Past Event

Mending the Broken Branch

Strategies for Restoring the Constitutional Role of the U.S. Congress

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EDT

Mending the Broken Branch: Strategies for Restoring the Constitutional Role of the U.S. Congress

Featured Speakers:
Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute and co-author of the Broken Branch
Thomas Mann, Senior Fellow in Governance, Brookings Institution and co-author of the Broken Branch
The Honorable Dave Obey (D-WI) Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Ray LaHood (R-IL) Vice Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Member, House Appropriations Committee

Moderated by:
Scott Lilly, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

The United States Constitution established the Congress as the first branch of the federal government but according to a new book by Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein it is also a “broken branch.”  On Friday, July 28th the authors will be joined by two leading voices from the House of Representatives, Congressman Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin) and Congressman Ray LaHood (R-Illinois) for a forum at the Center for American Progress on the topic “Mending the Broken Branch: Strategies for Restoring the Constitutional Role of the U.S. Congress.”

Mann and Ornstein conclude their book stating:
The decline in deliberation has resulted in shoddy and questionable policy-domestic and international. The unnecessarily partisan behavior of the House majority has poisoned the well enough to make any action to restrain the growth of entitlement programs and to restructure health care policy impossible and has badly strained the long tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy at a particularly delicate time.  The failure of both house of Congress to do meaningful oversight contributed  to the  massive and unconscionable failures of the Department of Homeland Security…The broken branch distresses us as long time students of American democracy who believe Congress in the linchpin of our constitutional system. 

All four panelists will be asked to address the question of what concrete steps can be taken to “mend the broken branch” and restore Congress as a more democratic, deliberative and effective institution.

Join us for a discussion about promising solutions for the “broken branch.”




Friday, July 28, 2006
Program: 9:30A.M. to 11:00 A.M.
Refreshments will be served at 9:00 A.M.
Admission is free

Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Map and Directions


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 and writes a weekly column called “Congress Inside Out” for Roll Call newspaper. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other major publications, and regularly appears on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. 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 U.S. 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.

Thomas E. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. Between 1987 and 1999, he was Director of Governmental Studies at Brookings. Before that, Mann was executive director of the American Political Science Association. He earned his B.A. in political science at the University of Florida and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.  Mann has taught at Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of Virginia and American University; conducted polls for congressional candidates; worked as a consultant to IBM and the Public Broadcasting Service; chaired the Board of Overseers of the National Election Studies; and served as an expert witness in the constitutional defense of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Mann’s published works include Unsafe at Any Margin: Interpreting Congressional Elections; Vital Statistics on Congress; The New Congress; A Question of Balance: The President, the Congress and Foreign Policy; Media Polls in American Politics; Renewing Congress; Congress, the Press, and the Public; Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy; Campaign Finance Reform: A Sourcebook; The Permanent Campaign and Its Future; Inside the Campaign Finance Battle: Court Testimony on the New Reforms; The New Campaign Finance Sourcebook; and Party Lines: Competition, Partisanship and Congressional Redistricting.

The Honorable Dave Obey (D-WI) is co-author of legislation introduced earlier this year to revise House Rules and end many of the abuses of power identified in the analysis by Ornstein and Mann.  Since Obey was first elected to the House in 1969 he has been an active reformer.  He was a member of a coalition in 1974 that change House Democratic Caucus Rules to make Committee Chairman for accountable. In addition, Obey was personally responsible for the revising of rules that extended that requirement of accountability to the subcommittee chairmen on the Appropriations Committee.  In 1976 He was appointed by Speaker O’Neil to head the House Commission on Administrative Review which became known as the “Obey Commission” and which won wide ranging changes in the rules governing ethical conduct of members of Congress including limitations on outside income.  In 1994 Obey became Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and based on his strong bipartisan leadership, that committee was able for the first time in more than 50 years to enact funding for all portions of the federal government before the beginning of the next fiscal year.

The Honorable Ray LaHood (R-IL) has served nearly 24 years in the House of Representatives, 12 as a member of the House and another twelve as a staff assistant.  From 1990 to 1994 he was chief of staff to Minority Leader Bob Michael.  LaHood serves on the House Appropriations Committee where he is a member of the Agriculture and Defense subcommittees.  He is also a member of the House Permanent and Select Committee on Intelligence and serves as its Vice Chairman. LaHood, as co-founder of the Bipartisan Congressional Retreat, has worked for greater cooperation across party lines.  He is also noted for his parliamentary skills and is often called on to chair sessions of the House when particularly difficult and contentious legislation is under consideration.  He has emerged as a leading spokesman for House Republicans on a wide range of policy and institutional issues.

Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress who writes and conducts research in wide range of areas including governance, federal budgeting, national security and the economy. He joined the Center in March of 2004 after 31 years of service with the United States Congress. He served in a number of capacities including Clerk and Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee, Minority Staff Director of that Committee and Executive Director of the House Democratic Study Group. During his career, he has been engaged in a wide array of policy matters ranging across the entire spectrum of government activities. These have included counterterrorism, homeland security, efforts to reform American schools and the financing of federal scientific activities. He has worked on various efforts to reform the legislative process in Congress and served as a political and legislative strategist to the Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee and the House Democratic Leadership.


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