The Limits of PartyCongress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era

The Limits of PartyCongress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era

James M. Curry and Frances E. Lee

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226716213

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


To many observers, Congress has become a deeply partisan institution where ideologically-distinct political parties do little more than engage in legislative trench warfare. A zero-sum, winner-take-all approach to congressional politics has replaced the bipartisan comity of past eras. If the parties cannot get everything they want in national policymaking, then they prefer gridlock and stalemate to compromise. This book challenges this conventional wisdom. Through legislative histories of majority parties’ attempts to enact their policy agendas in every congress since the 1980s, and interviews with Washington insiders, the The Limits of Party analyzes the successes and failures of congressional parties to enact their agendas. The conclusions will surprise many: Even today, bipartisanship remains the norm on Capitol Hill. The parties continue to build bipartisan coalitions for their legislative priorities and typically compromise on their original visions for legislation in order to achieve legislative success.