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March 16 , 2008

Unorthodox Lawmaking

New Legislative Processes in the U.S. Congress


Despite what your students may have learned in Schoolhouse Rock, the textbook “how-a-bill-becomes-a-law” scenario is a rarity. As evidenced with health care reform legislation, most major measures wind their way through the contemporary Congress in what Barbara Sinclair has dubbed “unorthodox lawmaking.”

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Job is the tale of Mendel Singer, a pious, destitute Eastern-European Jew and children’s Torah teacher whose faith is tested at every turn. His youngest son seems to be incurably disabled, one of his older sons joins the Russian Army, the other deserts to America, and his daughter is running around with a Cossack. When he flees with his wife and…

Whatever path a bill takes—whether considered by multiple committees or subjected to a filibuster in the Senate—Sinclair explores the full range of special procedures and processes that make up the legislative process, as well as the reasons these unconventional routes evolved.

This much-anticipated fourth edition updates the book through the end of the 111th Congress. Sinclair incorporates new examples and new case studies throughout, including the economic stimulus bill of 2008, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and, of course, the health care reform legislation of 2009–2010. New coverage also includes recent developments in the Senate (for example, filling the amendment tree); major changes in how the House and Senate resolve their differences (fewer conferences and more informal bargaining and amendments); and earmarks and changes in the appropriations process.

With Sinclair’s unique perspective, Unorthodox Lawmaking introduces students to the intricacies of Congress while also providing the tools to assess the relative successes and limitations of the legislative process.

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