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Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process

Tenth Edition


October 2015 | 504 pages | CQ Press
“Walter Oleszek’s Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is the gold standard of books on Congress, providing the ideal backbone to any course on Congress.  The book is a must-read for Hill interns and new staff if they want to be effective in their jobs and make a difference.”

– William F. Connelly Jr., Washington & Lee University

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process examines the entire arc of the legislative process—from a bill’s introduction, to its signature into law, to congressional review of the law’s administrative implementation—and the many procedural pitfalls that exist along the way. Author Walter J. Oleszek and new co-authors Mark Oleszek, Elizabeth Rybicki, and Bill Heniff, Jr. do not shy away from the complexity of the topic, yet they ensure that the operations of Congress are understandable to students and practitioners alike. Through an array of interesting examples, case studies, and the authors’ personal anecdotes, this definitive work delivers timely explanation and analysis of the nation’s premier lawmaking institution.

Chapter 1: Congress and Lawmaking
The Constitutional Context  
Functions of Rules and Procedures  
Rules and Policymaking in Congress  
Congressional Decision Making  
The House and Senate Compared  
Pressures on Members  
Chapter 2: The Congressional Budget Process
Authorization–Appropriations Process  
Prelude to Budget Reform  
Evolution of Statutory Budget Procedures  
The Challenge Ahead  
Case Study: The Government Shutdown of 2013  
Chapter 3: Preliminary Legislative Action
Categories of Legislation  
Bill Referral Procedure  
Consideration in Committee  
The Committee Chair’s Role  
Committee Hearings  
The Markup  
Committee Markup Procedures  
The Report  
Bypassing Committees  
Chapter 4: Scheduling Legislation in the House
The House Legislative Calendars  
Minor and Noncontroversial Measures  
Privileged Legislation  
Major Legislation  
Promise of Openness by the Majority Party  
Legislation Blocked in Committee  
Final Scheduling Steps  
Chapter 5: House Floor Procedure
Consideration of Major Legislation  
Final Procedural Steps  
Opposition Tactics  
Chapter 6: Scheduling Legislation in the Senate
Major Scheduling Considerations  
Classifying Measures  
Noncontroversial Bills  
Major Legislation  
Unanimous Consent Agreements  
The Track System  
Scheduling Procedures Compared  
Chapter 7: Senate Floor Procedure
Legislative and Calendar Days  
Daily Order of Business  
Debate in the Modern Senate  
Bills Considered by Unanimous Consent  
The Amending Process  
The Filibuster  
Procedures to Circumvent Committees  
Chapter 8: Resolving House-Senate Differences
Procedural Methods for Reaching Agreement  
Amendment Exchange Between the Chambers  
Preconference Considerations  
Conference Committee Process  
Presidential Approval or Veto  
Case Study: A Procedural Sketch: The Surface Transportation Conference, 2012  
Chapter 9: Legislative Oversight
Oversight: An Overview  
Techniques of Oversight  
Oversight Trends and Incentives  
Lack of Consensus on Oversight  
Chapter 10: A Dynamic Process
Observations About Lawmaking  

“Oleszek’s book is wonderful!  It works its way systematically through all the issues that need to be covered in a comprehensive study of Congress; it touches on much of the literature that we go on to read in full and thus shows how all the literature on Congress works together; it is utterly non-partisan (which is crucial); and it demonstrates a love of Congress and a respect for how the institution has developed over time.  Oleszek gives enough history, enough current events, and enough theory for the students to see how all things congressional hang together.  This book is the centerpiece of the class, and I’d never give it up!”

Dianne Rothleder
Northwestern University

“Walter Oleszek’s Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is the gold standard of books on Congress, providing the ideal backbone to any course on Congress.  The book is a must-read for Hill interns and new staff if they want to be effective in their jobs and make a difference.  He who knows the rules, rules – and Walter Oleszek knows the rules.  The book is fair and evenhanded in addressing controversies in Hill politics and among political scientists.  A solid foundation for anyone seeking to understand Congress today.  None better.” 

William F. Connelly Jr.
Washington & Lee University

Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process is well written, well researched and answers important questions about Congress in an accessible way. The strengths of the text clearly lie in the attention to congressional procedure. The text offers a detailed explanation of difficult concepts like filling the amendment tree and the budget and appropriation process. These sometimes highly technical concepts are explained in comprehensive yet clear terms and usually are accompanied by a visual aid of some sort. The graphics are especially important for the students. The explanation also includes plentiful examples and anecdotes from the process. These anecdotes are particularly illuminating when it comes to understanding how the rules and norms of the House and Senate are put into action by members.”

Jason D. Mycoff
University of Delaware
Key features


  • Additional focus on the rise of the Tea Party and the challenges it has presented to the management of Congress
  • Explanations of pivotal events that occurred during the 113th Congress, including the invocation of the “nuclear option” in the Senate on nominations, the government shutdown in October 2013, debt ceiling politics and brinksmanship lawmaking, the enactment of a new budget accord modifying the Budget Control Act (the so-called Ryan-Murray agreement), and the election of a GOP Senate majority following the 2014 elections
  • New case studies on recent events and considerations facing Congress
  • New and updated links to congressional information, such as House and Senate floor schedules, committee reports and documents, and bill tracking information
  • New data and information on various congressional procedures current through the 113th Congress


  • Tables, charts, documents, and exhibits help students better understand the intricacies of the lawmaking process, including such illustrations as a House Committee Report, pages from the Congressional Record, timetables, calendars, schedules, floor plans and seating charts, an amendment tree, excerpts from an appropriations act, a cloture motion, and a conference report.
  • A glossary of Congressional terms serves as a handy reference tool for students.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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