Miller Center

Media Contact: Howard Witt, 434-924-6051

Congress and Policy Making in the 21st Century (June 3-4, 2013)

Joint effort between The Miller Center and the Batten School

Co-hosted by Jeffery A. Jenkins and Eric M. Patashnik.

In recent years the U.S. Congress has been called broken, dysfunctional, and weak, yet its importance as policy-maker remains unchallenged. The role of Congress in the policy-making process has received surprisingly little attention in recent years. Most political science research on Congress focuses on its internal organization and distribution of power, while the public policy literature focuses on the role of presidents, interest groups, and the bureaucracy. What has been Congress's distinctive impact on government's role in key areas such as energy, health care, immigration, and monetary policy?  How have congressional elections and constituency pressures shaped the legislative agenda?  How has Congress responded to major events such as the Great Recession and secular trends such as growing income inequality and demographic change? In an era of partisan polarization, does Congress possess the collective capacity to contribute to effective problem solving? This conference brings together leading scholars who will seek to shed new light on how Congress works--and what difference Congress makes for public policy outcomes.

Downloadable Content

Video: H.264 MP4 | Audio: MP3

Welcome by Jeffrey A. Jenkins and Eric M. Patashnik

Jenkins is associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and a faculty associate at the Miller Center at UVa.

Patashnik is professor of public policy and politics at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVa and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Panel 1: Congress and Economic Policy

“Regular Order in Appropriations: Does It Matter?”
Nolan McCarty, Princeton University

McCarty is the Susan Dod Brown professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“Congressional Attempts to Limit Central Bank Independence”
Sarah Binder, George Washington University, and Mark Spindel, Potomac River Capital, LLC

Binder is senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution 
and professor of political science at George Washington University.

Spindel is the founder, principal and chief investment officer of Potomac River Capital, LLC, formed with key members from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation's Reserves Management Group.

“Congress and Presidential Tax Priorities at Two Critical Junctures”
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

Hertel-Fernandez is a third year PhD student in government and social policy and graduate fellow in the multidisciplinary program on inequality and social policy at Harvard University.
Skocpol is Victor S. Thomas professor of government and sociology at Harvard University.

Downloadable Content

Video: H.264 MP4 | Audio: MP3

Panel 2: Congress and Society

“Who Votes for Inequality?”
Nicholas Carnes, Duke University

Carnes is assistant professor of public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and co-director of the Research Triangle chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network.

“‘Social Engineering’ Amid Two Wars:  How Congress Repealed ‘Don't Ask,
Don't Tell’ in 2010”
Rick Valelly, Swarthmore College

Valelly is Claude C. Smith ‘14 professor of political science at Swarthmore College.

“Restive Publics and Huddled Elites: The Unsettling Dynamics of Immigration
Daniel Tichenor, University of Oregon

Tichenor is Philip H. Knight professor of social science in the department of political science at the University of Oregon and senior faculty fellow at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

Downloadable Content

Video: H.264 MP4 | Audio: MP3

Panel 3: Congress and Domestic Policy Dilemmas

“It’s Hard to Get Mileage Out of Congress: Struggling Over CAFÉ Standards, 1973-2013”
Bruce Oppenheimer, Vanderbilt University

Oppenheimer is professor of public policy and education in the department of political science at Vanderbilt University.

“The $37 Trillion Question: Can Congress Control Health Care Spending?”
Jonathan Oberlander, University of North Carolina

Oberlander is professor of social medicine and health policy & management at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and holds an adjunct appointment in the department of political science.