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In Praise of Deadlock

, 160 pages
July 2009



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In Praise of Deadlock

How Partisan Struggle Makes Better Laws

With budget reconciliations, filibusters, and supermajorities making headlines, In Praise of Deadlock explains the legislative process and its checkpoints, while maintaining a noncomformist respect for the hurdles and hang-ups inherent in the American system. As a practitioner who served for 14 years as chief of staff to Senators Bill Frist and Pete Domenici, W. Lee Rawls offers unusual insight into partisan struggle, which he sees as essential to advancing new policy and generating consensus. Such grappling, Rawls concludes, results in a nuanced, durable machine, producing better laws that have benefited from minority input.

W. Lee Rawls was chief of staff to the director of the FBI and an adjunct professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Public Policy at the College of William and Mary. He was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2007. Mr. Rawls died in 2010.

"Lee Rawls has written a book that elected officials and legislative practitioners can relate to. His fresh, contrarian approach offers a range of insights not found in the conventional wisdom on the lawmaking powers of Congress."

"Lee Rawls shows the institutional tools that are central to a Congressional balance of power. This book is the perfect primer to understand the major rules, structures, and procedures partisans use to slug it out—and how those can drive the compromises serving the interests of our country."

" In Praise of Deadlock is presented from the practitioner’s point of view, leavened with an understanding of both history and contemporary scholarship on Congress. Playing these perspectives against one another, it makes an original contribution."

"Rawls explains the evolution of the filibuster as a vital weapon in the Senate minority's 'tool kit,' and how budget reconciliation procedures have become a powerful weapon for the majority party to circumvent delay tactics. In contrast to the Senate, which he describes as a chamber that mostly emphasizes 'defensive skills,' Rawls marvels at the power of the House majority, through the Rules Committee. Comparing the panel to the Soviet Politburo under Joseph Stalin, Rawls wrote ,'its real purpose is to ensure victory for the majority party.'"

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