A Washington Post Notable Book
An eye-opening account of how Congress today really works—and how it doesn’t— Act of Congress focuses on two of the major players behind the sweeping financial reform bill enacted in response to the Great Crash of 2008: colorful, wisecracking congressman Barney Frank, and careful, insightful senator Christopher Dodd, both of whom met regularly with Robert G. Kaiser during the eighteen months they worked on the bill. In this compelling narrative, Kaiser shows how staffers play a critical role, drafting the legislation and often making the crucial deals. Kaiser’s rare insider access enabled him to illuminate the often-hidden intricacies of legislative enterprise and shows us the workings of Congress in all of its complexity, a clearer picture than any we have had of how Congress works best—or sometimes doesn’t work at all.
A financial reform bill reveals the troubled machinery of American democracy in this intricate, incisive study of law-making. Washington Post correspondent Kaiser (So Damn Much Money) chronicles the journey of the Dodd-Frank act, a complex package of banking and market regulations passed in 2011 that few voters paid attention to. The story s charismatic protagonist is Democratic House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank but his low-key, diplomatic cosponsor, Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd, pulls off the greater political coup by avoiding a threatened filibuster. While the bill was moving through Congress, Kaiser had access to lawmakers of both parties and their staffs, executive-branch officials, and lobbyists; he finds the drama in arcane parliamentary procedure and paints extraordinary fly-on-the-wall scenes of legislative sausage making. ( Okay, Cam, it s just you and me, what s it going to take? Frank horse-trades, seeking support from bankers in a down-and-dirty meeting with their lobbyist.) Kaiser salutes a landmark bill while laying bare the process dysfunctions that menaced it: partisan intransigence; monkey-wrenching by pols seeking turf and publicity; cynical budgetary shenanigans; general ignorance of finance on the part of legislators; the influence of money and clout especially auto dealers clout. His absorbing true-life political saga exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly in Congress.