Comity and Contention in Congress: 1962-2012

Columnist/Commentator Mark Shields Moderates

2012 National Heritage Lecture: “Comity and Contention in Congress: 1962-2012”

This year’s National Heritage Lecture, “Comity and Contention in Congress: 1962-2012,” is a panel discussion hosted by political columnist and commentator Mark Shields with former Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott, and former Representatives Beverly Byron, William H. Gray III, and Robert Livingston. The program, organized by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society in recognition of its 50th Anniversary,  and co-hosted by the White House Historical Association and the Supreme Court Historical Society, will be held on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 6:30 PM in the Hall of Flags of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at 1615 H Street, NW.  A reception follows. Tickets are $65 per person and available through USCHS.

In the past five decades, Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing serious domestic and international issues. It has passed important civil rights and voting rights reforms benefiting millions of Americans. Economic legislation has stimulated economic growth, and a largely bipartisan foreign policy contributed to ending the Cold War, diminishing the threat of nuclear war, and confronting international terrorism.

Yet, since polls began tracking Congressional approval ratings in 1974, the public’s confidence in Congress has never been as low as it is today. Congressional scholars and commentators refer to Congress as “the broken branch,” “even worse than it looks,” “dysfunctional,” “gridlocked,” and perhaps most tellingly, “unrepresentative.” Are such criticisms accurate, and if so, how did Congress get where it is, what changes can be made to fix the problems, and how can we “get it back on track?”

The Hon. Ronald Sarasin, USCHS President, remarked: “The 2012 Heritage Lecture will explore a half-century of Congressional history, form, and function. The rich and extensive personal experiences of the panelists, all long-serving former Members of Congress, will provide lively conversation and fascinating insights into the changes that have taken place in Congress since the 1960s.”

The National Heritage Lecture was established in 1991 by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the White House Historical Association, and the Supreme Court Historical Society. Its purpose is to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the American system of government and the principles upon which it was founded. Hosted in turn by each of the three historical societies, the National Heritage Lecture annually explores one of the three branches of government and the momentous events and personalities associated with its history. The three historical societies hosting the lecture are private, non-partisan, non-profit organizations dedicated to research, education, and publication.