The Capitol Dome

Summer 2012

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WILLIAMMCKAY AND CHARLESW. JOHNSON Parliament and Congress: Representation and Scrutiny in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2010), 596 pp., hardcover, $160. THE AUTHORS OF Parliament and Congress are uniquely qualified to have written themost up-to-date comparative study of the constitutional backgrounds and procedural histories of the legislative bodies of the United Kingdom and the United States.WilliamMcKay served in the Department of the Clerk of the House of Commons 1962-1994, Clerk Assistant of the House of Commons, 1994-1997, Clerk of the House and Chief Executive of the House Service, 1998-2002, and Interim-Clerk designate to the Scottish Assembly 1979. Since 2006 he has served as an observer at the Council of the Law Society of Scotland. CharlesW. Johnson is a consultant to the Parliamentarian of the U.S. House of Representatives. He has served as Assis- tant Parliamentarian to the U.S. House of Representatives 1964-1974, Deputy Parliamentarian 1975-1994, and Parlia- mentarian 1994-2004. The book is the successor to a book of the same title first published in 1972 by Kenneth Bradshaw and David Pring. Rather than an updating of Bradshaw and Pring, Mackay and Johnson have produced "an entirely new view of the two legislatures, sometimes more optimistic than theirs, sometimes not" (vi). The strengths of this new work are many. In the first two chapters, it provides a basic summary of the political theory behind the two systems of government—parliamentary and congressional. Chapters three and four, "The Four Houses" and "Representa- tives, Members, Lords, and Senators," contain indispensable information on the structure and history of each respec- tive legislative body. The fifth chapter, "Procedural Basics," explains the rules of procedure in legislative debate—essen- SUMMER 2012 tial reading for the avid C-SPANviewer. "The Power of the Purse," the sixth chapter, explicates one of the sharpest differences between the two systems. The House of Commons can only vote on money bills introduced by the Crown, while in the United States the House of Representatives controls the power of the purse by originating revenuemeasures. Subsequent chapters on "Scrutiny andOversight," "Commit- tees," "Legislation," Privilege and Contempt," and "Ethics and Standards," examine other similarities and differ- ences in the two systems, with particular attention to the developments of the last forty years. Given recent national and inter- national fiscal and gover- nance problems, the power of the purse chapter, one of the many chapters which will be revisited by a preface to a new edition in 2012, may draw particular attention if only to demonstrate the complexity and failures which have attended the matter in the past several years. The book presented the authors a unique opportunity to be critically judgmental in their evaluations of their institutions, an opportunity not earlier presented during their 40-year non- partisan careers. In the preface, the authors provide a word of caution. "Change is equally certain in the future, both in Washington and Westminster, and the direction of change is always unpre- dictable. An account such as this can be only a snapshot" (vi). It is a snapshot, however, that is notable and praise- worthy for its clarity and honesty. For American readers, it may also be chastening if not disturbing in its conclusions.Americans,many ofwhom may only have had a cursory exposure to British Parliamentary procedure,may be surprised by reading in the brief two- page concluding chapter of Parliament and Congress that the changes in congressional procedure in recent years "symbolize the diminution of traditions of transparency, fairness, and delibera- tive capacity which have characterized theHouse of Representatives formost of its legislative history" (547),whereas in Parliament, "[t]here remains in the Commons an unspoken sense that polit- ical warfare has its limits, that the winner ought not to take all" (548). No doubt because of the technical nature of the book, Oxford University Press has priced and marketed it as a textbook/reference work. The price tag alone unfortunately will make it difficult formost readers to purchase and even for many local libraries to add it to their collections. If you can't find the book at your local library, make a recommendation that the library add it to their acquisitions list. The authors are preparing a revised edition for publica- tion in 2012 that will include a preface on developments since the first edition. It is possible that the revised editionwill become available in a less expensive softcover edition. There is an interesting transcript of an interview with Mackay and Johnson by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN at http:// ID=1309. One particularly interesting part of the discussion is the two men' s observations on the impact of televised coverage of the proceedings inCongress and Parliament. ~Reviewed by Donald R. Kennon THE CAPITOL DOME 49

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