Action in Congress

act of congress

Robert Kaiser was granted rare access to the action behind the scenes of the creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Act of Congress is an enjoyable study of the enactment of that law, used as tool to explore how Congress works, and largely how it it doesn’t work.

Kaiser was already an associate editor and senior correspondent with the Washington Post and had just finished a book on lobbying and money in Washington. He proposed to Congressman Frank that Kaiser become the historian of the congressional response to the Great Crash of 2008. Frank was planning a big legislative changes to the financial services industry and the new president shared this goal. Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank let Kaiser talk on the record with staff.

Act of Congress lives by the famous remark “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” The book’s goal is to be both entertaining and educational as it sneaks behind the curtain to watch the sausage production.

“Of the 535 members of the House and Senate, those who have a sophisticated understanding of the financial markets and their regulation could probably fit on the twenty-five man roster of a Major League Baseball team.”

Kaiser lets the stupidity of some Congress make it to the pages. He lets their public statements stand for themselves, although he tosses the phrase “intellectual lightweight” at a few. I sense he had a lot of personal perspective some of the congressmen that did not make it to the pages.

I found the book to be well-written and interesting. I suspect the interesting part may be governed more by my interest in the Dodd-Frank Act. It’s an enormous piece of legislation with profound impact on the financial services industry. In places it is poorly written and in others it’s full of exemptive holes. This books will enlighten you to some of the compromises that were made to get the law enacted.

I suspect those who have that interest may be limited. If you have made it this far, perhaps you share that interest. In which case you should add Act of Congress to your reading list.


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