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A Journal of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center


Winter 2017

Established in 1979 by the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center is a nonpartisan institution devoted to instruction and scholarship related to the United States Congress. The mission of the Center is defined broadly in terms of academic inquiry into the history, structure, process, personnel, and policies of the Congress, and the relationship between the Congress and other agencies and actors in the American political system. In the most general sense, the Center is concerned with the problems of modern representative democracy, as exemplified by the Congress. In pursuit of this goal, the Carl Albert Center performs four principal functions. The first is the development of academic programs in congressional studies at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, which are sponsored in cooperation with the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Political Science. At the graduate level the Center offers a four-year, specialized fellowship program leading toward the doctoral degree. Each Fellow receives a fully financed program of study. At the undergraduate level the Center sponsors a research fellowship program designed to foster collaborative research between faculty and undergraduates. Second, believing that professional research is the foundation upon which its academic programs rest, the Center promotes original research by faculty members and students into various aspects of politics and the Congress. The Center encourages publication and provides its faculty and students with institutional and financial support to travel for research purposes and to present research findings at professional conferences. The third function of the Center is the development of resource materials related to the Congress. The Center’s Congressional Archives, which are among the largest in the country, include the papers of more than 60 former members of Congress. Such prominent Oklahomans as Speaker Carl Albert, Dewey F. Bartlett, Page Belcher, Mickey Edwards, Glenn English, Robert S. Kerr, Sr., Fred Harris, Steve Largent, Dave McCurdy, Mike Monroney, Tom Steed, Mike Synar, and J. C. Watts have donated their papers to the Center along with such distinguished non-Oklahomans as Dick Armey, Helen Gahagan Douglas, and Carl Hatch. Fourth, the Center actively strives to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of the Congress through various civic education programs. The Center sponsors conferences, speakers, television appearances, and the biennial Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government. The Center also publishes Extensions, a journal which focuses on issues related to the Congress. Taken together, these diverse aspects of the Carl Albert Center constitute a unique resource for scholarship and research related to the United States Congress.

The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center Director and Curator Cindy Simon Rosenthal Associate Director Michael H. Crespin Regents’ Professor Ronald M. Peters, Jr. Director of Administration Katherine McRae Assistant Curator Nathan Gerth Archivist Rachel Henson National Advisory Board David E. Albert Richard A. Baker David L. Boren Richard F. Fenno, Jr. Joseph S. Foote Joel Jankowsky Dave McCurdy Frank H. Mackaman Thomas E. Mann Chuck Neal Michael L. Reed Catherine E. Rudder Hon. Tom Cole 4th District, Oklahoma ex officio Managing Editor, Extensions Chip Minty Minty Communications LLC Graphic Designer, Extensions Brandy Akbaran University of Oklahoma Printing, Mailing and Document Services

A Journal of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center


Editor’s Introduction


The Speakership of the House Today

Special Orders


Ronald M. Peters, Jr.

Fighting for the Speakership, Past and Future Jeffery A. Jenkins and Charles Stewart III


Governing and Messaging: The Speaker in a Partisan Era


Managing the Modern Speakership: Pelosi and Boehner

Winter 2017

Frances E. Lee

John A. Lawrence

For the Record


Congress and History Conference


News from the Center

Mike Crespin

Katherine McRae

Images courtesy of AP Images and Wikimedia Commons. Extensions is a copyrighted publication of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. It is published twice each year and distributed free of charge. To receive copies of Extensions, or to obtain permission to reprint, please contact Katherine McRae at (405) 325-6372 or e-mail to Extensions also may be viewed on the Center’s website at

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Editor’s Introduction


THE HOUSE TODAY Ronald M. Peters, Jr. | Editor


ne way to assess the This edition of Extensions were adamant and the Freedom Caucus stability of a political regime offers three perspectives on these Republicans obstinate, the House would is through the prism of its have been thrown into chaos. questions. In their article Fighting elected leaders, among The source of these tensions, and for the Speakership, Jeffrey Jenkins them the Speaker of the U.S. House the challenges that have faced all recent and Charles Stewart draw on their of Representatives. In the decade Speakers, is due to the highly partisan, definitive research on speakership prior to the Civil War, the American yet historically narrow, majorities that elections to place the current legislative political system was in turmoil as the the American people have elected to and political environment in context. political party system was in flux. the House. The Democratic Caucus has They note that for most of the past Speakership elections were often become more monolithically liberal, century, the speakership has been contested in multiple ballots, and the the Republican Conference equally as a stable office, at least as indicated office itself was correspondingly weak conservative. There are few “swing” by the lack of seriously contested and inherently unstable. members remaining. The After the Civil War the twolocation of potentially party system coalesced, swing members on the and the speakership ideological spectrum is, became a powerful office, however, important in in some ways rivaling the distinguishing the strategic WITH A DUTY TO ENACT MUST-PASS presidency for influence. position of Republican LEGISLATION... THAT IS GENERALLY From the onset of the New and Democratic Speakers. Deal until the reforms of Relying on spatial models UNPOPULAR. the 1970s, power shifted informed by ideological from the speakership voting measures, Jenkins to the committee rooms. Since the and Stewart conclude that, in the speakership elections. The stability of 1970s, power has gravitated back current environment, Democratic the two-party system and the choice to the speakership with remarkable Speakers are likely to have a tougher of members to support their party’s consequences. time than Republican Speakers. This nominees for the speakership prevented For at no time since the Civil notwithstanding the evident fact that intraparty tensions from breaking into War has the speakership been more the House Democratic leadership open warfare. disrupted. The past 27 years have has been remarkably stable over the The authors wonder if this stability seen the resignation under pressure past 15 years. The reason they give is now in the process of breaking of Speaker Jim Wright, D–Texas, the is that any Democratic majority can up. Speaker Boehner’s decision to defeat at the polls of his successor, only be built by winning back districts resign the speakership may prove Tom Foley, D–Wash., an aborted coup currently held by Republicans. Those symptomatic. He resigned because he against Speaker Newt Gingrich, R–Ga., districts must produce new Democratic could no longer gather 218 Republicans presaging his eventual departure from members who are ideologically to the (a majority of the whole House) to the speakership and the House, and the right of the rest of the Democrats. pass critical legislation. When faced resignation under pressure of Speaker By contrast, the narrow Republican with a privileged motion by one of his John Boehner, R–Ohio. What explains majorities are built on durable districts own members to vacate the chair, he this pattern of instability, and what have (many gerrymandered). As a result, was unsure that he could retain his been its consequences? Republican dissenters are to the right speakership without relying on the of their party’s main stream. Potential votes of Democrats. If the Democrats



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Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

Democratic defectors have a place to go by aligning with Republicans; potential Republican defectors are isolated on the far right of their Conference and of no appeal to Democrats. Like Jenkins and Stewart, Frances Lee makes the deep partisan divisions central to her analysis of the contemporary speakership. In The Speaker in a Partisan Era, she focuses on the challenge to Speakers’ leadership strategies, identifying the tension between the demands of messaging and those of governing. By governing, she refers to the traditional obligation of Speakers to move legislation to passage in the House and, ultimately, enactment into public law. By messaging, she refers to the external dimension of the Speaker’s role. The former role is as old as the republic; the latter role is a distinct product of the current partisan era. Leading the House of Representatives has historically been an insiders game. Carl Albert, D–Okla., was the first Speaker to appoint a formal press secretary. Albert, like Speakers John McCormack, D–Mass., and Sam Rayburn, D–Texas, before him, restricted his press contacts to five minutes before the opening of each day’s legislative session. Speaker Tip O’Neill, D–Mass., took the radical step of extending his daily press conference to 15 minutes, and hired a press secretary, Chris Matthews, who loved to talk to the press. Since O’Neill, all Speakers have undertaken greater outreach efforts to the public through the press. Due to the advent of the internet, these efforts have come to include an extensive presence in social media. As Lee describes, the number of full-time staff devoted to messaging has grown from one, under Speaker Albert, to dozens under Speakers Nancy Pelosi, D–Calif., John Boehner, and Paul Ryan, R–Wis. Why has this turn to the outside occurred, and how does it relate to the challenges of governing? As to why, Lee connects the demands of messaging with both electing members and selling policy. Speakers (and minority leaders who aspire to become Speaker) must frame their party’s message in a way that promotes the

Carl Albert was the first Speaker of the House to have a press secretary. Joe Foote, right, served Albert through the House’s impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. At left is Legislative Assistant Joel Jankowsky. electoral needs of their current and prospective members, and that fosters public support for the party’s policies. These two objectives would not be in conflict if the members’ electoral needs and their party’s policies always coincided. But this is not always, and increasingly not often, the case. Speakers are faced with a duty to enact must-pass legislation (such as an increase in the federal debt ceiling) that is generally unpopular. Even when enacting legislation that has considerable support, they must engage in compromise to win the marginal votes needed to reach 218. And 218 has become the golden number. Absent bipartisan compromise (and these days that is mostly absent) Speakers must generate majorities from within their own ranks. As Lee notes, this need has become recognized in the vernacular as the “Hastert Rule.” Speaker Hastert first articulated this principle at a 2003 conference celebrating the bicentennial of the opening of the Cannon House Office Building. It is important to pay attention to what he actually said on that occasion. “My fifth principle is to please the majority of your majority. On occasion, a particular issue might excite a majority made up mostly of the minority. Campaign finance is a particularly good example of this

phenomenon (referring to McCainFeingold). The job of Speaker is not to expedite legislation that runs counter to the wishes of the majority of his majority.” 1 Notice that Hastert said explicitly that, on some occasions, the Speaker should not bring legislation to the House floor unless supported by a majority of his party’s members. This is the “majority of the majority” principle, or what in a paper I and my co-authors once referred to as the “Weak Hastert Rule.”2 There seems to be little controversy about it. A Speaker who consistently brought legislation to the floor opposed by a majority of his party’s members would not last very long. But Hastert’s 2003 formulation is not what the so-called Hastert Rule has become. Instead, the rule now is taken to mean that a Speaker should not bring important legislation to the floor unless he has the 218 votes to pass the measure from within his own party’s ranks. This “Strong Hastert Rule,” is very demanding indeed, especially when the majority party’s majority is very narrow. It is the necessity of following the Strong Hastert Rule that causes the trouble, as Lee notes. If the Speaker’s majority is sufficiently large, she can afford to let a substantial number extensions | Winter 2017


of members vote against the party leadership, as the comparison of Pelosi party majorities. (This is the apparent position and still prevail. If the Speaker’s reason why she won re-election as and Boehner suggests. Jenkins and majority is narrower, she cannot afford Stewart describe the policy space within Democratic leader when challenged by to lose many members. This is where which Democratic and Republican Congressman Tim Ryan, D–Ohio, last messaging and governing can come November.) Boehner, by contrast, came Speakers now operate, and they are into conflict, as the party message may no doubt correct in explaining that a to Congress after a successful business not comport with the electoral needs Democratic Speaker such as Nancy career (as have many Republican of members whose votes are needed to Pelosi runs a greater risk of losing members). His congressional career was reach 218. defectors to the other side than does a marked more by legislative deal-making So how can Speakers manage this Republican Speaker like Paul Ryan. than by party coalition building. kind of conflict in their obligations? Yet we should recall that Pelosi This difference in their backgrounds Here, the models that political scientists served as Speaker for four years during was reflected in their leadership styles. have developed to explain which time she pushed member and leadership major legislation into law, behavior are less helpful. some of which was signed While Speakers confront by President George W. generic conditions, the Bush. That Pelosi lost manner of their response her majority and her PELOSI AND BOEHNER REMINDS to those conditions can and speakership in the 2010 US THAT POLITICS CAN NEVER BE do vary considerably. This election indicated that she is the lesson offered by too far, and may FULLY EXPLAINED BY MEASURABLE pushed John Lawrence in his article, have compromised the security of her marginal Managing the Modern VARIABLES ALONE; THERE IS members. On one view, Speakership: Pelosi and ALWAYS A HUMAN DIMENSION. there is no reason to hold Boehner. Lawrence served power unless one uses it. as a key Democratic House The opportunities to move staff member for three major legislation are rare. On another Pelosi worked incessantly to cultivate decades, including eight years as chief view, sustaining power over time is member support and was known to of staff for Speaker/minority leader the way to deploy it to best effect, have a long memory when confronted Pelosi. Prior to that, he was the longaccepting incremental change. When by surprises. She recruited members time assistant to Congressman George who did not share her liberal ideology in Cindy Rosenthal and I wrote about Miller, D–Calif., who, as chairman and Speaker Pelosi in 2009, we said “she’s ranking member of the House Education order to attain and enlarge her majority, not done yet.”3 A year later, she was. and then proved adept in managing and Workforce Committee, worked Still, as Lawrence points out, Pelosi the majority to reach 218 on many closely with his Republican counterpart, will, when she eventually retires from major pieces of legislation. Boehner, John Boehner. the House, have substantial legislative by contrast, sought to return power to One cannot help but be struck by accomplishment to her credit. And, Republican committee chairs and never the difference in Lawrence’s approach as Lawrence notes, John Boehner’s established his leadership in the way to understanding the speakership from legacy will be (in Boehner’s own words) that Pelosi had. In spite of the fact that that of the more detached political walking out the same way he came in. he was a very conservative Republican, scientists. He has worked with these he was not trusted by the right wing of people for a long time. He knows his conference, which eventually turned them well. And he is impressed by Notes against him. the difference in their backgrounds, The comparison of Pelosi and 1. temperaments and strategic choices. Dennis Hastert, Reflection on the Role of the Speaker in the Modern-Day House Boehner reminds us that politics can Faced with the challenge of marshalling of Representatives. The Cannon Centenary never be fully explained by measurable majorities from within their own Conference: The Changing Nature of the variables alone; there is always a human parties’ ranks, Pelosi and Boehner took Speakership. U.S. Government Printing Office. dimension. It is certainly true, as all of different approaches with different 2004, 59-63. 2. Ronald M. Peters, Jr, Keith Gaddie, Matt Field, our authors affirm, that the extreme results. As Jenkins and Stewart show and Ben Gravely. The Hastert Rules. Southern partisanship and narrow majorities in their article, both of these Speakers Political Science Association. January 10, 2008. set the same table for Republican and confronted dissidents within their 3. Ronald M. Peters, Jr. and Cindy Simon Democratic Speakers alike. It is also ranks. Lawrence sees managing party Rosenthal. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics. New York. Oxford University true that there will be, in consequence, dissidents as a key to a Speaker’s Press. 2010, 250. similar institutional responses, such leadership. Pelosi’s background and as the burgeoning of communications character make her well-suited to operations that Lee describes. Still, this task. She knows how to rally there is always a personal dimension to



