Media accounts of Congress emphasize conflict and the failure of Congress to enact legislation. Rarely do we see accounts of the successful efforts of members of Congress and outside advocacy groups to pass legislation dealing with important and controversial issues.
In Networks of Champions Christine A. DeGregorio identifies who in the U.S. House of Representatives took the lead in shepherding six major bills, dealing with welfare reform, drug control, international trade, farm policy, nuclear weapons testing, and assistance to the Contras, through Congress and how these champions of legislation worked with outside advocacy groups. DeGregorio finds that the champions of this legislation were drawn from a diverse group that included individuals both within and outside the formal hierarchy of leadership. The champions, who were not necessarily the prominent holders of important positions, are characterized by having knowledge of the subject matter, experience in the House, a facility for bargaining and compromise, the right committee assignments, and a commitment to hard work.
DeGregorio traces how these groups become influential and how the groups affect the policy-making process. She finds a reciprocal process in which advocacy groups use champions to express their views while champions use the resources of advocacy groups to gain influence in the House.
Based on extensive interviews with key congressional staff members and the leaders of advocacy groups, DeGregorio provides critical new insights into the legislative process. This book will be of interest to those who study the legislative process and the role of interest groups in making American policy.
Christine A. DeGregorio is Associate Professor, Department of Government, School of Public Affairs, American University.