How Congress Reforms Itself: Historical Perspectives on Rules Changes

The briefing will take place on Wednesday, February 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the Cannon Office Building, Room 122, Washington DC.

As recent changes in the Senate’s filibuster rule have shown, the rules that govern the two bodies of Congress are not fixed: they have repeatedly undergone revision and reform.  What has brought about major rules changes in the past?  How have these changes altered how Congress works?  What unintended consequences have they caused?  Leading historians of Congress will discuss these questions.  

Please RSVP for the event here.

Meet the Presenters

Matthew Wasniewski is Historian of the United States House of Representatives. He previously served as a historian within the House Clerk’s Office of History and Preservation prior to his appointment. Wasniewski earned a Ph.D. in history in 2004 from the University of Maryland, College Park and his undergraduate and master’s degrees from James Madison University.

Daniel S. Holt is the Assistant Historian at the U.S. Senate Historical Office. He earned a Ph.D. in history in 2008 from the University of Virginia, where his studies focused on U.S. political, legal, and financial history. At the Senate Dan’s responsibilities include creating online features, documentary editing, conducting oral histories with Senators and former staff, giving talks and tours at the Capitol, and answering questions from the public about the Senate’s institutional development and its historical role in the American political system. Prior to joining the Senate Historical Office, Dan was a historian at the Federal Judicial Center from 2009-2016, where he edited volumes II and III of Debates on the Federal Judiciary: A Documentary History.

John Lawrence is a Visiting Professor at the University of California’s Washington Center and author of  The Class of ’74: Congress After Watergate and the Roots of Partisanship (2018). His most recent publication focuses on the congressional response to the 2008 financial crisis, “When American Stared Into the Abyss,” in The Atlantic. He has an undergraduate degree from Oberlin and a Ph.D. in history from the University of California (Berkeley). Lawrence served for 38 years as a staff member in the House, the last eight as Chief of Staff to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meet the Moderator

Michele Swers is a Professor of American Government at Georgetown University. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Swers’ research and teaching interests encompass Congress, Congressional elections, and women and politics. She has written two books on women and representation in Congress: The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress (2002) and Women in the Club: Gender and Policy Making in the Senate (2013). She is currently working on a project that examines differences in the policy views and support coalitions of Republican men and women in Congress.