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Information and Misinformation in American Politics ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

JENNIFER L. HOCHSCHILD AND KATHERINE LEVINE EINSTEIN A democracy falters when most of its citizens are uninformed or misinformed, when misinformation affects political decisions and actions, or when political actors foment misinformation—the state of affairs the United States faces today, as this timely book makes painfully clear. In Do Facts Matter? Jennifer L. Hochschild and Katherine Levine Einstein start with Thomas Jefferson’s ideal citizen, who knows and uses correct information to make policy or political choices. What, then, the authors ask, are the consequences if citizens are informed but do not act on their knowledge? More serious, what if they do act, but on incorrect information? $29.95 HARDCOVER · 248 PAGES ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Analyzing the use, nonuse, and misuse of facts in various cases—such as the call to impeach Bill Clinton, the response to global warming, Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the case for invading

Iraq, beliefs about Barack Obama’s birthplace and religion, and the Affordable Care Act—Hochschild and Einstein argue persuasively that errors of commission (that is, acting on falsehoods) are even more troublesome than errors of omission. While citizens’ inability or unwillingness to use the facts they know in their political decision making may be frustrating, their acquisition and use of incorrect “knowledge” pose a far greater threat to a democratic political system. Do Facts Matter? looks beyond individual citizens to the role that political elites play in informing, misinforming, and encouraging or discouraging the use of accurate or mistaken information or beliefs. Hochschild and Einstein show that if a well-informed electorate remains a crucial component of a successful democracy, the deliberate concealment of political facts poses its greatest threat.


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Special Orders

FIGHTING FOR THE SPEAKERSHIP, PAST AND FUTURE Jeffery A. Jenkins | University of Virginia and Charles Stewart III | Massachusetts Institute of Technology


struggles to contain opposition majority party was tantamount hree years ago we from his right flank became well to election itself. Speakership published Fighting for known. Pre-empting a resolution selection had become routine. the Speakership,1 in filed by a member of his own But right as we were finishing which we examined the caucus to depose him, Boehner the book, the world started history of contests over who would resigned. Boehner’s successor, to change. Storm clouds had become Speaker of the U.S. House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., came within overcome the calm sea of of Representatives. The book the crosshairs of the same speakership politics in the 105th originated from our shared interest Republican right flank that had Congress (1997) when Newt in the historical development of led to Boehner’s departure. It is Gingrich became the first Speaker internal congressional structures, reasonable to speculate particularly party that if Hillary Clinton won leadership. the presidency in 2016, Taking the long Ryan would have faced a view, the evolution of fight within his own party speakership elections saw a decline in the range of REPUBLICANS CONTAIN WITHIN THEM to retain his position. Recent travails of conflict and uncertainty IDEOLOGICAL DIVISIONS THAT MAKE Speakers to retain the about who would ascend support of their rank-andto the chair. Before the THE HOLD ON THE SPEAKERSHIP file naturally raises the Civil War, the House often TENUOUS, REGARDLESS OF PARTY. question of whether the could barely contain long history of speakership conflict over the choice battles from years past of Speaker. Speakership are relevant for understanding the since Nicholas Longworth in nominations by the party caucuses troubles contemporary Speakers the 69th Congress (1925) to were often just the first round in face in holding power. The purpose experience members of his own a protracted struggle that spilled of this essay is to answer that party cast a vote for someone out onto the House floor. Many of question. Our conclusion is that else. In the election of 2010, a these battles were preludes to the both Democrats and Republicans number of more conservative eventual dissolution of the Union contain within them ideological Democrats — “Blue Dogs” — had and the secession of the South. divisions that make the hold on the pledged to oppose the re-election By the time Fighting for the speakership tenuous, regardless of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker should Speakership was being written, of party. We also conclude that the Democrats retain a majority in contests over the choice of Democratic Speakers may actually the House. (This promise became Speaker had become thoroughly be more vulnerable to being moot, of course, as the GOP domesticated. The two parties undermined than Republicans, recaptured the House.) After (but especially the Democrats) had for reasons having to do with the Fighting for the Speakership was established a line of succession ideological positioning of each published, Speaker John Boehner’s to the position; nomination by the



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Jeffery A. Jenkins is professor and director of graduate studies in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and a faculty associate in the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Much of his work focuses on the origins and development of American political institutions, notably congressional and partisan institutions. Recently published books include Fighting for the Speakership (co-authored with Charles Stewart III, Princeton University Press, 2013), The Politics of Major Policy Reform in Postwar America (co-edited with Sidney M. Milkis, Cambridge University Press, 2014), and Congress and Policy Making in the 21st Century (co-edited with Eric M. Patashnik, Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Charles Stewart III is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research and teaching areas include congressional politics, elections, and American political development. His research on elections includes investigations into questions about election technology, election administration, and election reform. His current research on Congress touches on the historical development of committees, origins of partisan polarization, and Senate elections. Recently published books include Analyzing Congress (2nd ed., W.W. Norton, 2011), Fighting for the Speakership (co-authored with Jeffery A. Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 2013), Electing the Senate (co-authored with Wendy J. Schiller, Princeton University Press, 2014), and The Measure of American Elections (co-edited with Barry C. Burden, Princeton University Press, 2014).

the speakership in the 3rd Congress occurs because no one candidate party’s least satisfied members. At (1793–95) is a good example of this. has received a majority of votes the same time, the Republican Party (Muhlenberg, of course, was the cast for Speaker. Practically has adopted internal conference first Speaker, as well.) speaking, this requires that at rules that can cut short fractious The historical record suggests least three people receive votes. nomination contests — rules that that proto-Democrats held a slim In virtually all cases, a protracted the parties did not have in the majority in the 3rd Congress, but speakership contest resulted from antebellum period when contested tardiness in assembling diminished party disunity, but it could also arise elections were frequent. They are their numerical advantage. No if there was no single unified party rules the modern Democrats might formal party caucuses were held to with a majority in the chamber. benefit from adopting themselves. nominate speakership candidates We can divide protracted To reach these conclusions, we upon the House’s convening. On speakership contests into first provide a very general, stylized the first ballot, three candidates three types: (1) growing pains overview of protracted speakership split the majority of votes with of the new republic, (2) multifights from the first Congress to the seven other present. We then lay votes scattering. out in a little more The leader, with detail the political 24 votes, was problems recent Theodore Sedgwick, Speakers have faced in holding WAS ALWAYS TO FIND A SUITABLE CANDIDATE F-Mass., an ardent Federalist, followed power. We conclude FROM WITHIN THE MAJORITY CAUCUS, A GOAL by 21 votes for by offering some Muhlenberg, whose thoughts about how THAT WAS GENERALLY MET, WITH A COUPLE Federalist ardor had the prior history of OF NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS. diminished, and 14 speakership fights votes for Abraham inform current Baldwin, R-Ga., a tussles over the Republican (i.e., pro-Jefferson). control of the Speaker’s chair. cornered contests, and (3) Baldwin’s support vanished on the There have been 124 elections pivotal insurgencies. We describe second ballot, apparently being for Speaker of the House since each in turn. shifted en bloc to Muhlenberg, who Congress first convened in 1789. The earliest speakership contests now led Sedgwick 33–29, with a Of these, at least 14 have seen the were decided in multiple ballots. few scattering votes. Finally, on the contest go to multiple ballots, all It is easy to attribute this to the third ballot, Muhlenberg achieved a but one of which occurred in the lack of knowledge among House majority, defeating Sedgwick 37–27. 39 speakership elections before the members about each other’s 2 That the Federalist Muhlenberg Civil War. A protracted speakership abilities and the lack of formal won the speakership in a chamber party institutions. The return of contest, which is the term we use with a narrow Jeffersonian majority Frederick Muhlenberg, F-Penn., to to denote multiple-ballot contests,


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The nation’s eyes will be focused on the U.S. Congress and the Speaker of the House as Washington charts a new path under Republican majorities in both houses and the administration of newly elected Republican President Donald Trump. is testimony to the weakness of parties as an organizing device in the earliest years. The unification of the Jeffersonians behind a Federalist also indicates the weakness of party ties and a widespread belief, at least in the early years, that the Speaker was not primarily a party agent. Once parties had polarized around the Whigs and Democrats, it was possible for the majority party to quickly decide on a nominee in caucus and then rally around that choice on the floor. However, if the majority party did not have a comfortable majority, it was common for conflict over the speakership to devolve into a multi-cornered contest that pitted multiple contestants from the two major parties against each other, with perhaps a minor party candidate thrown into the mix. Because the two major parties were divided over slavery, the basic structure of conflict often pitted four factions against each other. (The addition of a minor party could increase the factional mix to five.) Testimony to the strength of party lies in the fact that when these fourand five-cornered contests erupted, no serious efforts emerged to build bridges across the partisan divide. 8

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There was no attempt to organize the House on a bipartisan basis — for instance, by electing an anti-slavery Speaker who received support from northern Whigs and Democrats. The goal in these contests was always to find a suitable candidate from within the majority caucus, a goal that was generally met, with a couple of notable exceptions. Twice in the antebellum period, an even more vexing coalitional challenge emerged when neither party enjoyed a majority of the chamber, owing to the presence of a third force, such as the anti-slavery Free-Soil Party (31st Congress, 1849) and the anti-immigrant American Party (34th Congress, 1855-56). The intense feelings of third-party members in these cases ultimately undermined the ability of the major parties to put forward a candidate who could garner majority support within the chamber. In the speakership elections of 1849 and 1855–56, the House eventually resorted to plurality rule for the selection of Speaker, breaking a 61-ballot, three-week deadlock to elect Howell Cobb, D-Ga., in the 31st Congress and a 113-ballot, two-month deadlock to elect Nathaniel Banks,

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

House of Representatives 283-193

an abolitionist from Massachusetts, in the 34th Congress. A final way multi-ballot speakership contests were structured was through the appearance of a pivotal insurgent group in the majority party. The clearest example of this arose in 1923, at the beginning of the 68th Congress. (This is the last time the House took more than one ballot to elect a Speaker.) In this instance, Republicans held an 18-seat majority in the House, but with a vocal group of between 20 and 25 progressives in the party, the progressive wing held a strategic advantage. Prior to the opening of the 68th Congress, progressive leaders demanded a set of democratizing rule reforms as the cost for loyalty on the vote to elect the Speaker. Republican leaders, led by majority leader Nicholas Longworth, R-Ohio, resisted these demands, leading the progressives to defect in the vote for Speaker. This threw the House into a nineballot, three-day battle over the speakership. In the end, leadership relented, and progressives got a revision of the discharge petition and a limit to the “pocket veto” that committee chairs could exercise over legislation voted out of their committees. In return, progressives helped elect Frederick Gillett, R-Mass., to the Speaker’s position. To more theoretically-inclined legislative scholars, these types of speakership battles are illustrations of how classical spatial models can reveal principles of legislative bargaining and decision making. The speakership elections structured as a multi front affair reflect multidimensional “chaos” described by game theorists such as Richard McKelvey. 3 Absent a natural focal point for agreement, a sequence of potential Speaker candidates were proffered and voting coalitions were fluid (at least within the parties). In the earliest years of the republic, the relatively low stakes involved in choosing the Speaker combined

