On December 17, Frances Lee and Jim Curry discussed their new book, The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era, as part of our “Conversations on the Future of Democracy” series.
Lee, from Princeton University, is recognized as one of the leading authorities on congressional politics and was Chair in Congressional Policymaking at the Kluge Center in 2019. Curry is renowned for synthesizing interviews with Members of Congress (and their staff) and data on lawmaking into cogent narratives of the legislative process. He teaches at the University of Utah.
Lee and Curry stressed key points that are misunderstood about how Congress makes the law: First, even in this hyper-polarized environment it is not the case that parties are able to get their agendas passed any more easily than in earlier eras. Second, the data overwhelmingly show that major legislation is still achieved nearly always with bipartisan majorities, just as it has been for decades – and more or less in the same volume. The bottom line, they say, is that the conventional wisdom that we have a less productive Congress mired in gridlock simply does not square with the facts.
Furthermore, Lee and Curry say that the data persuade them that polarization seems to have increased bipartisanship in lawmaking – a dramatic counterpoint to the conventional wisdom.
To hear Lee and Curry explain their controversial findings, follow this link.