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Legislating in the Dark

Information and Power in the House of Representatives

Legislating in the Dark

Information and Power in the House of Representatives

The 2009 financial stimulus bill ran to more than 1,100 pages, yet it wasn’t even given to Congress in its final form until thirteen hours before debate was set to begin, and it was passed twenty-eight hours later. How are representatives expected to digest so much information in such a short time.

The answer? They aren’t. With Legislating in the Dark, James M. Curry reveals that the availability of information about legislation is a key tool through which Congressional leadership exercises power. Through a deft mix of legislative analysis, interviews, and participant observation, Curry shows how congresspersons—lacking the time and resources to study bills deeply themselves—are forced to rely on information and cues from their leadership. By controlling their rank-and-file’s access to information, Congressional leaders are able to emphasize or bury particular items, exploiting their information advantage to push the legislative agenda in directions that they and their party prefer.

Offering an unexpected new way of thinking about party power and influence, Legislating in the Dark will spark substantial debate in political science.

264 pages | 21 figures, 17 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Chicago Studies in American Politics

Political Science: American Government and Politics


“Curry brings fresh insight and a breadth of evidence to bear on the role of information in lawmaking, including extensive interviews with legislators and staff and in-depth case studies of several pieces of legislation. Engagingly written, the book will enhance our understandings of congressional lawmaking and leadership and will be of interest to scholars of legislative studies and public policy.”

Tracy Sulkin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“It has been a fair amount of time since such an important and innovative book on Congress has appeared on the scene, and Legislating in the Dark will do much to inspire new research.”

D. Roderick Kiewiet, California Institute of Technology

Legislating in the Dark is a timely contribution to research on party leadership in the House. In addition, by providing a thoughtful lens through which to view unfolding events regarding House leadership in the 114th Congress, the book will be of interest to broader politically engaged audiences.”

Journal of Politics

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Information and Power in the House

Chapter 3. Flows of Information in the House

Chapter 4. Turning Out the Lights: Restricting Information

Chapter 5. Leadership- Driven Partisanship

Chapter 6. Two Cases of Leadership

Chapter 7. Trust and the Limits to Leadership

Chapter 8. Representation in the Dark

Appendix A: Notes on the Qualitative Methods

Appendix B: Notes on the Quantitative Methods



American Political Science Association: Alan Rosenthal Award

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