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

the election — but the with norms of loss of the chamber accommodation and may well have saved the rule that Speakers Pelosi the ignominy be elected by secret of a fight to retain the ballot (which was in leadership of the House place at the time) Democratic Party. helped the House As it was, Pelosi swiftly resolve the faced a challenge after speakership question. the 2010 election to In later years, as her election as Minority sectional divisions Leader from Heath deepened and the Shuler, D-N.C., who national press began was likely the most following speakership conservative Democrat elections blow-byin the House. In the blow once public (or Democratic caucus viva voce) balloting meeting to nominate was adopted (in 1839), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meets with President Barack the party’s candidate election by majority Obama. Pelosi maintained her leadership position by a wide for Speaker, Pelosi vote sometimes margin after Democrats lost their majority hold on the House prevailed on a 150–43 proved impossible. in 2010. vote. Shuler’s cause Speakership was pushed to the contests that feature in the Republican Party. Meanwhile, floor, where he later received 11 a pivotal insurgent group reflect the Democrats have also had their own votes for Speaker, out of a total of more predictable unidimensional divisions. Indeed, it seems likely 19 Democratic defections away from legislative model associated with that had Democrats escaped the Pelosi. Those supporting Shuler came Harold Hotelling and Anthony shellacking of the 2010 midterm from the right side of the Democratic Downs.4 One party is on the “left,” election, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would caucus, as did the other Democratic the other on the “right,” and a have encountered problems similar defectors (we will have more to say distinct faction of the majority party to those that have more recently on this below). occupies the middle Since then, Pelosi of the policy space. did not face a serious With this array of challenge to her preferences, so long as position as the House the insurgent faction Minority Leader, until contains the median BEEN FOCUSED ON THE RECENT TRAVAILS November 2016 when, of the chamber, OF JOHN BOEHNER AND PAUL RYAN, ALONG in the aftermath of it is pivotal in the the 2016 elections, choice of Speaker, WITH THE ACCOMPANYING IDEOLOGICAL Pelosi was challenged and thus enjoys DIVISIONS IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. by Democratic leader disproportionate by Tim Ryan, who bargaining power. MEANWHILE, DEMOCRATS HAVE ALSO represented a blue“The median wins” HAD THEIR OWN DIVISIONS. collar district in is the outcome of northeastern Ohio. unidimensional spatial Ryan’s challenge models, which was faced her Republican counterparts. 5 was premised on the need for well illustrated by the 1923 contest. It is now widely forgotten that two generational change within the This brief historical overview dozen Blue Dog Democrats ran Democratic leadership, and the sets the stage for more recent for re-election in 2010, pledging need for Democrats to recover their difficulties that Speakers have had to oppose Pelosi’s re-election as support among working-class voters. in holding onto the position. Popular Speaker, should the Democrats On Nov. 30, Pelosi defeated Ryan by attention has been focused on the retain the House majority. Electoral a vote of 134-63. recent travails of John Boehner circumstances were unkind to The fact that opposition to Pelosi and Paul Ryan, along with the congressional Democrats in 2010 was dominated by young caucus accompanying ideological divisions — they suffered a 125-seat swing in


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ballot increased further, as 24 House only if he waged a vigorous members such as Seth Moulton, Republicans voted for someone else.7 campaign within his own caucus and, D-Mass., who is 38, and Ruben perhaps, convinced Democrats to Gallego, D-Ariz., who is 37, brings Dissatisfaction with Boehner went support him. to mind the “young Turk” revolt beyond the simple fact that he was Boehner resigned instead. The of Republican House members less ideologically extreme than a resignation touched off an intense following the Johnson landslide of faction of his party. Agitation on the period of politicking to replace him. 1964. Whether this, or any similar right seemed to be greatest during The inside candidate was Kevin movement in the future, leads to periods when spending bills were McCarthy, R-Calif., the Majority Pelosi’s departure as Democratic being negotiated between leaders of Leader, who had the support of leader, it is important to remember the Republican-controlled Congress Boehner, Paul Ryan, and other top that pockets of dissatisfaction have and the Democratic presidency. Republican leaders.9 However, as the existed for a while. They have only Since the federal government becoming more visible with the shutdown of 1995–96, conventional campaign for Boehner’s replacement surprise election of Donald Trump as wisdom had held that Republicans unfolded, it was clear that McCarthy president in 2016. would lose in the public’s eye if could not gain sufficient votes from Better-known than Pelosi’s they attempted to play chicken with House Freedom Caucus members difficulties have been the travails of Democratic Presidents over budget and sympathizers. Consequently, the past two Republican Speakers, negotiations. Far-right Republicans, McCarthy withdrew. Ryan was John Boehner and identified as a natural Paul Ryan. When compromise candidate, Republicans regained but he initially control of the House demurred. However, following the 2010 after a couple of midterms, Boehner was weeks of entreaties THE TABLES. RATHER THAN MANAGE positioned to ascend to from his colleagues A FRACTIOUS CAUCUS STRUGGLING the speakership, having and assurances of served as minority support from various TO FIND A WAY TO CONFRONT A leader since 2006.6 factions of the party, Ryan agreed to stand He was unopposed NEW DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT, RYAN for the speakership for nomination in FOUND HIMSELF LEADING A UNITED nomination. In the Republican receiving the caucus, but Michele REPUBLICAN MAJORITY EAGER TO nomination for Speaker Bachmann’s aborted DISMANTLE THE OBAMA LEGACY. from the Republicans, run for Republican he defeated Daniel Conference chair was Webster, R-Fla., on a seen as evidence that 200–43 vote.10 Ryan’s formal election especially those associated with the the Tea Party was feeling slighted House Freedom Caucus, disagreed by Boehner’s approach to building a as Speaker occurred the following with this assessment, and sought to Republican leadership team, and that day. He received 236 votes on the push Boehner into a harder line in Boehner would not go unchallenged House floor, with Webster receiving budgetary negotiations — a line that if he ignored the far right of nine and Colin Powell receiving he firmly resisted. his party. one vote. Nancy Pelosi received It was in the midst of one of Dissatisfaction with Boehner’s virtually all the Democratic votes these budget negotiations — which leadership grew in the aftermath of (184), but single votes were also cast featured a proposal to defund the 2012 election, which returned for Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and John Planned Parenthood — that Mark Republicans to control of the House Lewis, D-Ga. Meadows, R-N.C., submitted a but not the presidency. In the Ryan served out the remainder resolution, right before the August speakership election that greeted of Boehner’s term as Speaker 2015 recess, to force a motion the convening of the 113th Congress, during the 114th Congress under to “vacate the chair.”8 Originally nine Republicans voted for someone the cloud of a possible revolt led other than Boehner. This was by the Freedom Caucus. Prior to considered a long shot, the ouster followed up by further dissatisfaction the November 2016 election, when movement gained steam over the at the opening of the 114th Congress, the smart money was on a Hillary next two months. In the end, it when disloyalty on the speakership Clinton defeat of Donald Trump appeared that Boehner would be for president, there was strong able to hold onto the speakership



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speculation in Washington that Ryan might be deposed in the lame-duck session following a Trump defeat.11 Trump’s victory turned the tables. Rather than manage a fractious caucus struggling to find a way to confront a new Democratic president, Ryan found himself leading a united Republican majority eager to dismantle the Obama legacy. This change in status was balanced by Nancy Pelosi’s sudden vulnerability as the Democratic leader. Despite this sudden turn of political fortunes, the political status of both parties’ leadership remains precarious. The recent struggles of top House party leaders invite comparison with the past and speculation about whether any party leader can be secure in his or her position. One feature of these most recent travails that stands in stark contrast to similar struggles in the past is the lack of serious repercussions for disloyal partisans. In the aftermath of the protracted speakership battle in 1923, for instance, the precariousness of the Republican hold on the chamber meant that the leadership could not immediately sanction renegades for refusing to stand behind the choice of the caucus from the outset. However, following big Republican wins in the elections of 1924 and 1926, Republican leaders brought their progressive members to heel, demanding loyalty, and sanctioning members who resisted. In more recent cases, there have been threats to take plum committee assignments or leadership positions away from members who have opposed their party’s nominee for Speaker, but the threats have not been consistently carried out. Even though parties are said to be stronger today than they were in the past, well-positioned rebels have been able to hold their positions of influence in the House — which provides a commentary on the degree to which party leaders exercise plenary power over their rank-and-file.

The fracturing of the parties and the skepticism within some factions about their leaders’ intentions might make one wonder whether the House could revert to the patterns of the antebellum House, when voting on the floor stretched for days, weeks, or even months. We note that in the past, when these protracted battles emerged, the immediate cause was the inability of the majority caucus to settle on a nominee. For most of congressional history, the House caucuses used the same rule for nomination that the floor used for election — the nominee had to win a majority within a set of rules that had no provision for eliminating candidates with low vote totals. More recently the House Republican conference changed its nomination rules, forcing off the ballot the candidate with the lowest vote total. Under this system, one candidate is removed from the ballot after each round of voting. This continues until either a candidate receives a majority among a crowded field or the field is whittled down to two, forcing a majority conclusion. Democrats do not have this elimination rule, so it is conceivable that they could find themselves

deadlocked over selecting a speakership nominee, leading to a protracted fight for the speakership on the House floor itself. For this reason, Democrats would probably do themselves a favor by adopting the same elimination rule that has guided Republican speakership nominations for several Congresses. Regarding the ideological fractures that have led to a tenuous hold on power for leaders in both parties, it appears that the Democrats, not the Republicans, are in a more precarious strategic situation. This is because the relevant ideological split that has bedeviled Nancy Pelosi creates a pivotal insurgency. Meanwhile, the ideological divide within the Republican Party results in a dissident faction that has no credible path to enlisting help from Democrats if demands are not met. The Freedom Caucus may antagonize Paul Ryan, but they can’t threaten to enter into a deal with the Democrats if Ryan ignores their demands. Pelosi’s strategic dilemma is illustrated by Figure 1, which compares the ideological location (using DW-NOMINATE scores) of

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gavels in the members of the House of Representatives after administering the oath as the 115th Congress convenes on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo) extensions | Winter 2017


Figure 1. Ideological location of pro- and anti-Pelosi Democrats on vote to elect Speaker, 112th Congress (2011).

Democratic House members who voted for Pelosi in 2011 (at the opening of the 112th Congress) with those who voted for another candidate.12 Note that the Pelosi defectors are on the “right” side of the party. That is, they are located on the ideological side of the party that is closest to the Republicans. Should the Democrats regain control of the House, this is precisely the type of coalition that could be enticed by Republicans to defect and organize the House on a bipartisan basis. Or, they could take their inspiration from the progressive Republicans in 1923 and demand concessions from party leaders (it need not be Pelosi, per se) in return for their loyalty. While history suggests that such crossparty organizational coalitions are unlikely to succeed, a majority with a loose hold on its members cannot be too careful. The strategic problems of the Republicans are of a different sort than the Democrats. The Republican struggles over leadership have produced a dynamic of non-pivotal insurgency. This is illustrated in Figure 2, which shows the DW-NOMINATE scores of House Republicans who failed to vote for

Boehner when he ran for Speaker in 2015 (at the opening of the 114th Congress). The anti-Boehner insurgents are predominantly on the right wing of the party. In this position, the insurgents have very little bargaining power. They cannot credibly commit to defect to a coalition that includes Democratic House members if their demands are not met. The most they can do is make life miserable for a Republican Speaker. Boehner’s departure shows that making life miserable for a Speaker may yield a moral victory, and it may serve the purpose of expanding support for the agenda espoused by the Freedom Caucus, but it’s not clear whether it yields policy concessions in the short term. Of course, the far right of the Republican caucus includes members whose view of the federal government is that virtually any governmental activity is a violation of the constitutional order. Therefore, making life miserable for a Republican Speaker and reinforcing Congress’ tendency toward gridlock may be precisely what they are trying to accomplish — no help from Democrats is necessary.

