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The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate

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They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons—driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons—driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the planet; they will have far less leverage and influence than they might have imagined; and finally, none of them—not even the most experienced political hand—will have any idea exactly what will take to succeed as a United States Senator. In The Upper House, political analyst Terrence Samuel journeys inside the legislative arm of the government to discover what makes a modern senator. He gets to the heart of the Senate and follows the people—Harry Reid, Jim Webb, Amy Klobuchar, Jon Tester, Chuck Schumer, Bob Corker—and the institution through displays of dazzling power, bewildering helplessness, and sacred traditions both ancient and modern.


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They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons—driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the They come to Washington for varied and complex reasons—driven perhaps by some deep emotional commitment to an issue, or believing that their time in Congress can make their dream of the presidency a reality. No matter what their motivation or particular route, freshmen have three traits in common: they will be members of one of the most powerful deliberative bodies on the planet; they will have far less leverage and influence than they might have imagined; and finally, none of them—not even the most experienced political hand—will have any idea exactly what will take to succeed as a United States Senator. In The Upper House, political analyst Terrence Samuel journeys inside the legislative arm of the government to discover what makes a modern senator. He gets to the heart of the Senate and follows the people—Harry Reid, Jim Webb, Amy Klobuchar, Jon Tester, Chuck Schumer, Bob Corker—and the institution through displays of dazzling power, bewildering helplessness, and sacred traditions both ancient and modern.

30 review for The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate

  1. 5 out of 5

    Seth Oldmixon

    The Upper House takes a behind the scenes look at the US Senate through the lens of the class of 2006. Terence Samuel spent time with each of the new members elected that year, visiting their offices and homes to get to know the person beyond the talking points and speeches. While the book is largely composed of personal anecdotes – Jon Tester having to pull Samuel’s car out of a Montana snow bank with his tractor – there is a political message to the book, and one worth consideration. Samuel make The Upper House takes a behind the scenes look at the US Senate through the lens of the class of 2006. Terence Samuel spent time with each of the new members elected that year, visiting their offices and homes to get to know the person beyond the talking points and speeches. While the book is largely composed of personal anecdotes – Jon Tester having to pull Samuel’s car out of a Montana snow bank with his tractor – there is a political message to the book, and one worth consideration. Samuel makes the case that what is popularly considered to be broken about the Senate – filibusters, anonymous holds, the power of a single Senator to block legislation – these processes are actually what makes the Senate work. The inability to get things done quickly, the emphasis on compromise and deal-making is by design. There was a time, notes Samuel, when the Senate was a place for statesman-philosophers to debate issues in depth. The one-minute speeches made by House members do not allow for more than the repetition of talking points. The longer speaking time reserved for Senators is intended to facilitate a discussion that investigates issues more deeply. The House, with its 435 members making one-minutes speeches represents the popular feelings in the nation. It is the emotional house, the activist house. The Senate, in which each state gets two members regardless of population, is the intellectual body. In Freudian terms, the House is America’s Id, the Senate its Ego. As political participation has evolved, though, many expect the Senate and the House to operate in the same way. Talking to the new members, Samuel finds that even they are uncomfortable with the slow pace of work in the nation’s “upper house.” But they learn, as we all should, that patience is a virtue, and allowing Senators to work slowly and methodically results in better legislation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    i had fairly high hopes for this book despite what other reviews had said. While i found it well written and informative, to a certain degree i was left missing the informaiton i was ultimatly hoping for. i wanted an indepth look at the senate, i wanteed to lear something i wasnt going to get on CNN. unfortunatly this book did not deliver that. it spent alot of time on the elections, and overemphasised the imporatnce, of the 2006. the book mainly centered around the freshmen senatros of 2006. if i had fairly high hopes for this book despite what other reviews had said. While i found it well written and informative, to a certain degree i was left missing the informaiton i was ultimatly hoping for. i wanted an indepth look at the senate, i wanteed to lear something i wasnt going to get on CNN. unfortunatly this book did not deliver that. it spent alot of time on the elections, and overemphasised the imporatnce, of the 2006. the book mainly centered around the freshmen senatros of 2006. if thats all the book soood to do i would have appreciated that view. but it also tried to give the persepective of more senior sentaotrs Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. while there was a considerable amount of behind the scenes stuff with Reid, there was enxt to nothing on Schumer, which dissapointed this New York Democrat. Finally i was slightly off put by the left leaning edge to the book. although i agreed with many of the conclusions drawn, i think recent events have caused some of them to become irrelevant. i would have a liked a more unbiased view. still the parts i enjoyed the most were ancedotes of following the senators back to thier home states, and seeing the other side of the senate. there should have been more fo that and less election talk, which in a way sums up cognress as a whole.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    This was an interesting book, but I think it should have a different title. I don't think he ever really goes 'behind the closed doors' of the senate in what he talks about. A more appropriate (if rather more lengthy) title would be something like: A journey into the senate with the freshmen senators of 2006. He did a good job writing that book, and it was interesting to read about what new senators do after being elected and the challenges they face. However, I felt throughout the book that his This was an interesting book, but I think it should have a different title. I don't think he ever really goes 'behind the closed doors' of the senate in what he talks about. A more appropriate (if rather more lengthy) title would be something like: A journey into the senate with the freshmen senators of 2006. He did a good job writing that book, and it was interesting to read about what new senators do after being elected and the challenges they face. However, I felt throughout the book that his purpose was as much to deliver liberal political commentary about the issues as it was to reveal the inner workings of the senate. He seemed kind of one sided in his views of the bills and the votes taken and that detracted from the purpose of the book (or what I perceived from the title what was the purpose of the book).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Garth

    Focuses on the experiences of the 2006 freshmen (especially Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar, Jim Webb, and Bob Corker) and how difficult it is to accomplish anything in the Senate with fewer than sixty votes (especially if the minority is constantly threatening to filibuster). Events include the 2008 farm bill, Iraq War legislation, and reactions to the onset of the recession.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Repetitive and often shoddily written.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    An interesting book, but it was more about the 2006 Senate "freshman class" than it was about how the US Senate actually works.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff MacDonald

  8. 4 out of 5

    Scot Butler

  9. 4 out of 5

    TJ Hatter

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Dye

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shalini Batra

  13. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Samir

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert Funk

  16. 5 out of 5

    MarieM

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie Letwat

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Faust

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  20. 4 out of 5

    Claire Johnson

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pantsless Progressive

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erica444

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Furr

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert J

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarolina

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Richardson

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