The Committee

A Study of Policy, Power, Politics and Obama's Historic Legislative Agenda on Capitol Hill
Bryan W. Marshall and Bruce C. Wolpe
A deftly crafted insider account of how congressional committees really work


For three years while serving as a senior adviser to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce—one of the most powerful committees in Congress—Bruce C. Wolpe kept a diary, a senior staffer’s look at how committees develop and promote legislation. With its insider’s view of the rough-and-tumble politics of cap-and-trade, healthcare reform, tobacco, oversight, and the debt ceiling agreement, The Committee uniquely melds the art of politics and policymaking with the theory and literature of political science. The authors engage with the important questions that political science asks about committee power, partisanship, and the strategies used to build winning policy coalitions both in the Committee and on the floor of the House. The insider politics and strategies about moving legislation in Congress, from internal and external coalition building to a chairman’s role in framing policy narratives, will captivate both novice and die-hard readers of politics.

“Bryan Marshall and Bruce Wolpe have teamed up to produce a remarkable book that is sure to become an indispensable work on how Congress really works. Marshall, with the keen eye of a political scientist who has also worked inside Congress, meshes together the theory and practice of how Congress and specifically the House of Representatives works. From his vantage point in 2009 and 2010, beside the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, Wolpe chronicles what it was like to be in the middle of some of the biggest legislative fights of the last 20 years. Wolpe, Chairman Waxman, House Democrats and President Obama won some legislative battles and lost others, but the real winners from this book will be the readers, students and teachers alike, their knowledge and understanding of how Capitol Hill often works but sometimes can't work is invaluable.”
—Charles E. Cook, Jr., Editor & Publisher, The Cook Political Report and Columnist, National Journal
“Political scientists and political practitioners rarely do anything together, not least write a reality-based book on one of the vital organs of the US legislative complex, the committee. One of the 111th Congress' super-staffers Bruce Wolpe and scholar Bryan Marshall have produced a masterful and human treatment of how politics churns through a powerful committee—probably the best such legislative story-telling since Eric Redman's masterful Dance of Legislation. A gripping and thoughtful read for those needing a dose these days on the considerable power of the legislative branch.”
—Steve Clemons, Editor at Large, The Atlantic
“A lively and penetrating treatment of the contemporary Congress sure to engage and educate students of American politics and policy. The Committee is deftly crafted around a fascinating insider journal kept during the 111th Congress by the senior advisor to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman. Highly entertaining and enlightening.”
—Thomas E. Mann, The Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
“Marshall and Wolpe have written a unique book—truly one of kind. It is a well-crafted, fascinating account of major legislative episodes in the 111th Congress, President Obama’s first Congress, written by the lead staffer to a central player in those episodes and a sharp political scientist who worked for the party whip. From this team, you will learn that a talented committee chair played a vital role in building coalitions and passing major legislation even in an era of deeply polarized parties and assertive party leadership. Scholars will gain new insights and fresh perspective from the detailed accounts. Students will find a find a set of colorful stories that bring important themes to life. Citizens will gain a deeper appreciation for the permanent struggle of republican government.”
—Steven S. Smith, Washington University
“We live in a world where 24/7 we can get endless pundit commentary on permanent and crucial policy issues such as trade, healthcare, environment and debt/deficit. Bryan Marshall and Bruce Wolpe give us an insightful insider, not outsider, view with their analysis of the 2009–2012 111th Congress in “Committee: A Study of Policy Power, Politics and Obama’s Historic Legislative Agenda on Capitol Hill.” Veteran political scientist Marshall combines his academic expertise and one year’s APSA Congressional Fellowship on the staff of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) with Wolpe’s three year on-the-ground experience as a senior adviser to Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). For teachers and students of American politics interested in the internal and external coalition building and a chairman’s role in the legislative process, this book takes us beyond such classics as Eric Redman’s Dance of Legislation. Importantly, the authors go well beyond the politics and the policy and provide the critical ingredient of the legislative process. Whether a novice or hard-core veteran of the Congress’s critical role in shaping our national priorities, you owe it to yourself to read this new University of Michigan analysis by Bryan Marshall and Bruce Wolpe.”
—Jeffrey R. Biggs, PhD, retired director of the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship Program