Finally, it should be noted that if the Democrats take control of the House any time soon, it will almost certainly be because a large number of Democrats have defeated vulnerable Republicans in close contests. Because the correlation between party vote shares and ideology is now so high — the most conservative House members tend to be the most electorally secure, and vice versa — any Democrat who defeats a Republican for a House seat is likely to represent a conservative district, at least among districts represented by Democrats. In such a district, it would take a relatively conservative Democrat to defeat a Republican incumbent. Thus, at this point in congressional history, if Democrats did recapture the House, it is likely that the more conservative wing of the party would grow considerably. This is not a happy scenario for Nancy Pelosi and her continued control of the Democratic House leadership, or for her lieutenants who may wish to succeed her. In Fighting for the Speakership, we told the story of how the system of selecting the Speaker of the House of Representatives has evolved. It

Figure 2. Ideological location of pro- and anti-Boehner Republicans on vote to elect Speaker, 114th Congress (2015).


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House Speaker John Boehner stands with his successor Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, in the House Chamber on Oct. 29, 2015. Republicans rallied behind Ryan to elect him the House’s 54th speaker as a splintered GOP turned to the youthful but battle-tested lawmaker to mend its self-inflicted wounds and craft a conservative message to woo voters in next year’s elections. (AP Photo)

has moved from an uncertain — and often tumultuous — process to one in which the majority settles on its Speaker choice in a caucus. The following floor vote ends in a pro forma fashion. Indeed, at the time we published our book in 2013, speakership choice had been “routine politics” — with one hiccup in 1923 — for more than a century and a half. Minor ripples emerged, beginning in 2011, as both parties faced some internal divisions on speakership choice. Those differences seemed at odds with recent history but had not, at that point, suggested that they would become anything greater. We now know differently. Rising opposition to John Boehner in 2013 and 2015 eventually led to his stepping down from the speakership. Groups within both parties now feel emboldened to threaten “bolting” from their caucus nominations for Speaker and defect on the House floor. And while a relatively normal speakership election will likely occur in 2017, as the Republicans have unanimously aligned behind Paul

Ryan in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s stunning presidential victory,13 ideological divisions within the party remain. And the Democrats find themselves in a similar ideological situation. Is this a critical juncture in House speakership selection? Are we moving away from an equilibrium that has governed Speaker choice for 150 years? At most, what we can say right now is that the institutions that govern speakership selections are fraying. Whether those institutions inevitably hold, or break after continued fraying, will only be known in future years and after future speakership elections.

Notes 1. Jeffery A. Jenkins and Charles Stewart III, Fighting for the Speakership: The House and the Rise of Party Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013). 2. It is possible that the first two speakership elections had multiple ballots, too, but we do not have enough detailed information about these elections to know for sure. 3. Richard McKelvey, “Intransitivities in Multidimensional Voting Models,” Journal of Economic Theory 12 (1976): 472–82.

4. Harold Hotelling, “Stability in Competition,” Economic Journal 39 (1929): 41–57; Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper and Row, 1957). 5. To be clear, progressives won in 1923 to the degree they used their pivotal position in the speakership election to extract parliamentary gains from their party’s leadership; they did not get to name who the Speaker would be. 6. Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan, “House Democrats Delay Leadership Elections in Blow to Pelosi,” Politico, November 15, 2016, 7. Boehner was elected to the majority leader position in 2016, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Tom Delay, who was under criminal indictment. When Speaker Hastert resigned after the Republican electoral defeat in the 2006 election, Boehner secured the top Republican position in the House — minority leader — when Republicans organized for the 110th Congress. In contrast, overt opposition to Pelosi on the speakership ballot from fellow Democrats continued to drop in these years. Pelosi only suffered 5 defections in the speakership vote following the 2012 election and 3 defections following 2014. 8. Mike DeBonis, “GOP Congressman Launches Bid to Oust John Boehner as House Speaker,” Washington Post, July 28, 2015, See H.Res. 385: bill/114th-congress/house-resolution/385/text. 9. Also relevant here is that McCarthy was majority leader only because the previous leader, Eric Cantor, had been turned out of office in a Republican primary by a Tea Partybacked candidate, David Brat. 10. Deirdre Walsh, “Republicans back Paul Ryan as Speaker,”, October 28, 2015, 11. Deirdre Walsh, Manu Raju, and Ted Barrett, “Push to Delay Speaker Election Puts Ryan in Political Jam,”, October 22, 2016, paul-ryan-speaker-election-republicans/. 12. DW-NOMINATE scores represent “central tendencies” of members of Congress, based on their voting records. These central tendencies take the form of ideal points on a left-right ideological dimension. For more on NOMINATE scores, which are ubiquitous in academic studies of congressional roll-call voting, see Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal, Ideology and Congress (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007). 13. Mike DeBonis, “Republicans Unanimously Pick Ryan to Continue as Speaker, but Differences Remain,” Washington Post, November 15, 2016. https://www. wp/2016/11/15/paul-ryan-is-set-to-remain-ashouse-speaker-and-so-are-gop-tensions/

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Special Orders


THE SPEAKER IN A PARTISAN ERA Frances E. Lee | University of Maryland

Frances E. Lee is professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland-College Park. Her 2016 book, Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign, examines how the ongoing battle for majority control underlies the intense party conflict of the contemporary Congress. Her book, Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate, won the American Political Science Association’s Richard F. Fenno Award for the year’s best book on legislative politics and the 2009 D.B. Hardeman Award from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation for the best book on a congressional topic.


has some electoral roots. With The GOP currently holds its largest wo fundamental constants the decline of split-ticket voting, share of seats since the 1920s. But, define the House Speaker’s the congressional politics of aisleeven so, today’s Republican majority job. The Speaker is the crossing has changed. Members of is still small compared to most of constitutional officer Congress who represent districts the House majorities of the 20th responsible for marshaling the that voted for a president of the century. Indeed, House majorities House to action. But he or she is opposing party have greater have been narrow since 1994, when also the party’s leader in the House incentive to look for ways to burnish the GOP first wrested control of and, under conditions of divided their reputation for ideological the chamber from the Democrats. government, the party’s top leader moderation. As the number of such With so few votes to spare, a high in national government. As such, members has declined, there are degree of party unity is necessary to the Speaker is expected to manage fewer members looking the party’s political for ways to distance image. In short, the themselves from their Speaker is expected own party. to take the lead in Contemporary building governing ALSO FACE A MINORITY PARTY THAT IS Speakers also face a coalitions and in CONTINUALLY LOOKING FOR WAYS TO minority party that is party messaging. continually looking for The Speaker faces RALLY PUBLIC OPINION AGAINST THEM. ways to rally public special challenges opinion against them. In in carrying out today’s competitive context, neither maintain procedural control of the these two tasks in today’s partisan party believes it is fundamentally a chamber. Figure 1 shows the number era. This essay will examine these minority party.1 Unlike in the long of the majority party’s seats in the challenges. Taken separately, house over time. messaging and governing are each years of the so-called permanent A second contemporary difficult responsibilities. But perhaps Democratic majority of the 20th challenge is that Speakers cannot the most difficult aspect of the century, minority parties since the expect much help from across Speaker’s job is that the demands 1990s have seen themselves as the aisle. Under today’s polarized of messaging and governing often having a reasonable opportunity conditions, majority parties can conflict with one another. to regain power. Today’s out party rarely do what they want to do and One of the foremost challenges is also always looking to win on simultaneously win support from of the contemporary speakership messaging, and Speakers can expect the opposing party. This change is persistently narrow majorities. aggressive opposition from the



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Majority Party Seats




1941 1943 1945 1947 1949 1951 1953 1955 1957 1959 1961 1963 1965 1967 1969 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015


even though they typically controlled huge House majorities. Between the mid-1970s and mid1980s, the share of measures passed on partisan votes carried by the majority party alone increased sharply and then rose further after 2002. When the contemporary House majority succeeds on controversial measures, it usually does so without relying upon any bipartisan help. The trend toward majority-party self-reliance is even more evident when looking at those measures that passed narrowly, meaning that the outcome was carried by a majority of less than 55 percent of the votes cast, as displayed in Figure 3. Again, as displayed in the bar graph, such votes happen more often than they used to. As evident in the trendline, majority parties are increasingly able to marshal the necessary unity to muscle them through. Before 1995, no more than 30 percent of narrowly passed measures were carried by majority parties acting alone. After 1995, majority parties carried more than half of such measures without the need for cross-party help. Since the turn of the 21st century,

1933 1935 1937 1939 1941 1943 1945 1947 1949 1951 1953 1955 1957 1959 1961 1963 1965 1967 1969 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015


Majority seats (N)

5 per. Mov. Avg. (Majority seats (N)) 5 per. Mov. Avg. (Majority seats (N))

Figure 1: House Majority Party’s Number of Seats 90

party assembled a House majority without needing any votes from across the aisle. This is true even while there have been a historically large number of measures passed on party-unity votes. By contrast, in the early 1970s, the majority party Democrats almost never prevailed on party unity votes without at least some critical help from Republicans,



80 600 70 500

Percent Carried by Majority Party Alone

Percent Carried by Majority Party Alone

minority party whenever it perceives an opportunity to gain political 80 advantage. Given these basic facts, Speakers often have to pass controversial legislation without 70 expecting help from the opposing party. Put differently, the majority party needs 60 a full House to be able to marshal majority by itself. It must do so, even though its margin of control is, by 50 not large. historical standards, Figure 2 shows the number of measures that passed the House on votes that divided 40 a majority of one party from a majority of another. As is evident here, the number of 30 measures passed on party unity votes today is high by historical standards. Overlaid on this graph is 20 the percentage of these votes for which the majority party mustered a full House majority by itself. In such 10 votes, any minority party support was not, strictly speaking, necessary for the outcome. 0 Today’s House majority usually puts up all the necessary votes whenever the House passes measures that divide a majority of one party from a majority of the other. On more than 80 percent of such votes since 2009, the majority






30 200

Number of Meaures Passed on Party-Unity Votes

Majority seats (N)

20 100 10





Majority (%) Majority alone alone (%)

Figure 2: Percentage of Measures Carried on Party-Unity Votes Without Help from the Minority Party extensions | Winter 2017







70 300 60 250 50 200 40 150 30

Number of Measures Carried Narrowly

Percent Carried by Majority Party Alone


Number of Measures Carried


“Even a few minority party votes can be helpful. When you do it 200 all within the Democratic Caucus you have a lot of potential vetoes. Every group thinks. ‘Hell, they 150 don’t have a majority without us. They can’t pass this without our support. Therefore we ought 100 to accept nothing less than this, that, or the other thing.’”3 50

Speakers since Foley have 100 struggled with the challenge of 20 getting to 218 from within their 50 0 10 own party. This is more-or-less the story of the Boehner speakership, 0 0 in a nutshell. Boehner described his task as trying to keep “218 frogs in N Majority alone (%) N Majority alone (%) a wheelbarrow at one time.”4 At one Figure 3: Percentage of Measures Carried Narrowly Without Help from point, he described his predicament the Minority Party to reporters: “We don’t have 218 votes, and when you don’t have before you brought a bill to the figure is more than 72 percent. 218 votes, you have nothing.”5 the floor.”2 In the 113th Congress (2012-13), On some key occasions, Boehner Republicans carried 91 percent of Getting to 218 is a heavy lift! had to turn to Democrats to pass narrowly decided measures without The House speakership today puts measures, despite the opposition cross-party assistance. In the 110th a premium on being able to unify of most of his party. So-called and 111th Congresses (2007-2010) the whole majority party—almost to “Hastert rule violations” made a Democratic majorities carried more a person. Given the size of today’s lot of news, mainly because they than 80 percent of such measures majorities, there are just not a lot of were unusual. Such votes were also by themselves. newsworthy because they Recent Speakers have brought Boehner in for acknowledged that their harsh denunciation by goal is just not to clear conservatives inside and the low bar of winning a outside Congress. But majority of the majority ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THEIR GOAL if one follows the way party. Their goal is to contemporary Speakers IS JUST NOT TO CLEAR THE LOW win outright, relying only themselves talk about on their own party. As BAR OF WINNING A MAJORITY OF their leadership task, former Speaker Hastert they don’t describe it as THE MAJORITY PARTY. THEIR GOAL explained to a Politico merely keeping a majority reporter in 2011. IS TO WIN OUTRIGHT, RELYING ONLY of their majority party on board. They describe their “It was always ON THEIR OWN PARTY. challenge as assembling a important to get 218 whole House majority from before we brought a within their own party. bill to the floor, especially if it votes to spare if a Speaker intends When controversial measures was a partisan bill. . . . Maybe to pass measures without relying have passed the House in recent we would get one or two guys upon any decisive support from Congresses, majority parties have that would come over and vote the opposing party. The result is usually pulled together to make with us because of the bill itself, constant hostage taking by factions it happen without relying upon or because they’re at odds with within the party. As Former Speaker cross-party support. Of course, their leadership, or who knew Tom Foley explained in his memoir: many issues fail to get resolved, what it was. But you needed to because Speakers will often decline make sure you had the majority to bring measures to the floor in



