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Rebecca’s Reading: The Broken Branch

9780195174465Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein’s The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get it Back On Track opens with a chapter about the Medicare bill, brought to the house floor on November 23, 2003. Mann and Ornstein describe how this bill was passed, and the “extraordinary” means by which Republican representatives ignored normal congressional conventions, by allowing the vote to stay open hours after it expired. After this brief homage to the corruption plaguing the current congress, the authors discuss more fully the history of “the first branch of government.”

This chapter could easily sound like a college history lesson; however Mann and Ornstein succeed in filling it with colorful anecdotes of Congresses-past. One notable section characterizes Thomas Brackett Reed (who became Republican Speaker of the House in 1889) of Maine as a force to be reckoned with on the floor. Once, the authors relay, Reed remarked that two members of Congress, “never open up their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”

The book also references the attempt by 19th century Jeffersonians to remove Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase from the bench. It puts in perspective the conflicts between the legislative and judicial branches. While checks and balances are important, judges once appointed, should not be impeached for ethical decisions they make on the bench.

“The Seeds of the Contemporary Problem,” chapter is next up.

While we keep reading you should figure out when you are going to vote tomorrow. Why? Because the Tuesday after Halloween is the scariest day of all!

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