"The Committee knits together insight and context from political science with a fascinating blow-by-blow account of the policy battles waged in the House Energy and Commerce Committee throughout the first three years of the Obama administration. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of the variability, complexity, and challenges of policymaking in today’s party polarized House of Representatives."
—Frances E. Lee, University of Maryland

“A unique and insightful look into one of the most productive periods in modern American policymaking. In its lucid and fascinating recounting of how ‘the sausage’ of policy gets made.” 
 —E.J. Dionne Jr., Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, BROOKINGS

“The authors have captured the dramatic events and personalities of key players in a way that will appeal to students and political junkies ...  [The book] should work well in courses on U.S. political
institutions, parties, legislatures and leadership.”
—Linda L. Fowler, Professor of Government and Frank Reagan Chair in Policy Studies, Emerita, Dartmouth College

“This book is an impressive blend of theoretical insights from the political science literature and first-hand observations of the actual legislative process by both authors. Their reflections and insights will be valuable to students, to researchers, and to citizens interested in the operations of the ‘first branch’ of our government.”
 —David W. Rohde, Ernestine Friedl Professor of Political Science in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Director of the Political Institutions and Public Choice Program

"Marshall and Wolpe deftly weave insider and academic views of Congress into a compelling narrative that makes the process come alive. This book will be of interest to new students of Capitol Hill politics and established scholars alike—and everyone in between."
—Charles J. Finocchiaro, University of Oklahoma 

"Every so often I come across an invention or a book that leads me to slap myself on the forehead and lament “why didn’t I think of that?” This is such a project. The word “brilliant” comes to mind. This is the perfect marriage of theory and practice. We have the diary and perspectives of an insider and the formal political science context provided by a well-known congressional scholar. This book is a must for all students of Congress. Don’t leave the house (or the Senate) without it."
—Richard L. Pacelle, Jr., University of Tennessee

"The Committee is a compelling new analysis of the inner workings of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce during the first term of President Obama combining the insights of a senior political adviser to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and a political scientist specializing in the study of legislative politics and procedure."
—Jamie Carson, The University of Georgia

"In The Committee, Bryan Marshall and Bruce Wolpe have produced a rare combination of political science and legislative action.  Students of politics and government will see vividly how tribal politics has driven Congress to the point of breakdown. But readers will also come away with an increased understanding of the intellect and determination which make legislating for our diverse and contentious country possible." 
—Ira Shapiro, author of The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis and Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?

Bryan W. Marshall is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Miami University.
Bruce C. Wolpe has served as Chief of Staff to Julia Gillard, Australia’s 27th Prime Minister and Senior Adviser to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), chair of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Praise / Awards

  • "A reader ... can learn a great deal about how legislative leadership cannot only assist presidential leadership. It can actually eclipse it in some instances."
  • "Marshall and Wolpe bring a useful and illuminating perspective to the congressional literature by allowing readers a glimpse into the legislative sausage-making process during a seminal congressional term, while also engaging with the scholarly literature’s theoretical claims."
    Congress & the Presidency

News, Reviews, Interviews

Watch: Bruce Wolpe and Bryan Marshall interviewed on C-SPAN2 BookTV Link | 12/7/2018
Read: The Committee covered in Congressional Quarterly Link | 11/26/2018
Campus event: Milken Institute School of Public Health Link | 7/12/2018

Author Events:
Campus event: The Aspen Institute Link | 7/18/2018
Author event: Politics and Prose Link | 7/21/2018
Author event: Busboys and Poets Link | 11/1/2018

Product Details

  • 308 pages.
  • 1 Table, 4 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12395-7

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