Defending Congress and the Constitution
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Sales Date: September 7, 2011
374 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2011
- Published: September 2011
The culmination of four decades of research and service on behalf of Congress, Louis Fisher's latest work is a fitting capstone to a remarkable career as scholar and writer and presents his most articulate, passionate, and persuasive defense yet of Congress as an institution.
Our nation's leading authority on the separation of powers, Fisher offers a lucid primer on our nation's government and its executive, legislative, and judicial branches while vigorously advocating a robust reassertion of Congress's rightful role within that system. Drawing on a wide range of legislation, Supreme Court rulings, and presidential decisions, Fisher illuminates the contentious contest among the three major branches for power and control of government, presents a panorama of American history, and touches on issues as wide-ranging as federalism, religious freedom, and national security policy.
Fisher is especially critical of the stereotypical view of the Supreme Court's decisions as possessing a kind of effectiveness and absolute finality that transcends the efforts and powers of Congress. Indeed, he argues that Congress, as much or more than the judiciary, has had a major positive impact on protecting individual rights in this country, while the judiciary has fallen short in such areas as child labor regulation and compulsory flag salute—or has attempted to settle a constitutional issue only to have it fester for years, breeding anger and resentment, until the political process forces the courts rethink their views. He highlights legislative accomplishments in many areas, often in the face of judicial opposition and obstruction, but also chides Congress for not protecting its key prerogatives over the power of the purse and going to war.
In yielding to other branches, Fishers warns, lawmakers fail to represent their constituents and cripple the very system of checks and balances the Framers counted on to limit the destructive capacity of government. His book offers a wealth of forceful insights and provides an important reminder of and guide to how our government should really work.
"Fisher’s book is valuable not only for the Congress-oriented perspective it brings to constitutional history, but also because it helps identify research paths that others can profitably pursue."—Review of Politics
"Fisher pulls no punches, minces no words, and spares no criticism of the courts and the presidency. His disdain for presidential overreach is nonpartisan. . . . Defending Congress and the Constitution describes how a mix of judicial and nonjudicial forces by all three branches have shaped the Constitution. Although not denying the Court’s right and duty to interpret the Constitution, Fisher does not accept it as the final and exclusive interpreter. . . . Closely reasoned and passionately argued, this book belongs on the shelves of every member of
"Fisher argues that Congress should neither ‘genuflect’ nor engage in ‘idolatry’ toward the other branches, closely analyzing areas such as judicial review, federalism, religious freedom, individual rights, war powers, and where he provides an especially good critique, the federal budgeting process. He covers less studied topics as well, notably the role of expert congressional staff, an area he knows firsthand."—Library Journal
“For forty years Louis Fisher has been a national treasure. His splendid new volume provides a fitting capstone to an extraordinary career.”—Thomas Mann, coauthor of The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track
“Lou Fisher is the master of the institutional interests of the U.S. Congress. . . . This book should be read by everyone concerned about the performance of American democracy.”—Steven S. Smith, author of The American Congress
“A prodigious and grand work by the nation’s most important, prolific, and lucid constitutional scholar.”—Robert J. Spitzer, author of Saving the Constitution from Lawyers
Notes on Citations
1. Constitutional Values
2. Unpacking Marbury
3. Elected Branch Interpretations
5. Individual Rights
6. Religious Freedom
7. Investigation and Oversight
8. Budgetary Clashes
9. National Security Policy
10. Analytical Support
About the Author
Index of Cases
Index of Subjects