As incredible as it might seem, there was a time when Congress worked—a time when partisan competition produced consensus and good public policy. At the center of it all, for four decades, was Robert H. Michel, the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the US House of Representatives. In this book, top congressional scholars, historians, and political scientists provide a compelling picture of Bob Michel and the congressional politics of his day. Marshaling a wealth of biographical, historical, and political detail, they describe Michel’s House of Representatives and how the institution became what it is now.
During the thirty-eight years that Michel represented Illinois’s 18th congressional district (January 3, 1957–January 3, 1995), the last fourteen as Republican leader in the House, his party was in the minority. Drawing on archival material that captures politics in the making, the authors of this volume show how Michel made the most of that minority status. They write about his legislative efforts, as with President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts and President George H. W. Bush’s North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The resulting friction between Michel’s leadership on the national stage and his responsibilities to constituents back home almost cost him reelection in 1982, forcing a change in his “home style.” Their essays also cover Michel’s strategies for House minority leadership, his party’s proposals to reform the House, and his retirement one election before Republicans became the House majority party—the result of a generational and ideological shift to a more combative style of politics practiced by Michel’s successor, Newt Gingrich.
An innovative approach to biography, with its examination of Bob Michel’s career from a variety of angles, this volume offers both an unusually nuanced portrait of one important politician and a uniquely informed perspective on politics in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Frank H. Mackaman, who directs the work of The Dirksen Congressional Center, is the editor of Understanding Congressional Leadership and the coauthor, with Ray LaHood, of Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics.
Sean Q. Kelly is professor and chair of Political Science at California State University Channel Islands. He is the coauthor, with Scott A. Frisch, of many works, including Committee Assignment Politics in the U.S. House and Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars: Presidential Influence and the Politics of Pork.
"This book provides a valuable “inside baseball” view of how the process works; the book’s grasp of the complexities of congressional prodecures provide a valuable window into how legislation is made."—Congress & the Presidency
"An excellent primer on effective congressional leadership. The various authors successfully place the life of Michel and his congressional career within a theoretical analysis of congressional politics and consequently offer a valuable resource."—Choice
“Robert H. Michel: Leading the House Minority is a fascinating, richly documented, and authoritative look at Bob Michel’s congressional career. Editors Frank H. Mackaman and Sean Q Kelly have done an excellent job in both selecting contributors and developing a compelling narrative to frame these expertly written chapters. Robert H. Michel: Leading the House Minority should be the first book consulted by readers who are curious about Bob Michel’s legislative legacy.”—Jeffrey Crouch, author of The Presidential Pardon Power
“Robert H. Michel: Leading the House Minority is a thoughtful collection about an extremely important congressional Republican leader. The authors explore how Michel attempted to balance the needs of good governance with a desire among Republicans to end their permanent minority status in the House.”—Julian E. Zelizer, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University
“This excellent book explains why Bob Michel was the most effective minority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. Its richly detailed and perceptive essays show that he was a legislator in full: a servant for his district, a watchdog of the public treasury, and a masterful tactician who won historic victories without partisan majorities. Anyone who wants to understand congressional leadership should read Robert H. Michel: Leading the House Minority.”—John J. Pitney Jr., Roy P. Crocker Professor of Politics, Claremont McKenna College
List of Abbreviations
Series Foreword, Burdett A. Loomis
Preface and Acknowledgments, Frank H. Mackaman and Sean Q. Kelly
1. Robert H. Michel: A Life Preparing for Public Service, Frank H. Mackaman
2. Bob Michel and the Politics of Appropriations, Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q. Kelly
3. Bob Michel in the Land of Giants: Relationship Politics in the 1980s, Burdett A. Loomis
4. Rising to Leadership in an Era of Political Change: Bob Michel and the 1970s House Minority Party, Scott R. Meinke
5. Michel as Minority Leader: Minority Party Strategies and Tactics in the Postreform House, Douglas B. Harris and matthew N. Green
6. Leading the Minority: Guiding Policy Change through Legislative Waters, Andrew J. Taylor
7. Leading Gently on Taxes, Matthew S. Mendez
8. From “Exhilarating Days” to Pragmatic Politics: Bob Michel’s Leadership in the Budget Process, 1981-1994, Daniel J. Palazzolo
9. Anticipating the Revolution: Michel and Republican Congressional Reform Efforts, Douglas B. Harris
10. Bob Michel and the Legacy of Committee Reform, Colton C. Campbell
11. Bob Michel, Newt Gingrich, and the Republican Leadership Dilemma, C. Lawrence Evans
12. A “Less Pleasant” Election: Bob Michel and the 1982 Congressional Midterms, Robert David Johnson
13. From Expansionism to Protectionism and Back Again: Conditional Incumbency, Disruption, and the Reimagination of Bob Michel’s Representational Style, David C. W. Parker
14. Bob Michel Calls It Quits, Frank H. Mackaman
Appendix: Reflections, Mike Johnson, Ray LaHood, and William “Billy” Pitts
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