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45 60 40


30 40 25 30

Total staffers




10 10 5















the absence of near universal support within their party. Given that this has become how the majority party governs, the contemporary Speaker’s job entails continual consultation and handholding with the rank-and-file—the “therapeutic style.”6 Contemporary Speakers are expected to take responsibility for their party’s image to a much greater extent than Speakers of the past. Part of this change stems from the increased prevalence of divided government since the 1970s. Under conditions of divided government, the Speaker is the party’s most visible national leader. Increased competition for majority control of Congress also motivates concern for party imagemaking. The post-1994 majority party has faced more continual threat that the minority will re-take power than was the case throughout much of the post-New Deal 20th century of persistent Democratic majorities. The role of the House speakership began to turn markedly outward during the speakership of Tip O’Neill.7 Of course, not all Speakers since O’Neill have been


Figure 4: Communicators on the Speaker’s Staff










Total Total




















press secretaries, deputy press secretaries, and speechwriters. The pattern is very clear under Boehner, 30 Pelosi, and Gingrich, while Hastert was an exception. Given unified government, Hastert could rely more upon the Bush White House 20 for managing the party’s image. Republicans expect Speaker Paul Ryan to effectively communicate the Republican 10 party’s agenda. Ryan has willingly accepted those responsibilities, and he sees communications as central to his speakership. As part 0 of this messaging effort, he tasked his committee chairmen to develop a Republican agenda, not a set of proposals that they expected to enact in the 114th Congress, but instead to show Americans what Republicans would do if the party controlled Congress and the presidency. Through such tactics, Ryan assumed an almost parliamentary role as leader of the opposition under President Obama. 8 For their part, fellow Republicans are eager to see Ryan visibly representing their party. After he met with Republican senators in November 2015, he was told to be out front as much as possible. As Sen. Roger Wicker

as personally willing to go before the cameras and be the public face of the party. Speaker Hastert, obviously, was not eager to do party communications himself. This was also not seen as one of Pelosi’s strengths. But contemporary Speakers have headed up large staffs of professional communicators who work full time on managing the party’s public image. Figure 4 shows the number of staffers working for the Speaker and the percentage with job titles in communications. As is clear here, the Speaker’s staff has grown markedly in recent years, and an increasing share of those aides focus on communications. More than one-third of all the people working for the House Speaker today are communicators— as in, people with job titles such as directors and assistant directors for communications, digital communications, public Tip O’Neill (right) with President Gerald Ford liaison, digital production,

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Percent in Communications


Total staffers



said, “He looked like a million dollars right out of central casting.” 9 The Speaker’s two central responsibilities of messaging and governing often do not mesh well together. Indeed, Speakers continually face the challenge of managing the trade-offs between the two tasks. There are many reasons why governing and messaging come into conflict. House majority parties often have to pass bills that do not help (and even hurt) the party’s public image. Neither the majority party’s voters nor its rank-and-file members are likely to be entirely happy with anything achievable under conditions of divided government. Even under unified government, members of the House majority party often have to settle for far less than they would ideally like to accomplish so as to arrive at language the Senate or president can support. Speakers also frequently have to deal with issues they would prefer to avoid altogether. All of these responsibilities cut against effective party messaging. Governing means more than enacting a party’s preferred programs. It also requires passing legislation necessary to keep the government in operation or to deal with crises, even when it is far from what party members would like to do. This is what Speaker Boehner meant when he said he needed to “clean out the barn” before he resigned.10 He wanted to clear some essential bills that would otherwise tarnish his successor’s early days as Speaker, such as a debt limit increase, a lift of the sequester, and a budget framework. Every Speaker confronts legislation like this – legislation that nobody in the party likes but that constitutes the leastbad alternative available. Indeed, such matters are often the most salient and important issues that Speakers have to manage. Pelosi 18

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had to deal with funding the war in Afghanistan, which she described as the single hardest issue of her speakership up through October 2009. “You thought energy was a heavy lift, health care, the budget, the recovery package. Nothing was as hard as funding the war in Afghanistan,” she said.11 Probably no issue was more painful for congressional leaders to manage than the bank bailout in 2008. Calls were pouring into Hill offices running 30-to-1 against the bailout. Meanwhile, economists at the Fed and in the Bush administration were telling Congress that they had to take bold action to stem the panic, no matter how unpopular it might be. Speakers regularly find they have to disappoint their own party base. They have to make tough calls about policy priorities and feasibility, and many of their own followers will disagree with them about the decisions they make. Speaker Pelosi could not end the war in Iraq, even though backlash against the war was a key reason for the Democratic recapture of Congress in 2006, she herself opposed the war, and she faced a primary challenge from peaceactivist Cindy Sheehan. Pelosi also disappointed liberals in her party by quashing talk of impeaching President Bush and by refusing to make any move on gay rights, abortion, gun control, immigration, or card check legislation.12 Similarly, Speaker Boehner was a continual disappointment to conservatives. By 2014, one conservative activist said, “There are not enough curse words in the English language to describe how movement conservatives think of John Boehner.” 13 When Pelosi said “it’s hard to bake the pie and sell the pie at the same time,” she was referring to the difficulty of defending her own party’s legislative achievements at the same time as the party was going through the ugly process

of hammering out something that can pass.14 The failure to include a “public option” in the Affordable Care Act was bitter medicine for the party’s liberals. In the end, the compromises that were necessary to pass the bill made it at best a mixed blessing in terms of party messaging. Disappointing party base voters is an unavoidable part of the Speaker’s job in a bicameral system of checks and balances. The exercise of power entails a political price. It’s hard to build a party message on the second best, compromised outcomes that are generally what’s achievable in the U.S. system.

Notes 1. Frances E. Lee, Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). 2. Quoted in Jake Sherman and Marin Cogan, “Right Doesn’t Make Might for Boehner,” Politico, April 15, 2001, 9. 3. Jeffrey R. Biggs and Thomas S. Foley, Honor in the House: Speaker Tom Foley (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1999), 214 4. CQ Newsmaker Transcripts, “House Speaker Boehner Participates in a Discussion at the Newseum,” Washington Ideas Forum, October 6, 2011. 5. Pete Kasperowicz, “House Passes Clean Debt Hike,” The Hill, February 12, 2014, 1. 6. Ronald M. Peters, Speaker: Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives (Washington: CQ Press, 1994). 7. Douglas B. Harris, “The Rise of the Public Speakership,” Political Science Quarterly 113 (1998): 193-212. 8. Lindsey McPherson, “Ryan Beefs Up Speaker’s Flack Team,” Roll Call, November 3, 2015, 3. 9. Alexander Bolton, “Speaker Aims to Ease Tensions with the Senate,” The Hill, November 4, 2015, 8. 10. Katrina Peterson, “Ryan Treads Fine (Party) Line on Boehner’s Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2015, A4. 11. Quoted in David Rogers, “Pelosi: $849B Is Only the Beginning” Politico, October 30, 2009, 1. 12. Edward Epstein, “Her Key to the House,” CQ Weekly, October 29, 2007, 3158. 13. Seth McLaughlin, “Boehner Gets Official Snub by Conservative Activists.” Washington Times, March 4, 2014, A1. 14. John Harwood, “Obama’s Ambitious Agenda Carries a Few Bruises,” New York Times, December 20, 2009, A24.

THE CARL ALBERT GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM ~ A Commitment to the Study of Representative Government ~ Each Carl Albert Fellow pursues a rigorous and individualized program of study while working closely with faculty. The fellowship is a four-year program leading to the acquisition of the doctoral degree in cooperation with the Department of Political Science at The University of Oklahoma. Carl Albert Fellows focus their program of study on fundamental issues in representative government. The central focus is in the field of American government and includes institutions, processes and public policy. In addition, Fellows pursue two additional fields of study selected from among comparative politics, international relations, methods, political theory, public administration or public policy. The fellowship program values both instructional development and research productivity. Carl Albert Fellows are expected to develop original research leading to professional conference presentation and publication. The Center’s resources enable Fellows to pursue field research where appropriate to the dissertation research design. The fellowship package includes four years of financial support in teaching or research appointments, full tuition and fees, funded research and conference travel, summer support, participation and course work at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research and dissertation research funds.

Carl Albert Center Associate Director Mike Crespin (top left) and Director and Curator Cindy Simon Rosenthal (top right) stand with Carl Albert doctoral fellows (left to right) Victoria Rickard, Jessica Hayden and Matthew Geras

Carl Albert Fellows are introduced to nationally known political leaders and scholars through special guest lectures and seminars. Visitors have included former Ambassador James R. Jones, former U.S. Senator George McGovern, and former Congressmen Dick Armey and Mickey Edwards as well as distinguished scholars James E. Campbell, Morris Fiorina, Jennifer Hochschild, Tom Patterson, Jack Rakove, and Steven S. Smith.

Carl Albert Fellows access a rich and diverse selection of other resources at The University of Oklahoma: • Carl Albert Center Archives • Public Opinion Learning Laboratory (P.O.L.L.) • Political Commercial Archives • Center for Applied Social Research

CARL ALBERT GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP Application Deadline: February 1 of each year. Apply Online extensions | Winter 2017


Special Orders


PELOSI AND BOEHNER John A. Lawrence | University of California John A. Lawrence is visiting professor at the University of California (Washington Campus). He worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for 38 years in senior staff and committee positions, and served as chief of staff for Speaker Nancy Pelosi from 2005-2013. He is the author of a forthcoming book from Johns Hopkins University Press on the House Class of 1974 and the impact of congressional reforms on the rise in polarization. He has an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College, and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Berkeley.


2006 campaign that gave Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Republican John rthur Schlesinger once a unifying program (the “6 for ’06 Boehner – illustrates the trials described the cycles confronting whoever occupies the top agenda) and the majority that made of history as reflecting chair on the House dais. For more than her the first female Speaker. the “recurring struggle For much of the preceding decade, a decade, I had the unique opportunity between pragmatism and idealism.” House Democrats had lacked a to work closely with both of these Schlesinger’s dynamic certainly individuals, which enabled me to gain focused plan for recapturing the alldescribes the frustrating challenges important majority. Throughout the unique insights into their contrasting confronting the person who occupies late 1990s, when a switch of a half styles of managing the oftenthe only legislative branch position dozen seats might have altered control unmanageable Peoples’ House. created by the Constitution: the of the House, many in the party Speaker of the House. believed voters would soon The role and power of recognize their error in electing the Speaker have undergone the Republican majority, numerous transformations over and return to Democrats the the past century. The office IT WOULD SEEM THAT NANCY gavel that had been theirs had aggregated enormous for most of the preceding power by the early years of PELOSI AND JOHN BOEHNER seventy years. Pelosi grew the 20th century and then SHARE LITTLE IN COMMON increasingly frustrated by the lost much of it after the revolt lackadaisical campaign record against Speaker Cannon in EXCEPT THE OFFICE THEY of the leadership and decided, 1910. In the later years of the BOTH OCCUPIED. “I can do this job better than 20th century, the speakership them.” In an insurgent race once again became a more against her one-time fellow powerful office under both intern, her colleague and former I knew Nancy Pelosi from her Democratic and Republican Speakers. Democratic Caucus Chairman, Steny earliest days in Congress, and Speaker Paul Ryan’s current struggle Hoyer, Pelosi won the vacant Whip’s beginning with her elevation to is to balance the responsibility of position in 2002. Democratic leader in 2003, worked the majority party to govern with I also worked closely with John with her staff and others to craft a the management of a divided and Boehner and his staff for several plan to regain the House majority often-confrontational Republican years before he ascended to the that had been lost to Republicans in Conference. His plight provides daily leadership, building a relationship that examples of the challenging role of the 1994. Two years later, I was her chief would prove valuable in fashioning of staff, working with a bicameral modern Speaker. major legislation. For four years, from team that developed the policy and A comparison of the two most messaging strategy for the successful 2001-2005, Boehner was chairman recent past Speakers – Democrat



