Is the US Congress dysfunctional? The American public thinks so: In the summer of 2014, just 7% approved strongly of Congress (Riffkin 2014). Still, legislative scholars disagree about the severity of Congress's legislative challenges. Is legislative deadlock a sign that Congress can no longer identify and resolve major public problems? Or are Congress's difficulties temporary and correctable? In this article, I review theoretical and empirical literatures on the dynamics of lawmaking and evaluate alternative methods for testing lawmaking theories. Finally, I draw on recent research to put contemporary stalemate into historical perspective. I argue that even when Congress and the president have reached agreement on the big issues of the day, Congress's problem-solving capacity appears to have fallen to new lows in recent years. Whether and how well our political system can or will self-correct in the coming years remains an open question.


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