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The House: The History of the House of Representatives

Robert Vincent Remini, Author
Robert Vincent Remini, Author . Collins/Smithsonian $34.95 (614p) ISBN 978-0-06-088434-5
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Paperback - 614 pages - 978-0-06-134111-3
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National Book Award winner Remini (Andrew Jackson ) offers the definitive history of "the People's House." Envisioned as the more democratic half of America's bicameral legislature, the House first convened on April 1, 1789. As Remini shows, in the early decades, Henry Clay's leadership was crucial—his willingness to go head-to-head with the Monroe administration helped establish the House's power and autonomy. During the Civil War, the House provided crucial support for the Union by passing legislation to print greenbacks and create a military draft. Remini treats the 16 black congressmen who served during Reconstruction in t a few, general paragraphs; this particular era in the institution's history deserves more attention. Turning to the 20th century, Remini examines the House's response to the Great Depression, the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam and Watergate. His concluding chapter addresses the "Conservative Revolution" of the 1980s and '90s. Here Newt Gingrich gets the spotlight: he was determined to give the House a more prominent position in the legislative process, but also helped usher in "an era of incivility and personal attack and partisanship" that, says Remini, continues today. Written at the instruction of Congress,, this tome is highly readable though encyclopedic. B&w photos. (May 1)

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