A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress: The House of Representatives and Senate Explained
By Richard A. Arenberg
“We have witnessed when the traditions and norms of Congress are eroded how the institution becomes needlessly miniaturized, to the detriment of the good of the country. Richard Arenberg provides the ultimate guide and master blueprint to the legislative process in Congress – how it should function, and how it operates in reality today. During my 34 years in both the U.S. House and Senate, I witnessed firsthand that process dictates policy, and is central to Congress’s capacity to solve problems. This book is an essential resource and eminently accessible behind-the-scenes look at the machinery of lawmaking, and how its misuse diminishes the ability of Congress to produce results for the American people.”
--Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senate (R-ME) (1994-2013); U.S. House of Representatives (1978-1993);
“Congress is both the most important and the least functional branch of our democracy. Few appreciate this more than Richard Arenberg, who spent 34 years on Capitol Hill working for lions like Paul Tsongas, George Mitchell, and Carl Levin. During challenging moments throughout our history, the traditions of Congress have helped to keep dysfunction at bay. In this thorough and accessible work, Richard explains these traditions while tracing their decline in an age of hyper-partisanship and gridlock. If we are to restore the American people’s faith in our government, we have to understand what ails the modern Congress. Richard’s book is a terrific place to start.”
-- Michael Bennet, U.S. Senate (D-CO) (2009- )
“Richard Arenberg understands the workings of the Senate as well as anyone I know. This book reflects his wealth of experience, common sense, political savvy, and extensive knowledge of the legislative process.”
-- Carl Levin, U.S. Senate (D-MI) (1979- 2015)
"An ideal guide, Richard Arenberg leads the way through the labyrinth of congressional procedure. Having staffed in both the House and Senate, crafted legislative tactics, and taught about it, he can explain complex issues lucidly. He shows how Congress operated in the past and how it ought to work today."
--Donald A. Ritchie, Historian Emeritus, U.S. Senate
“Many are the members of Congress and their staff whose daily work involves the intricacies of Congressional procedure; few are those who truly understand those rules of the legislative game; and fewer still are the small handful who can make these rules come to life for everybody from the curious high school student to the most senior Senator or Representative. Richard Arenberg stands out in this select group. His first book, Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate was a masterful defense of Senate rules, precedents, and traditions that have helped to make the Senate great. Now, in Congressional Procedures: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress, Arenberg helps the reader better understand the sometimes arcane rules, precedents, and norms of the House and Senate, demonstrating his love of the Congress and his quest to describe it with clear-eyed appreciation for its strengths, but with criticism for short-sighted partisan expediency and abuse of the rules.”
--Alan S. Frumin, Parliamentarian Emeritus, U.S. Senate
"The author of the prize-winning book, Defending the Filibuster, celebrates the importance of the rules and traditions of the House and Senate and astutely warns of the dangers of 'weaponizing' procedure in crafting this authoritative source for anyone seeking to grasp Congressional rules."
--Niki Tsongas, U.S. House of Representatives(D-MA) (2007- )
“I wish I had known Richard Arenberg when I was a reporter in Washington. My life would have been easier, my mistakes fewer. As readers of this extraordinary and lovingly executed book will find, Arenberg knows every muscle and sinew of the legislative process: the genius and even the weaknesses of the Congress of the United States. Every reporter, lobbyist, political scientist -- indeed, every citizen -- will gain by reading this fascinating explanation of Congress and how it works and, at times, stumbles.”
--Llewelyn King, Executive Producer and Host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS; Columnist, InsideSources Syndicate; Commentator, SiriusXM Radio;
“Richard Arenberg knows Congress from the inside out, from his decades working inside the Senate to his years teaching about it and writing about it. His new book, Congressional Procedurereflects his experience and insights. The title does not do it justice: this book is a primer on all things Congress, a comprehensive and readable guide to what Congress is supposed to do, what it actually does, and why there is sometimes a disconnect.”
--Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Contributing Editor, The Atlantic; Co-Author, The Broken Branch; Co-Author, It’s Even Worse than It Looks: Co-Author, Vital Statistics on Congress
“In this comprehensive treatise on Congressional procedure, Richard Arenberg hands us the keys to the lockbox filled with the mysteries of how Congress really operates at all levels. It is superbly written by a long-time Congressional insider who provides us with an education on many levels, yet makes it a practical guide that is useful for professionals, scholars, and casual observers alike. From the Constitutional analysis and explanation of the intricacies and nuances of the legislative process in both houses of Congress, to the description of Senate and House floor procedure, the budget process, and non-legislative functions of Congress, Arenberg covers the waterfront in this must-read for anyone engaged in or studying the legislative processes of Capitol Hill.”
--William N. LaForge, President, Delta State University, Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Author, Testifying Before Congress
"Professor Richard A. Arenberg’s lively and accessible description about how Congress works is a must read for everyone wanting to know more about the contemporary Congress. It educates scholars and journalists who write about the legislative branch, students, the public, and political practitioners about the inside machinery of congressional procedure. Arenberg’s wisdom about Congress is a combination of years of experience on the Hill and his careful scholarship. It is a thorough and careful account of the organization, processes, and procedures of the House and Senate."
-- James A. Thurber,
University Distinguished Professor of Government and Founder (1979) and Founder and Former Director (1979-2016) of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University
"Congressional Procedure delivers on its promise. It is a clear, concise, straightforward guide to how Congress operates. It has just enough detail to explain what is going on without descending into unnecessary minutia. It will serve readers well as either a handy desk reference for members, staff, and anyone else who needs to understand Congress or a textbook for any course on Congress."
-- Joseph Gibson,
Author, Persuading Congress
"This hands-on practitioner's guide cuts away veils of mystery to shed light on the rules governing Washington's most impenetrable institution, the United States Congress. From 'regular order' to special rules to filibusters, amendment trees, and how the system has
broken down in recent years, Professor Arenberg uses his experience and expertise to explain clearly both the how and the why behind the House and Senate and their peculiarly unique ways of doing business. A great guide for navigating the rapids."
Of Counsel, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC
"The actual rules of Congress, written and unwritten, are rarely mastered even by the members themselves. All the formalities matter, but so do the folkways that govern their daily application. Arenberg has written a sophisticated and invaluable primer on both. It may take time to be familiar with the ins and outs of Capitol Hill, but Arenberg gives us a great place to begin and an excellent manual to carry with us on the way."
-- Ron Elving, Senior Editor and Correspondent / NPR News, Executive in Residence / School of Public Affairs / American University