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“The Graduate”), where he built a they both occupied. Pelosi grew up of the Committee on Education successful business. in the vortex of urban Democratic and the Workforce, and I was the Pelosi’s politics personify the politics, the daughter of a Maryland Democratic staff director for the proverbial San Francisco liberal, congressman and Baltimore mayor. Ranking Democrat, George Miller of promoting the environment, women’s Her childhood duties included California. We met regularly to plan equality and AIDS research; equally maintaining the “favor file” which the Committee’s agenda, developing important, she shares the liberal’s allowed her father to keep track of a high level of trust that permitted core conviction that major social those he had assisted and from whom the development of major bipartisan and economic challenges compel a legislation, including the No Child Left he expected loyalty. The pillars of public, even federal response, and the post-War Democratic pantheon Behind education law and pension her confidence that government can – John Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, reform. That collaboration continued effectively intervene is when I moved to nearly boundless. Pelosi’s office and Boehner’s core Boehner assumed the outlook consists of role of minority leader a deep skepticism of where we would work government in general together on crucial and Washington in legislation during particular. Unlike Pelosi, the early months of he did not enter politics the economic crisis, to pursue sweeping including the Bush societal change or stimulus package and right historic wrongs; the Troubled Asset nor was he especially Relief Program (TARP). motivated by the hardThese experiences edged cultural agenda confirmed the promoted by religiously observation of those motivated Republicans who know Congress of the 1980s and 1990s. best: personal Instead, Boehner relationships, trust House Speaker John Boehner holds up the gavel after receiving it from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 5., 2011. was inspired by the and respect for the (AP Photo) small businessman’s institution matter. frustrations with the They are essential to tax and regulatory policies of what he Sam Rayburn – were all familiar to the the smooth functioning of the House, considered an overly intrusive, debtyoung Nancy D’Alesandro decades particularly when the parties are creating, unresponsive, inefficient before she ever took a seat in the ideologically distinct and electorally bureaucracy. House of Representatives at the age confrontational. But surprisingly, Pelosi and of 47. But her interest in politics was These experiences working closely Boehner share some attributes and evident early; as a college student, with Boehner shaped my evaluation experiences, including a vulnerability she interned on Capitol Hill alongside of his leadership style which I gave to parody — she for her elegant Steny Hoyer. to the Obama White House following femininity in a male bastion and he Like Pelosi, John Boehner was the 2010 Republican victory. Asked for his preternatural tan in the middle also born into a Democratic family, for insights based on our earlier of winter. Both Pelosi and Boehner but his early experiences and his collaboration, I advised, “Boehner moved swiftly into the upper echelons trajectory were very different. One likes to cut deals with Democrats, but of leadership. Pelosi spent less than of 12 children, Boehner’s childhood he can never deliver the votes of his two years as Whip before becoming responsibilities included sweeping own Republican members to approve party leader. Boehner served for out his father’s bar. Later, after them.” In numerous battles that four years as Chair of the Republican seven years of study, he became ultimately weakened his relationship Conference before being ousted in the first in his family to graduate with the Republican Conference 1998, yet emerged after the GOP’s from college. He went to work in over the subsequent five years, that loss in the 2006 elections to lead the private sector in the 1970s, observation was proven accurate. House Republicans. eventually going into the plastics On the surface, it would seem that As minority leaders, both industry (just as the protagonist was Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner share Pelosi and Boehner undertook advised in the popular film of the era, little in common except the office extensions | Winter 2017


would never forgive a surprise vote and Boehner were positioned very the challenging responsibility of against the party position. differently within their respective fashioning a congressional messaging Pelosi earned this loyalty from parties, and that distinction is strategy to nationalize House members because she enjoyed crucial in explaining their respective races in hopes of winning majority unimpeachable credibility both as a records in office. Serving as the control. Both strategies vilified the liberal stalwart and a defender of her party leader longer than anyone other party’s leadership: “Drain members, regardless of where they but Sam Rayburn, Pelosi was (and the swamp … end the culture of fell on the ideological spectrum. Like remains) the unifying and driving corruption,” in Pelosi’s 2006 words; Phillip Burton, the legendary San force of her caucus; “indispensable” Boehner’s 2010 message was more Francisco congressman who preceded was the term one House Democrat personal and succinct: “Fire Pelosi!” her in office, Pelosi understood the used to describe her. She epitomized Both had extensive experience need to recruit and defend candidates the “modern” Speaker and party in bipartisan deal making, she on who could not embrace policies leader: personally developing the Appropriations and Ethics endorsed by the liberal majority of the party’s messaging, recruiting Committees and he on the Education the caucus. “Get to know southerners candidates suited to each district’s and the Workforce Committee. Both and conservatives,” were able to Burton would advise command far liberals. “Be nice to greater unity those guys, listen among their to them. Without members as them, there is minority leaders no Democratic striving to gain majority.” 1 Pelosi, like back the majority PARTS OF THE CAUCUS GAVE PELOSI THE than when their Burton, knew that CREDIBILITY TO ASK BOTH MODERATES AND party’s numbers House majorities grew and they rest on winning the LIBERALS TO CAST RISKY VOTES TO became Speaker. marginal, moderate And both served seats. While ACHIEVE THE PARTY’S GOALS. as Speaker never hesitating during periods to patiently apply temperament, and fundraising on an of divided government, compelled pressure when votes were needed, unprecedented scale. to negotiate “must-pass” legislation she also subscribed to the rule Pelosi was not hesitant to pull on topics they had opposed with followed by former Speaker Jim hard on the reins when she felt presidents they had bitterly criticized. Wright who noted, “We recognize the time had come to act. Power In office, both granted limited that members in close districts in Washington, Pelosi believes, autonomy to committees and must have a certain latitude of is perishable, and both political members, intervening personally independence in order to represent victory and legislative success when necessary to finalize legislation, their districts – and stay in Congress. require discipline reflecting when, and often generating resistance We tend to back off some of those and how, to act decisively. Like all within their ranks from ideological fellows.”2 Of course, absent the Speakers, she struggled to balance factions who resented the need of the preservation of the marginal seats, the members’ desire for participation majority to compromise. Both had a Pelosi knew the Democratic majority, and discussion, and rarely was a second in command – Steny Hoyer and her speakership, would be member denied a requested audience, jeopardized. to Pelosi and Eric Cantor to Boehner even in the late hours of the night – who occasionally deviated from Desperate to regain the majority before crucial votes. But Pelosi the Speaker’s position, fueling press they had enjoyed for 58 of the 62 would leave no doubt who, after speculation about intra-leadership years prior to 1994, and then lost for extensive consultation and careful rivalries. And finally, both fell from 12 years, Democrats in 2006 granted compromise, would make the final power under withering personal Pelosi unusual authority to fashion decisions, or what vote she expected attack – Pelosi’s from without, the strategy, message and agenda from her members; unlike others in Boehner’s from within – reflecting the needed to regain their majority the leadership, she would tolerate a highly divisive nature of our partisan and their chairmanships, and enact negative vote if a member made a political environment. legislation on which there was broad compelling case, but she would not But despite many similarities in caucus consensus. During Pelosi’s grant permission for it to be cast and their experiences as Speaker, Pelosi years as minority leader in 2003-



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Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Indeed, the landslide 2006, Democrats Republican victory of had recorded historic 2010 included large levels of voting numbers of insurgent unity, ensuring that Republicans who were a clear Democratic more distrustful of message was the House Republican disseminated. Even leadership than senior conservatives committed to it. “Gone like Ike Skelton and are the days when Collin Peterson – both the leaders decide close friends – trusted what the conference is Pelosi because they gonna to do,” declared knew that given a defiant Rep. Lynn the party’s nearly Jenkins, R-Kan., and absolute deference to she was Vice Chair of the seniority system, The U.S. House of Representatives, filled with factions on both sides of the aisle, can be a treacherous environment for Speakers the House Republican their chairmanships searching for the 218 votes they need to pass measures. Conference!3 The would be protected despite voting records 2010 and 2012 that sometimes Republican victories And yet the aggressive legislative resembled those of the Conservative replaced many liberal and marginal program Pelosi pushed through Coalition of the 1950s more than the Democrats with freshmen who were the House, almost entirely with “New Direction Democrats” of the considerably more conservative than Democratic votes, ultimately came early 2000s. the GOP conference they joined. As with a high price as many moderate This perception of fairness in a result, the ideological tilt of House and marginal Democrats went dealing with disparate parts of the Republicans moved perceptively down to defeat in 2010, and Pelosi’s caucus gave Pelosi the credibility to the right. That Tea Party group speakership came to an end. to ask both moderates and liberals eventually coalesced into the bane of John Boehner confronted a very to cast risky votes to achieve the Boehner’s speakership, renaming itself different set of circumstances and Party’s goals. Pelosi would remind the “Freedom Caucus” after rejecting liberal critics that other options including she also sometimes the “Reasonable Nut Job had to disappoint Caucus.”4 her own constituents, From the standpoint several dozen of whom of these 50-60 members, maintained a permanent Boehner lacked the protest vigil outside her ideological credentials San Francisco home. Pelosi enjoyed with her OF 2010 INCLUDED LARGE NUMBERS Those impeccable liberal own hardliners, despite OF INSURGENT REPUBLICANS credentials allowed Pelosi more than 20 years of to plausibly implore reliably conservative WHO WERE MORE DISTRUSTFUL OF progressives to accept voting. It was a dramatic THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP moderate means to contrast with the achieve liberal goals, as high standing Pelosi THAN COMMITTED TO IT. when she accepted the enjoyed with her liberal pragmatic option rather caucus majority. These than the public option in incoming Republicans challenges throughout a much more the final health care law. “If you don’t ran against costly legislation that troubled speakership. Like Pelosi, have 218 votes,” she would remind her expanded the role of government, he and his leadership issued a set of displeased liberal colleagues, “we are not only the Obama stimulus bill proposals – “A Pledge to America” just having a conversation.” It was this and the Affordable Care Act, but – that Republicans would pursue if “fundamental pragmatism” that was also legislation enacted under the they were voted into the majority essential to her becoming what Norm George W. Bush Administration in 2010. But unlike Pelosi, Boehner Ornstein has called “the strongest including the 2008 stimulus, No Child was never perceived as the catalyst Speaker we’ve seen in our lifetime.” Left Behind, the auto bail out and for the GOP regaining the majority.


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to abortion services, modifying or Pelosi, who could elicit concessions the Troubled Assets Relief Program repealing the Affordable Care Act. In because of a mutual desire to achieve (TARP) that Boehner, as minority doing so, he provided fresh evidence Democratic legislative goals (even leader, had negotiated with Pelosi. to support the hard Right’s caricature if they were diluted), Boehner’s Boehner’s assurances that he was of him as an Obama-Pelosi-Reid pleas for pragmatic compromise a true conservative were often met collaborationist. offended a substantial portion of his with skepticism; he failed to deliver A few weeks before the end of conference. They had little interest in on $100 billion in cuts promised in his speakership, I sought to console passing legislation that violated their his 2010 platform, just as he had Speaker Boehner over his abuse at ideological principles like extending pleaded with his conference members the hands of his own conference. the debt ceiling or raising taxes. With to support TARP to save the country a minimalist policy agenda, Tea Party/ He waved his hand dismissively. “I from an economic calamity, although don’t let them get to me,” he said. Freedom caucus activists had no he had tearfully labeled the bill a A few weeks later, after they did reservations about besmirching the “crap sandwich.” get to him, he publicly scorned his House and lowering the opinion of Boehner understood that he former colleagues as “unrealistic … lacked the credibility in his conference Congress in the public’s eyes. false prophets … knuckleheads” and Boehner attempted to give that Pelosi enjoyed in hers, and had “goofballs.”7 Boehner’s successor, lip service to the Tea Party’s little doubt that he would encounter uncompromising mood. He scheduled deep resistance to any plea for Speaker Paul Ryan, immediately dozens of votes to repeal all or compromise. “In six months,” he encountered the same internal portions of the Affordable Care Act. told me privately in December 2010, dissent that had bollixed the Boehner shortly after his selection speakership. Ryan also as Speaker, “I’ll be more bowed to the demands popular in your caucus of the Freedom Caucus than I will be in my own for “regular order,” conference.” Six months promising to allow “the later, I asked how his House [to] work its will” TO GIVE LIP SERVICE TO THE TEA prediction was playing on legislation on the floor PARTY’S UNCOMPROMISING MOOD. by permitting unrestricted out. “I’m not there yet,” he replied wryly, “but amendments. He also I’m getting close.” The agreed to replace some of persistent push-back he received from He refused to consider tax increase. the senior members on the Steering “We’re not going to raise the debt his novice members made Boehner Committee with representatives ceiling without real cuts in spending, reluctant to impose his will on a of the Freedom Caucus. But these it’s as simple as that” he pledged, fragmented conference. “I try to stay concessions still failed to secure the but even the hundreds of billions he out of that — all the issues,” Boehner Republican votes he needed, and secured in cuts to domestic programs famously said. “I don’t need to be out following an embarrassing defeat of a failed to assuage the purists.6 As a there beating the drum every day. It budget resolution, Ryan found himself doesn’t need the heavy hand of the engaged in the same negotiations result, on key votes on appropriations 5 Speaker all over everything.” with Democrats that had landed bills, continuing resolutions, and Boehner in such serious conference debt ceilings, nearly a third of the What Pelosi knew, and Boehner trouble. The Right sniffed at Ryan’s GOP conference refused to give came to appreciate, is that in the plea to pass the budget. “Paul Ryan Boehner the votes he needed to current atmosphere of hyper-partisan, called it a crap sandwich,” remarked ideologically aligned parties, internally pass the Republican version. The Rep. David Brat of Virginia, the Tea Speaker was left with no choice but divided caucuses, and a constant Party member who had ousted to seek votes from Democrats or battle to secure or retain the allMajority Leader Eric Cantor. “Now risk another disastrous government important majority, the light touch we’re supposed to vote for it? That’s shutdown like the one in 2013, which is insufficient. Boehner’s inability, or quite an ask.”8 In the September cost billions in lost revenues and unwillingness, to build a consensus a plunge in Republican approval and then insist on loyalty from House 2016 continuing resolution, Ryan ratings. To secure the votes he Republicans was exploited by the was forced to remove restrictions required from Pelosi, Boehner was Freedom Caucus Republicans to on Planned Parenthood for Puerto required to remove policy riders pursue personal, non-collaborative Rico, which some Republicans had favored by his most conservative agendas, indifferent to the impact on demanded be included, and to accept members – restrictions on funding for the Republican leadership’s ability Democratic demands for funding Planned Parenthood, limits on access to manage the House. Contrary to Zika virus prevention and providing



