Congress is playing by new rules–a changing distribution of power in Congress, a more complex interplay of rules and procedures and policy, and a new role for floor politics in the legislative process. In Call to Order, Smith outlines how a fairly stable period of reform in the 1950s and the early 1960s erupted into a turbulent period of reform in the 1970s. New issues spawned a variety of organized interest groups, and these, coupled with growing constituency pressures, increased the demand for members to champion causes. But floor politics in the 1980s took on a distinct character, particularly in the House. Budget politics, new procedural innovations, leadership tactics, and other developments made these years quite different from the unsettled seventies. Smith carefully considers these changes, their relationships to one another, the new role of floor activity in both houses of Congress, and the overall implications for congressional policy making.
Steven S. Smith is the director of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of several books on congressional politics, including The American Congress (Houghton Mifflin, 1995) and Call to Order: Floor Politics in the House and Senate (Brookings, 1989).