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Bridging the Constitutional Divide

Inside the White House Office of Legislative Affairs

Edited with introduction by Russell L. Riley

Publication Year: 2010

In September 2003, seven former heads of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs gathered for the first time ever to compare their experiences working for every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. For two days, these congressional liaisons, charged with moving their respective presidents’ legislative agendas through an independent—and sometimes hostile—Congress, shared first-hand views of the intricacies of presidential-congressional relations: how it works, how it doesn’t work, and the fascinating interplay of personalities, events, and politics that happens along the way. Hosted by noted presidential scholar Russell Riley and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, this seminar also featured a number of invited scholars of American politics, including the eminent Richard E. Neustadt, who appeared just before his death a month later. As explained by Riley, “. . . these discussions enlighten in two ways: they provide us a revealing glimpse into the inside, usually hidden, business of Washington, and they afford us the considered reflections of a thoughtful group of political veterans.” What makes these exchanges especially compelling, however, is their bipartisan cast, with Republicans Max L. Friedersdorf, William L. Ball III, and Frederick McClure joining Democrats Frank Moore, Charles M. Brain, John Hilley, and Lawrence Stein in thoughtful and friendly conversation.  

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership


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p. ix

List of Participants: White House Congressional Affairs Symposium,September 12–13, 2003

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvii

This book is the record of a two-day symposium on White House congressional relations held at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia, on September 12–13, 2003. It is primarily a transcribed group oral history, featuring the spoken recollections of seven former heads of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, spanning the presidencies of Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton.

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1. Bridging the Constitutional Divide: An Introduction

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pp. 1-17

The peculiarities of the American political system can be mystifying to foreign observers because our government does not feature a unitary sovereign. Rather, at the center of the American government is a process: an ongoing competition between the legislative and executive branches to direct the nation’s public affairs. Critics as far back as the American founding derided this design as awkward and unwieldy,...

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2. The Job Description: The Scope of the Congressional Liaison’s Responsibilities

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pp. 18-63

The main topics discussed during this session include the primary components of the congressional relations job; the challenges of bringing the president’s influence to bear on Capitol Hill; the problems of dealing with multiple channels to the Hill from the White House and the rest of the executive branch; the CL’s customer service role; the business of representing Capitol Hill to the White House and the risks of being perceived as “going native”;...

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3. The Partisan Dimension: Working with Your Party—and the Other

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pp. 64-97

The main topics discussed during this session include the difficulties—and opportunities—of working in an environment of divided party control of the presidency and Congress; how the White House deals with party and issue leaders on Capitol Hill; the challenges of maintaining unity and discipline within the president’s own party; the process and techniques of vote counting on the Hill;...

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4. Bicameralism: Working with the House and the Senate

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pp. 98-123

The main topics discussed in this session include the different political cultures in the House and Senate and how those influence the White House’s approach to the Hill; the role of the vice president in congressional relations, and more generally, the involvement of the vice president in the policy making process in the White House; the politics of conference committees; summit negotiations;...

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5. Working with and for the President: The President’s Style, Political Circumstances, and Priorities

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pp. 124-159

The main topics discussed in this session include how the congressional liaison job has changed or remained the same over the last fifty years; differences between the first and second terms; using the president’s time; presidential anger; White House involvement in congressional elections; the congressional relations dimension of executive orders; civility in Washington; communications strategies;...


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pp. 161-189


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pp. 191-199

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443272
E-ISBN-10: 1603443274
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441490
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441492

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: Index.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership
Series Editor Byline: Pfiffner, James P. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 680622538
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bridging the Constitutional Divide

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Subject Headings

  • Executive-legislative relations -- United States -- Congresses.
  • United States. White House Office. Office of Legislative Affairs -- Congresses.
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