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relief for residents of water-tainted Flint, Michigan. Nearly one-third of House Republicans refused to support the must-pass bill (while 95% of Democrats votes “yes”). The tenures of Speakers Pelosi and Boehner illustrate the similar challenge of governing a large, diverse institution in an era of hyperpolarization, ideologically aligned parties and incessant battles for political advantage. At a time when discipline is needed to achieve critical legislative objectives, the powers of the Speaker are undermined by a collection of factors that include the weakened party structures, the ability of candidates to run against the party with their own message, independent sources of money and resistance to compromise. Both Speakers Pelosi and Boehner experienced, as John Patty has noted, that however appealing large majorities may appear, they do not guarantee the easy management of a unified caucus. Instead, they often contain internal factions that complicate the leader’s job. The records of the two speakerships were very different. Ask Nancy Pelosi her proudest achievements as Speaker and she undoubtedly would recite a litany of legislative accomplishments: health care, job rights for women, regulating

Wall Street, preventing massive cuts affecting the poor, a generous GI bill, and improvements in energy conservation and renewability. Yet unquestionably, pushing the caucus to support such an aggressive legislative portfolio in the face of united Republican opposition contributed to the electoral vulnerability of marginal members whose departures in 2010 cost Pelosi her gavel. By contrast, when asked that same question, John Boehner quickly replied, “My proudest accomplishment is walking out of there the same jackass I was 25 years before.”8 As he departed the speakership, he told his colleagues, “I didn’t want this job to have a big title. I want to do big things,” but he proved incapable of selling his conference on the “big deal” time and again.9 His inability to persuade his irreconcilables to accept pragmatism over principle weighed heavily as he left office. “Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted,” he reflected. “They wanted this long, slow process. And so change comes slowly. And obviously too slowly for some.” 10 He also was driven involuntarily from the speakership, but more for discharging his constitutional duties to keep the House functioning than for pursuing

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Speaker Paul Ryan (left) shakes hands as he ascends to office following the retirement of Speaker John Boehner

an aggressive policy agenda, as in Pelosi’s experience. That contrast helps explain their different experiences as Speaker. Pelosi could direct a faction-ridden caucus because members of varying ideological positions trusted her to achieve policy goals and assist members who took risks. Boehner was positioned more awkwardly in his conference, having to manage the legislative branch while enduring virulent opposition from a sizable faction of his conference, which remained indifferent to the responsibilities of being in the majority. Ultimately, with the exception of significant spending cuts impacting discretionary domestic programs, he had minimal success in reversing the Obama-Pelosi legislative achievements because he could not leverage the power of the gavel effectively in a faction-ridden conference.

Notes 1. Interview with former Rep. Bill Brodhead (February 18, 2014) 2. Steven V. Roberts, “The Life of a ‘Watergate Baby’,” New York Times (May 13, 1986) 3. Paul Kane, “After Nearly Five Years, Boehner Could Never Land The ‘Big Deal’ He Wanted” Washington Post (September 25, 2015) 4. Jason Easley, “John Boehner Confirms That It is Completely Pointless To Talk to John Boehner” PoliticusUSA (May 28, 2013) 5. Michael O’Brien, “Boehner: No Debt Ceiling Increase Without Spending Cuts” NBC News (July 23, 2013) 6. “John Boehner Talks Election, Time In Office,” Stanford Daily (April 28, 2016) 7. Deirdre Walsh, “Former Budget Chair Paul Ryan Likely To Miss Budget Deadline” (CNN, April 12, 2016) 8. Carl Hulce, “Out of Office, Ex-Speaker John Boehner Gleefully Releases Mute Button” New York Times (April 28, 2016) 9. Paul Kane, “After Nearly Five Years, Boehner Could Never Land The ‘Big Deal’ He Wanted” Washington Post (September 25, 2015) 10. William Douglas, “Boehner Rips GOP Critics, Suggests Deals With Democrats on Way Out,” McClatchy DC (September 27, 2015)

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For the Record



Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

University of Virginia, and The focus of this Vanderbilt University. edition of Extensions Several attendees was inspired by arrived a day early to scholarship exhibited do research in the Carl during the 15th annual Albert Center’s archives. Congress & History Chris Den Hartog from Conference held at the Cal Poly State University Carl Albert Center on the spent time examining University of Oklahoma Speaker Carl Albert’s Campus last June. papers as they related As hosts of the event, to the expansion of the the Center included House Rules Committee. a roundtable on the Kevin Baron from the Speaker of the House University of Florida of Representatives. researched the Freedom Participating were Carl Albert Center Associate Director Mike Crespin of Information Act and political scientists (left) and Center Director and Curator Cindy Simon Rosenthal host the 15th annual Congress & History executive privilege. A Jeff Jenkins from the Conference on the OU campus. few collections, including University of Virginia at the Glenn English and Arlington, Frances Lee Mike Monroney papers, proved helpful. Ryan Williamson from the University of Maryland and Charles Stewart from the University of Georgia focused on national from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. disaster declarations and explored Oklahoma’s history Historian John Lawrence, who served as chief of staff of weather-related calamities. Former American Political to Nancy Pelosi, offered a practitioner’s view to the Science Association Congressional Fellow Nick Howard conversation. and Craig Goodman, from the University of HoustonMore than 40 scholars traveled to Norman to attend Victoria, also took advantage of the Albert papers to the 2016 conference. Attendees came from a broad work on their projects. range of colleges and universities, including Columbia, The main goal of the conference is for scholars to Cornell, Harvard, and Yale. The center also welcomed share research that places Congress in a historical Colleen Shogan, the deputy director of outreach for context. This year, as in years past, the event featured the Library of Congress, Daniel Stid, Director of the an excellent cross section of papers. In total, a Madison Initiative at the Hewlett Foundation, and James dozen papers were presented on topics as diverse Wallner, former Senate Steering Committee executive as the Jeffersonian Congress to the speakership of director and current head of research for the Heritage Frederick Gillet. Foundation. Although the scholarship took center stage, the Ira Katznelson and Greg Wawro founded the center offered a taste of Oklahoma culture with the Congress and History Conference at Columbia University first Congress & History Pig Roast. The nice folks from in 2002, and the tradition has continued ever since. Smokin’ Okies showed up bright and early to get the After the initial meeting, many universities have hosted smoker going and 12 very hot hours later everyone the conference, including Brown University, Cal Berkeley, enjoyed some authentic Oklahoma BBQ. George Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, the


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Photos courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

Presenters and scholars from across the United States attend the 15th annual Congress & History Conference on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. The conference included a roundtable discussion on the Speaker of the House. Discussions from that roundtable are reflected in the current edition of Extensions.

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For the Record

NEWS FROM THE CENTER Katherine McRae | Director of Administration

studies, was recognized at

explored issues of federalism and

continued with a full slate

September’s American Political

intergovernmental relations in

of collaborative events

Science Association meeting in

the field of water policy. Students

and improvements over the fall

Philadelphia. Her dissertation

curated their own presentations and

semester with activities surrounding

timelines, conducted geocoding

of the center’s archives to a better

was titled, Exceptions to the Rule: Majoritarian Procedures and Majority Party Power in the


U.S. Senate. Reynolds is a fellow

among the center’s collections.

in governance studies at the

Student projects focused on

watch parties and informal polling

Brookings Institution in Washington

several elements. They included

activities involving more than 1,000

D.C. She is scheduled to give a

the 1996 amendments to the

students and community members,

presentation at the University of

Safe Drinking Water Act; the

and the center transferred achieves

Oklahoma in February 2017.

Supreme Court case involving

the 2016 elections and a transition

OU Votes 2016 featured forums,

to a new off-site location where patrons will benefit from enhanced services and efficiencies. On Nov. 8, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., visited the center and spoke about the 2016 national election and current congressional political affairs. Meanwhile, the Center was pleased to see additional recognition for Molly Elizabeth Reynolds, winner of the 2016 Carl Albert Dissertation Award. Reynolds, honored by the Center for her dissertation on legislative

Teaching Carl Albert Center Director Cindy Simon Rosenthal again offered an archives-based course, Congress: Policy, Politics & the Constitution. This highly innovative classroom experience employed the resources of the congressional archives to help undergraduate

of documents, and discovered unique historical documents

Clean Water Act interpretation of water quality standards between Arkansas and Oklahoma; and the Arkansas River jurisdictional dispute between the State of Oklahoma and the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee nations.

Archives In August, Assistant Curator

students develop archival research

and Senior Archivist Nathan Gerth,

skills while also learning about

Ph.D. was appointed to the position

Congress, its procedures and

of assistant professor in the OU

politics. In fall 2016, the students

College of Arts and Sciences’

The Carl Albert Center transferred its archives collection last fall to new climate-controlled facilities that offer more room for future growth. Photos above illustrate the moving process from the old location (left), to the new, more spacious location (right). The center photo shows archives amid the transition.


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Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives


he Carl Albert Center

property damage from flooding along the creek has transformed and galvanized the city’s public policy responses to extreme weather. During the event, archives staff digitized flood-related documents and photographs belonging to Tulsa residents, and conducted interviews to preserve oral histories of flooding

Patrons take part in the Local History Digital Lab held in Tulsa on Dec. 1. The event was held in conjunction with the Carl Albert Center’s exhibit on water policy.

Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

events. The City of Tulsa, Oklahoma Mesonet, Tulsa Partners, and the Tulsa City-County Library provided the initiative with information on how to reduce flooding risks. The event generated great interest from residents and the media. It was held in conjunction with the center’s exhibit on water policy “WATER: Congressional Representation to Protect a Precious Resource” at the Tulsa City-County Library. Archival material and oral School of Library and Information

The first-ever Local History Digital

histories collected at the event

Studies. Gerth will continue his

Lab, an archives initiative, was hosted

can be found at: https://water.

current curatorial and archival

in Tulsa, Okla. on Dec. 1. The lab was

responsibilities, and will develop and

designed to preserve the history of

teach archival courses within the

flooding along Mingo Creek in Tulsa.

digitized the papers of Sen. Robert

School of Library Sciences.

Fatalities and millions of dollars in

L. Owen, who was one of the first

Also in the fall of 2016, the Center

In the fall of 2016, the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives relocated its annex to a new climatecontrolled storage facility. The new location was fitted with a custom shelving system, which is 20 feet tall and nearly 10,000 linear feet long. The center staff moved more than to the new location, which has space for about 6,000 more boxes. The new facility provides better service to patrons, improved preservation, and room for future growth. The relocation was prompted by construction of OU’s new residential colleges at W Lindsey St. and Jenkins Ave. The location was formally occupied by 1950s-era structures that had served as the center’s offsite storage facilities since 1995.

