A rhythmic movement, which follows one character giving a hand to another, an embrace, and a dance starts. This simplistic description can best show how congress passes laws. Eric Redman has just named his book as he did, and all his hints become just too clear when one reads it. One can be interested to know just how he comes up with the procedures and the antics that unfold on Capitol Hill. How accurate is this text? Is it a fiction, developed by an imaginative mind? All this doubts are erased when one uncovers the greatest asset the proposers of a bill have. This is definitely the hill staff, so conveniently tagged since they are the employees who support the legislators who pass laws. Eric Redman was one of these staff members whose thoughts are a real revelation.
The laws we are subject to usually come out of a proposal in an article of the newspapers, a recommendation by a member of a constituency, and even from corporate entities. These proposals get extended to a member of congress or to one of his/her staff. The hill staff then, like in a dance, accepts the advance from the proposer, and the dance begins. All along, they must ensure that they do not run into each other’s feet, or mess with the fellow dancers. It is usually a long journey to turn the proposal into a bill and eventually turn the bill into law. As a rule, the process includes negotiations, creation of coalitions and a lot of political discussions. In addition, the members of the assembly do not draft the bills on their own. They hire professional drafters after adopting the desired style of legislative measures. Next, they give directions to the office of the legislative council to draft the measures in the chosen form and style. The impact of members of staff on the lawmakers is enormous, as evident by the book of Redman. Even as a junior member of Senator Grinstein staff, he was able to propose two laws. In specific, he tried to have the district of Colombia change their law; in specific, to have cars stop behind school buses when they are being unloaded.
The fact that inspired this law was that a motorist had struck Grinstein’s son one afternoon. However, an attempt to introduce such law was unsuccessful, as was the second time when the author of the book tried to convince the Magnusson office to pass legislation in order to minimize the effects of earthquakes. These depictions in the book give the reader an inside view of how easily a law can originate from a senator’s member of staff or acquaintance. One of such successful proposals came from a Seattle pediatrician, Abe Bergman, who served as an unofficial adviser for senator Magnuson. The doctor mentioned to the senator that the powered lawn mowers were responsible for over 100,000 injuries in America every year. After seeing an X-ray image of a victim’s skull, the senator carried out investigations, which led him to introduce a new bill. This bill led to the creation of the National product safety commission. Bergman went on to introduce other proposals such as the National Health Service Corps. Interestingly, the author praises this senator, and even goes ahead to depict him as an insecure person, who protects himself from strangers by assimilating a fierce bearing.
Political scientists in the book have some opposition to some of the senator’s views. While senator Magnusson believes that the senate has only one legitimate function, and only some senators are able to help to perform it, the political scientist disagree with this point of view. Their opinion is that these other senators opposed by Senator Magnusson have a crucial role to play. To be more concrete, they are responsible for publicizing issues and articulating certain interests. This is the view of political scientists. The views portrayed to be those of a political scientist argue that powers are not evenly distributed in the senate. This leads to some senators assuming junior ranks during the legislation procedure. This leads them to feel the need to make a great stand on issues before the house or to seek the presidency, from where they can be effective.
These senators, in spite of being convinced that their positions on bills, cannot deny the role of media in the process of legislation, and the media has to be welcomed into the dance. Magnusson himself looks for support in his bills with media, as does his staff.
Eric Redman’s book is not the result of a study; rather it is a chronological documentation of the day-to-day happenings of a real senator’s office and the negotiations that go on behind the walls of congress. We go through the process of making laws and the challenges faced by rival legislation and hardheaded approaches. The legislators are rather honorable, but their job involves betraying their colleagues to reach their own goals. In trying to pass the 'NHSC' bill, a close ally to the Magnusson camp informs them that a plot was out to prevent two health bills from coming up for a vote. All these vivid descriptions of the events that happened bring out an image of how persons elected to represent the whole country end up propagating ideas that aid their own interests and those of their financiers.
Eric Redman is the most competent author to write on the happenings of congress, since he was a part of the process for four years. Despite senators wishing to represent the country, they often find themselves in a position where they need to protect the interests of their electorate and also of the people and corporate bodies that sponsored them. It is a dance indeed, and the title of this book is a form of a summary of what lies within.