts in History and Bachelor’s of Journalism degrees from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Georgetown Law Center in Washington, DC. Mr. Frost has been named a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government for the fall 2005 semester and is a commentator on the Fox News Channel.

C. Boyden Gray is Partner and Co-Chair of Public Policy and Strategy Practice in the law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr. Mr. Gray was one of the principal architects of the 1991 Clean Air Act Amendments and the 1997 FDA reform, and he served as Counsel to President George H.W. Bush for four years. He is widely credited with having triggered the Clean Air Act acid rain emissions trading system and the use of market incentives in connection with the phase-out of CFCs under the Montreal Protocol, as well as internal FDA reforms that incentivized the growth of biotechnology. He is a member of Harvard University’s Committee on University Development and sits on the board of trustees of a number of organizations, including the Washington Scholarship Fund, St. Mark’s School and National Cathedral School. Mr. Gray also served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1965-1970.

Janet Hook is a Staff Writer for the Washington, DC bureau of the Los Angeles Times, where she has covered Congress and national politics since 1995. She began her journalism career in 1978 as the Assistant Editor for The Public Interest. A year later she left to become an Assistant Editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In 1983 she began work for Congressional Quarterly as a Senior Writer. In 1993, Ms. Hook was awarded the John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists Award, as well as the Everett Dirksen Award for her distinguished reporting on Congress. In 2002, she won the American Political Science Association’s annual award for political reporting. Ms. Hook earned her Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Lilly joined American Progress after 31 years of service with the United States Congress. He has served as Clerk and Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee, Minority Staff Director of that Committee, Executive Director of the House Democratic Study Group, Executive Director of the Joint Economic Committee and Chief of Staff in the Office of Congressman David Obey. Prior to his service with the Congress, Lilly served as Director of Campaign Services for the Democratic National Committee, Central States Coordinator in the McGovern Presidential Campaign and as a bill drafter for the Missouri legislature. He served two years in the U.S. Army. He is a graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri and teaches at Georgetown University as an Adjunct Professor in the Public Policy Institute.

Beth Nolan is a Partner in the Litigation Group of Crowell & Moring LLP, where she has a broad based federal and international practice focusing on strategic counseling, government and legal ethics, federal election law, congressional investigations, constitutional and public policy issues, international claims, and other matters with combined legal, political, and public relations challenges. She served in the White House as Counsel to the President from 1999 to 2001 and was the first woman ever appointed to that position. She also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 1996 to 1999 in the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice and was in the White House as Associate Counsel to the President from 1993 to 1995. She was an Associate Professor of Law at George Washington Law School from 1985 to 1993 and from 1995 to 1996, achieving tenure in 1992. She taught courses in Constitutional Law, Professional Responsibility and Ethics, Government Ethics, and Government Lawyering.

Norman J. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. He also serves as an election analyst for CBS News. In addition, Ornstein writes a weekly column called “Congress Inside Out” for Roll Call newspaper. He serves as Senior Counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission, working to ensure that our institutions of government can be maintained in the event of a terrorist attack on Washington. His campaign finance working group of scholars and practitioners helped shape the major law, known as McCain/Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Campaign Legal Center and of the Board of Trustees of the US Capitol Historical Society. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future; Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy, both with Thomas E. Mann; and Debt and Taxes: How America Got Into Its Budget Mess and What to Do About It, with John H. Makin.

Walter Pincus is a Staff Writer at The Washington Post, where he writes on a variety of national news subjects ranging from nuclear weapons and arms control to political campaigns and investigations of Congress and the Executive Branch. He also covered the Watergate Senate hearings and trial. He served as the Executive Editor of The New Republic from 1972 to 1975. Mr. Pincus has won several newspaper prizes, including the George Polk Award in 1977 for stories in The Washington Post exposing the neutron warhead; the 1961 Page One Award for magazine reporting in The Reporter;, and a television Emmy for writing on the 1981 CBS News documentary series, “Defense of the United States.” In 2002 he was one of six Post reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Mr. Pincus holds a JD degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

William R. (Billy) Pitts is Chief Business Affairs Officer with Notification Technologies, Inc. He served as staff to the U.S. House of Representative for 26 years following in the footsteps of his father who served as staff to the House for 41 years. For 14 years, Pitts was Chief of Staff to House Minority Leader Robert Michael where he was a senior strategist for House Republicans and was widely noted as one of the top experts in the Congress of floor procedures. He retired from the federal government in 1995 and began a highly successful business career including a stint as the head of government affairs for the Capital Cities/ABC and a similar position with Walt Disney Inc. He returned to work for the House of Representatives in 2003 and served as the Staff Director to the House Rules Committee. He is a painter; a web designer and is involved in a number of charities and private foundations. He holds a Bachelor’ degree from Georgetown University.

