Keith E. Whittington

Professor of Politics

Princeton University


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Congress and the Constitution

Neal Devins and Keith E. Whittington, editors



For more than a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned a skeptical eye toward Congress.  Distrustful of Congress's capacity to respect constitutional boundaries, the Court has recently overturned federal legislation at a historically unprecedented rate.  This intensified judicial scrutiny highlights the need for increased attention to how Congress approaches constitutional issues.  In this important collection, leading scholars in law and political science examine the role of Congress in constitutional interpretation, demonstrating how to better integrate the legislative branch into understandings of constitutional practice.

Several contributors offer wide-ranging accounts of the workings of Congress. They look at lawmakers' attitudes toward Congress's role as a constitutional interpreter, the offices within Congress that help lawmakers learn about constitutional issues, Congress's willingness to use its confirmation power to shape constitutional decisions by both the executive and the courts, and the frequency with which congressional committees take constitutional questions into account. Other contributors address congressional deliberation, paying particular attention to whether Congress's constitutional interpretations are sound. Still others examine how Congress and the courts should respond to one another's decisions, suggesting how the courts should evaluate Congress's work and considering how lawmakers respond to Court decisions that strike down federal legislation. While some essayists are inclined to evaluate Congress's constitutional interpretation positively, others argue that it could be improved and suggest institutional and procedural reforms toward that end. Whatever their conclusions, all of the essays underscore the pervasive and crucial role that Congress plays in shaping the meaning of the Constitution.

Praise for Congress and the Constitution:

“Congress and the Constitution is a timely and provocative book on whether, when, and how Congress thinks about the meaning of the Constitution. The excellent scholarship in this volume raises deep questions about the relationship between Congress and the courts in interpreting the Constitution and sets an agenda for further work in this important area. In so doing, the book makes a significant contribution.”

            ELENA KAGAN, Dean of Harvard Law School


“The subject of this collection--the treatment of the Constitution by legislators in Congress--is both extremely interesting and important, and I do not believe that there is any other single book that is so effective in bringing together a wide range of relevant materials.”

        SANFORD LEVINSON, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Professor of Law and Government, University of Texas at Austin

Published Reviews of Congress and the Constitution:

Law and Politics Book Review

Perspectives on Politics (June 2006)

Journal of Politics (February 2007)

Texas Law Review (April 2006)

Perspectives on Political Science (Summer 2006)

Harvard Law Review (December 2005)

Law and Social Inquiry (February 2006)

Choice (December 2006)

American Journal of Legal History (October 2006)



Duke University Press

Constitutional Conflicts series

July 2005

320 pages, cloth, paper

ISBN 0-8223-3586-7 (cl), 0-8223-3612-X (pb)

$84.95 (cl), $23.95 (pb)

Table of Contents

Duke University Press description




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