The Carl Albert Center Achieves joined with the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma Mesonet, Tulsa Partners and the Tulsa City-County Library System to host the Local History Digital Lab, the first of its kind in Oklahoma.

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Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

3,000 boxes of documents and items


two U.S. Senators from Oklahoma,

program’s goal is to address the

organizations to host several events

serving from 1907 to 1925. The

historic under-representation of

for the OU Votes 2016 initiative.

project was done in collaboration

women in politics and public life

More than 1,000 students and

with the Federal Reserve Archival

by providing the necessary tools to

community members participated

System for Economic Research

enter, stay in, and emerge from the

in the public events.

(FRASER). As part of the Federal

political pipeline.

Reserve Bank of St. Louis,

Applications are now being

The initiative included debate watch parties on Sept. 26 and

FRASER works to preserve unique

accepted for the N.E.W. (National

Oct. 19 at Bizzell Library, a state

collections related to the history

Education for Women’s) Leadership

question forum on Oct. 27 and an

of the Federal Reserve Banking

program to be held in May

election watch party on Nov. 8 at

System. Owen helped draft the

2017. The program is open to

Gaylord College. The debate watch

Federal Reserve Act and the Farm

undergraduate women from across

parties were well attended and

Loan Act. The digitized collection

Oklahoma who are interested

participants had the opportunity to

will be available through both

in getting involved with politics

take part in polling activities while

FRASER and the Carl Albert

and public service. This five-day

OU faculty members led discussions

Center archives. Other institutions

residential program is offered at no

after the debates. The state

that have partnered with FRASER

cost to participants. It will feature

question forum was moderated by

include the Library of Congress, the

prominent Oklahoma women

Dick Pryor, former host of OETA’s

Brookings Institution, and the Harry

officeholders, public administrators,

Oklahoma News Report and

S. Truman Library and Museum.

community advocates and business

current general manager of KGOU.

leaders. The application deadline is

Presenters included Sen. Stephanie

was named Outstanding Senior for

March 8, 2017. Visit

Bice, Bryan Kerr, Greg Mashburn,

2016-17 by the Jeannine Rainbolt

to apply or for more information.

LeeAnna McNally, Bud Scott and

Student employee Ashley Hosek

College of Education. Hosek will graduate in May 2017 with a B.S. in physics education.

Kris Steele.

OU Votes 2016 The Center partnered with the

Women’s Leadership Initiative

Gaylord College of Journalism and

The Women’s Leadership

Libraries, the Student Government

Initiative was honored for the 15th consecutive year with The Journal

Mass Communication, the Political Communication Center, University Association and other campus

At the election watch party, OU faculty members and political professionals spoke on panels throughout the evening as election results were received. Faculty panelists included: Cindy Simon Rosenthal, Keith Gaddie, Allen Hertzke, Patrick Meirick, Lindsey

Record’s Programs Making a Difference Award. The newspaper recognized the organization on Nov. 2 during the Woman of the Year Gala at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Courtland Vogeding and Justice Andrews, who are alumni of the National Education for Women leadership class of 2016, accepted the award on behalf of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. The Center is again partnering with the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition to present the 2017 Pipeline to Politics on Jan. 28 at the OU-Tulsa campus. The


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University of Oklahoma students and members of the Norman community joined at the Bizzell Library on the OU campus to watch candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the presidential debates last fall.

Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

Oklahoma City. Saghi Hosseini,

research at OU Undergraduate Research Day.

The 2016 presidential debates and election-night watch party gave OU students, faculty and members of the community unique opportunities for learning and engagement.

Photo courtesy of Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives

Grants Associate Director Mike Crespin was awarded a grant from the Social Science Research Council for his project Beyond the Roll Call: Multidimensional Negotiation During the Great Society. The main objective of the grant project is to perform an archival investigation, focusing on the 89th Congress to better understand how leadership successfully moved a heavy legislative agenda. Meeks, Derek Houston, and Stephen

Scholars program, a public service

Ellis. Political professionals included

learning opportunity. The students

Joe Dorman, Kenneth Corn and

worked 20 hours per week in a

Michael Carrier.

Norman-area non-profit or public

Several Oklahoma City area

agency, developing professional

media outlets covered the events.

experience and skills. They also learned how organizations function

Civic Engagement Fellows The Civic Engagement Fellows for the 2016-17 school year are Audra Brulc, Alyssa Fisher, Jessica Roberts, and Seth Nightengale. The fellows led OU’s awardwinning efforts in the annual voter registration contest sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. OU won first place for the most out-of-state students registered on any campus. The Civic Engagement Fellows also helped organize the OU Votes 2016 program. Brulc received a Cortez A.M. Ewing Public Service Fellowship. She will serve as an intern in

and interact with the broader community. The students attended weekly seminars and briefings with leaders from the nonprofit and public service sectors. The 2016 Community Scholars and their assignments were: Daryl G. Callaway, Jr., Norman City Manager’s Office; Joshua Richwine, Center for Children and Families, Inc.; Viviana Romero, Scissortail Community Development Corporation; and Matison White,

and Maxwell Palmer on Sept. 2 at the American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting in Philadelphia. On the next day of the APSA annual meeting, Crespin and Carl Albert Graduate Fellow Matthew Geras presented Gaining Access and Constituent Correspondence in the U.S. Congress.

Publications Carl Albert Graduate Fellow

the U.S. House of Representatives,

The 2016-17 Undergraduate Bellafiore, Sam Moore, Daniella

the OU Daily.

Royer, Abbey Taylor, Courtland Vogeding, and Johnathan Wolff.

participated in the Community

Barry Edwards, Ryan Williamson,

Undergraduate Research Fellows

also was named Opinion Editor for

four undergraduate students

Geography of Representation, with

Victoria A. Rickard’s article The Effects of Gender on Winnowing in

Research Fellows are Robert

During the fall semester,

Crespin presented Institutional Control of Redistricting and the

United Way of Norman.

Washington D.C this summer. She

Community Scholars


Under the program, students conduct research tasks for faculty mentors, and in the spring semester, they write papers and are encouraged to present their

was published in the December 2016 edition of the journal Politics & Gender. In December, Rosenthal and Jill Irvine, OU presidential professor of women’s and gender studies, concluded a successful, threeyear co-editorship of the Politics & Gender journal. The co-editorship was successful in increasing the journal’s impact factor and building

extensions | Winter 2017


a more robust journal. Politics


& Gender publishes the highest quality scholarship on gender and

Matthew Moen (Ph.D. 1986) has

politics, and on women and politics.

been selected as the new president

It is published by the APSA Women

of the Gettysburg Foundation. The

and Politics Research Section,

organization’s mission includes

Cambridge University Press.

the funding and operation of the Gettysburg National Military

Interviews and Community Outreach

Park Museum and Visitor Center; land, monument and artifact preservation, and battlefield

In fall 2016, Crespin appeared on

rehabilitation. The foundation also

television station KOCO, the local

places a major focus on leadership

ABC affiliate, several times and

and civic education. Moen will begin

provided expert political analysis

his position in March 2017.

related to the election. Rosenthal

Award as “Teacher of the Year”

Center for Social Justice’s event,

for 2016 at the John F. Kennedy

“Should I Vote?”

School of Government at Harvard University. The award, which is the

KOKC radio forum on “The State

University’s highest, is voted upon

of Oklahoma’s Cities and Towns”

by the Kennedy School student

and also was the invited speaker

body at Harvard and “recognizes

on municipal finance before

a faculty member’s dedication

The Association of Government

to students, excellence in the

Accountants, the Norman League

professional field, and commitment

of Women Voters, and Cleveland

to public service.”

County Democrats. She served as the keynote speaker at the Association’s annual fall conference. During the annual conference of

administration, was published by

the Oklahoma Municipal League,

the London School of Economics.

Rosenthal was honored with the

The post can be found on the

Don Rider Award for outstanding

school’s LSE U.S. Centre blog

contributions on behalf of municipal

on Dec. 2, 2016, http://blogs.lse.

government in Oklahoma. In July, The post is a

she stepped down after completing

condensed version of his recent

three terms as mayor of the City of

research on party messaging in the

Norman, a record which makes her

U.S. House of Representatives.

the second longest serving mayor in the city’s history.

MAY 19-23, 2017 — N.E.W. Leadership OCT. 17-19, 2017 — Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government – Daniel Carpenter, Harvard University

Tyler Hughes’ (Ph.D. 2016) post How Democrats can influence debate in the House of Representatives under the Trump

Oklahoma Political Science

FEB. 9, 2017 — Molly Reynolds 2016 Carl Albert Dissertation Award winner

Steve Jarding won the Carballo

served as a panelist for the

Rosenthal participated in


FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER! Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center Women’s Leadership Initiative OU Votes CarlAlbertCenter



extensions | Winter 2017

$39.95 HARDCOVER· 408 PAGES· 25 B&W ILLUS., 13 FIGURES With its rock-bottom approval ratings, acrimonious partisan battles, and apparent inability to do its legislative business, the U.S. Senate might easily be deemed unworthy of attention, if not downright irrelevant. But that would be a mistake. Despite its dysfunction, the Senate finds itself at the center of attention as 2017 opens with a new presidential administration and a heavy slate of confirmation hearings. Republicans hold the White House, majorities in both chambers of Congress and an ambitious, controversial agenda that includes repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform, confirmation of a new supreme court nominee and tax cuts.

Because the Senate has become the place where the policy-

making process most frequently stalls, any effective resolution to our polarized politics demands a clear understanding of how the formerly august legislative body once worked and how it came to the present crisis. Steven S. Smith provides that understanding in The Senate Syndrome.

Like the Senate itself, Smith’s account is grounded in history.

Countering a cacophony of inexpert opinion and a widespread misunderstanding of political and legislative history, the book fills in a world of missing information about debates among senators concerning fundamental democratic processes and the workings of institutional rules, procedures, and norms. And Smith does so in a clear and engaging manner. He puts the present problems of the Senate – the “Senate syndrome” – as he calls them, into historical context by explaining how particular ideas and procedures were first framed and how they transformed with the times. At stake is resolution of the Senate syndrome, and the critical underlying struggle between majority rule and minority rights in American policy making.

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The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center 630 Parrington Oval, Room 101 Norman, Oklahoma 73019-4031 (405) 325-6372

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage

PAID University of Oklahoma

Visiting Scholars Program The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma seeks applicants for its Visiting Scholars Program, which provides financial assistance to researchers working at the Center’s archives. Awards of $500-$1000 are normally granted as reimbursement for travel and lodging. The Center’s holdings include the papers of many former members of Congress, such as Speaker Carl Albert, Robert S. Kerr, and Fred Harris of Oklahoma, Helen Gahagan Douglas and Jeffery Cohelan of California, and Neil Gallagher of New Jersey. Besides the history of Congress, congressional leadership, national and Oklahoma politics, and election campaigns, the collections also document government policy affecting agriculture, Native Americans, energy, foreign affairs, the environment, and the economy. Topics that can be studied include the Great Depression, flood control, soil conservation and tribal affairs. At least one collection provides insight on women in American politics. Most materials date from the 1920s to the 1990s, although there is one nineteenth-century collection. The Center’s collections are described on the World Wide Web at and in the publication titled A Guide to the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives (Norman, Okla.: The Carl Albert Center, 1995) by Judy Day, et al., available at many U. S. academic libraries. Additional information can be obtained from the Center. The Visiting Scholars Program is open to any applicant. Emphasis is given to those pursuing postdoctoral research in history, political science and other fields. Graduate students involved in research for publication, thesis, or dissertation are encouraged to apply. Professional writers and researchers are also invited to apply. The Center evaluates each research proposal based upon its merits, and funding for a variety of topics is expected. No standardized form is needed for application. Instead, a series of documents should be sent to the Center, including: (1) a description of the research proposal in fewer than 1000 words; (2) a personal vita; (3) an explanation of how the Center’s resources will assist the researcher; (4) a budget proposal; and (5) a letter of reference from an established scholar in the discipline attesting to the significance of the research. Applications are accepted at any time. For more information, please contact: Archivist, Carl Albert Center, 630 Parrington Oval, Room 101, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019. Telephone: (405) 325-6372. FAX: (405) 325-6419. E-mail:

The University of Oklahoma is an Equal Opportunity Institution.


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Extensions is a copyrighted publication of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. It is distributed free of charge twice a year. All Rights Reserved. Extensions and the Carl Albert Center symbol are trademarks of the Carl Albert Center. Copyright Carl Albert Center, The University of Oklahoma, 1985. Statements contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Carl Albert Center or the regents of The University of Oklahoma.

Extensions Winter 2017  

The Speakership