John D. Podesta is the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. Podesta served as Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton from October 1998 until January 2001, where he was responsible for directing, managing, and overseeing all policy development, daily operations, Congressional relations, and staff activities of the White House. He coordinated the work of cabinet agencies with a particular emphasis on the development of federal budget and tax policy, and served in the President’s Cabinet and as a Principal on the National Security Council. Podesta is also a Visiting Professor of Law on the faculty of the Georgetown University Law Center. Podesta has held a number of positions on Capitol Hill including: Counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas A. Daschle (1995-1996); Chief Counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988); Chief Minority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee (1979-1981). In addition, in 1988, Podesta founded with his brother Tony, Podesta Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C. government relations and public affairs firm. Podesta is a 1976 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, and a 1971 graduate of Knox College.

Nelson W. Polsby is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught American politics and government since 1967. He earned his Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and holds a Master’s degree from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He is currently a Vice President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom and is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the American Enterprise Institute of Washington, DC. Dr. Polsby is Editor of the Annual Review of Political Science, Political Science Editor of The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, a former Managing Editor of the American Political Science Review and currently serves on the editorial boards of five scholarly journals. His books include How Congress Evolves (2004), Presidential Elections (with Aaron Wildavsky, 11th ed., 2004), Congress and the Presidency (4th ed., 1986), (1984), and Consequences of Party Reform (1983), among other works.

Andrew Rudalevige is Associate Professor of Political Science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard University, Rudalevige’s research interests include the presidency and Executive Branch management, interbranch relations, and public policy formulation and implementation. His first book, Managing the President’s Program: Presidential Leadership and Legislative Policy Formulation (Princeton, 2002) won the Richard E. Neustadt prize as the year’s best book on the presidency. His second, The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power After Watergate, has just been published by the University of Michigan Press.

Barbara Sinclair is Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. She was an American Political Science Congressional Fellow in the office of the House Majority Leader in 1978-79 and an observer in the Office of the Speaker in 1978-88. Her publications on the U.S. Congress include Congressional Realignment (1982); Majority Leadership in the US House (1983); The Transformation of the US Senate (1989), winner of the Richard F. Fenno Prize for the outstanding book published in 1989 in legislative studies awarded by the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association, and of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the outstanding book on the U.S. Congress published in 1989-1990 awarded by the L.B.J. Foundation; Legislators, Leaders and Lawmaking: The US House of Representatives in the Post-reform Era (1995); and Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the US Congress (1997, 2000). She has served as Chair of the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association, President of the Western Political Science Association, and Vice-President of the American Political Science Association. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

James A. Thurber is Distinguished Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. Dr. Thurber has been a Professor at American University since 1974 and was honored as the University Scholar-Teacher of the Year in 1996. He is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He has authored or edited numerous works on Congress, congressional-presidential relations, interest groups and lobbying, and campaigns and elections, including Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations, 3 rd ed. (2005); Campaigns and Elections: American Style, 2 nd ed. (with Candice Nelson, 2004); Congress and the Internet (with Colton Campbell, 2002); The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters (2001); Crowded Airwaves: Campaign Advertising in Elections (with Candice J. Nelson and David A. Dulio, 2000); and Campaign Warriors: Political Consultants in Elections (2000). Dr. Thurber earned a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Oregon and a PhD in Political Science from Indiana University.

Stephen J. Wayne is a well-known author and lecturer on American presidents and the presidency. A Professor of Government at Georgetown University since 1988 and a Washington-based “insider” for over 35 years, Wayne has written or edited 10 books, many in multiple editions, authored over 100 articles, chapters, and reviews that have appeared in professional journals, scholarly compilations, newspapers and magazines. His best known work, The Road To The White House, is now in its 7 th edition. Recently, he added a supplement to it on the 2004 presidential nomination process. Dr. Wayne is frequently quoted by White House journalists, regularly appears on television and radio news shows (such as John McLaughlin’s One-On-One with McLaughlin, The O’Reilly Report, the evening news on all major networks, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered). Dr. Wayne has been a past President of the National Capital Area Political Science Association, a founder and President of the Presidency Research Group, and an active member of the American Political Science Association, the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and the International Society of Political Psychology.

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