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The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the birth, development, and subsequent multiplication of congressional caucuses, which have adapted and evolved over several decades into powerful, unofficial, congressional institutions. Despite their importance to the broader congressional system, caucuses have received little scholarly attention. Author Susan Webb Hammond published the most thorough and substantive study to date, entitled Congressional Caucuses in National Policymaking (1998). According to Hammond, the traditional congressional structure was unable to respond effectively to the “changes in the polity” that arose during this time period, leading to the emergence of congressional caucuses. The central change came when “an increasing number of complex, crosscutting, and interconnected issues began to occupy the congressional agenda.” Hammond provides the example of the environment as a growing topic of national attention that simultaneously raised concerns for health, economics, and several other intersecting areas. Congress grew increasingly ineffective in handling these issues that began falling “into jurisdictional cracks” or were dispersed across several committees and subcommittees.


Advisors: Steven Schlossman, David Hounshell

Department of History

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