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Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process

Tenth Edition

504 pages | CQ Press
“Walter Oleszek’s Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is the gold standard of books on Congress, providing the ideal backbone to any course on Congress.  The book is a must-read for Hill interns and new staff if they want to be effective in their jobs and make a difference.”

– William F. Connelly Jr., Washington & Lee University

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process examines the entire arc of the legislative process—from a bill’s introduction, to its signature into law, to congressional review of the law’s administrative implementation—and the many procedural pitfalls that exist along the way. Author Walter J. Oleszek and new co-authors Mark Oleszek, Elizabeth Rybicki, and Bill Heniff, Jr. do not shy away from the complexity of the topic, yet they ensure that the operations of Congress are understandable to students and practitioners alike. Through an array of interesting examples, case studies, and the authors’ personal anecdotes, this definitive work delivers timely explanation and analysis of the nation’s premier lawmaking institution.
Chapter 1: Congress and Lawmaking
The Constitutional Context

Functions of Rules and Procedures

Rules and Policymaking in Congress

Congressional Decision Making

The House and Senate Compared

Pressures on Members

Chapter 2: The Congressional Budget Process
Authorization–Appropriations Process

Prelude to Budget Reform

Evolution of Statutory Budget Procedures

The Challenge Ahead

Case Study: The Government Shutdown of 2013

Chapter 3: Preliminary Legislative Action
Categories of Legislation

Bill Referral Procedure

Consideration in Committee

The Committee Chair’s Role

Committee Hearings

The Markup

Committee Markup Procedures

The Report

Bypassing Committees

Chapter 4: Scheduling Legislation in the House
The House Legislative Calendars

Minor and Noncontroversial Measures

Privileged Legislation

Major Legislation

Promise of Openness by the Majority Party

Legislation Blocked in Committee

Final Scheduling Steps

Chapter 5: House Floor Procedure


Consideration of Major Legislation

Final Procedural Steps

Opposition Tactics

Chapter 6: Scheduling Legislation in the Senate
Major Scheduling Considerations

Classifying Measures

Noncontroversial Bills

Major Legislation

Unanimous Consent Agreements

The Track System

Scheduling Procedures Compared

Chapter 7: Senate Floor Procedure
Legislative and Calendar Days

Daily Order of Business

Debate in the Modern Senate

Bills Considered by Unanimous Consent

The Amending Process

The Filibuster

Procedures to Circumvent Committees

Chapter 8: Resolving House-Senate Differences
Procedural Methods for Reaching Agreement

Amendment Exchange Between the Chambers

Preconference Considerations

Conference Committee Process

Presidential Approval or Veto

Case Study: A Procedural Sketch: The Surface Transportation Conference, 2012

Chapter 9: Legislative Oversight
Oversight: An Overview

Techniques of Oversight


Oversight Trends and Incentives

Lack of Consensus on Oversight

Chapter 10: A Dynamic Process
Observations About Lawmaking


“Oleszek’s book is wonderful!  It works its way systematically through all the issues that need to be covered in a comprehensive study of Congress; it touches on much of the literature that we go on to read in full and thus shows how all the literature on Congress works together; it is utterly non-partisan (which is crucial); and it demonstrates a love of Congress and a respect for how the institution has developed over time.  Oleszek gives enough history, enough current events, and enough theory for the students to see how all things congressional hang together.  This book is the centerpiece of the class, and I’d never give it up!”

Dianne Rothleder
Northwestern University

“Walter Oleszek’s Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is the gold standard of books on Congress, providing the ideal backbone to any course on Congress.  The book is a must-read for Hill interns and new staff if they want to be effective in their jobs and make a difference.  He who knows the rules, rules – and Walter Oleszek knows the rules.  The book is fair and evenhanded in addressing controversies in Hill politics and among political scientists.  A solid foundation for anyone seeking to understand Congress today.  None better.” 

William F. Connelly Jr.
Washington & Lee University

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is well written, well researched and answers important questions about Congress in an accessible way. The strengths of the text clearly lie in the attention to congressional procedure. The text offers a detailed explanation of difficult concepts like filling the amendment tree and the budget and appropriation process. These sometimes highly technical concepts are explained in comprehensive yet clear terms and usually are accompanied by a visual aid of some sort. The graphics are especially important for the students. The explanation also includes plentiful examples and anecdotes from the process. These anecdotes are particularly illuminating when it comes to understanding how the rules and norms of the House and Senate are put into action by members.”

Jason D. Mycoff
University of Delaware

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Walter Joseph Oleszek

Walter J. Oleszek is a senior specialist in the legislative process at the Congressional Research Service. He has served as either a full-time professional staff aide or consultant to many major House and Senate congressional reorganization efforts beginning with the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970. In 1993, he served as policy director of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. A former adjunct faculty member at American University, Oleszek is a frequent lecturer to various academic, governmental, and business groups. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Congressional Procedures and... More About Author

Mark J. Oleszek

Elizabeth E. Rybicki

Bill Heniff Jr.