Apr 8

Past Event

Congressional Leadership in an Era of Partisan Polarization

Event Materials



  • Good Institutions Feature Leadership

    Dan Glickman, Bipartisan Policy Center: A good institution features leadership and team-building; conversely, what we have in Congress are two separate teams—every day on Capitol Hill, it’s like the Super Bowl being played.

  • Earmarks: Not the Bane of Legislative System

    Robert F. Bennett, Former U.S. Senator (R-UT): Contrary to popular belief, earmarks aren’t the bane of our legislative system. Rather, they’re beneficial because they force Members of Congress to be more open and responsible.

  • The Desire to be Re-Elected

    Sarah Binder: One of the key barriers to legislative compromise lies in the chief motivator for Members of Congress: the desire to be re-elected.

    Sarah A. Binder


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Intense partisan conflict over domestic spending levels in the current fiscal year threatens a government shutdown and delay in increasing in the debt ceiling. The parties are deeply divided over when and how to deal with record deficits and debt and whether to implement the Affordable Care Act or to kill it. In this era of sharply polarized, parliamentary-like political parties, can the traditional institutions and rules of our presidential-congressional system produce the good-faith bargaining and compromise necessary to deal responsibly with our most pressing problems? What can presidents and congressional party leaders do to rebuild congressional capacity for solving major public problems? How can sound policy be written without a commanding party majority? How much room exists for enlightened and constructive leadership in an era of partisan polarization?

On April 8, the Brookings Institution hosted a forum to explore these questions. John Hempelmann, president of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, delivered introductory remarks, drawing upon "The Nature of Leadership: Lessons from an Exemplary Statesman." Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and member of Congress (D-Kan.), and current senior fellow with The Bipartisan Policy Center, then offered a keynote address, a panel of journalists and Brookings scholars responded, and the event ended with a concluding presentation by former U.S. Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah).

After the program, speakers took audience questions.

Event Agenda

  • Welcome

  • Introductory Remarks

    • John Hempelmann


      The Henry M. Jackson Foundation

  • Featured Speaker

    • Dan Glickman

      Senior Fellow

      The Bipartisan Policy Center

  • Panelists

  • Featured Speaker

    • Robert F. Bennett

      Former U.S. Senator (R-UT)


April 8, 2011

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM EDT

The Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105