Date of Award


Document Type



Elizabeth Amato


Excerpt from Introduction

In October of 2016, a Gallup poll reported that Congress had an approval rating of 18%.[1] Compared to the President’s approval rating, Congress is seen as ineffective and too bipartisan for many Americans. While there has always been a natural tension between the opposing parties, it has magnified within recent years. Within Congress itself, many members are seeing their political opposition even more unfavorably today than their counterparts did two decades ago. Carol Doherty of the Pew Research Center claims that it is the “intensity of negativity that’s increased.”[2] The 2008 election marked a new era as President Barrack Obama was elected with his encouraging bipartisan, post-racial words that would point to greater cooperation in Congress. Much of the legislation, however, during the 111th Congress was passed on straight party-line votes. The signature piece of legislation during this congressional term, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed with all 218 Republicans in Congress voting against it. To get the legislation passed, Congressional leaders exhausted every trick in the book to force fence-sitting Democrats to vote for it, in many cases going against the ideological leanings of their constituencies. Consequently, many of them lost re-election. The Affordable Care Act offered few compromises for moderate Democrats, much less the Republicans. These actions sent shockwaves throughout the electorate, causing major shifts in the composition of Congress in both the 2010 and 2012 elections. Angered by being shutout of the process, many Republicans would treat their Democratic colleagues in kind. Very little significant legislation has been enacted into law since the 111th Congress, and even fewer pieces have passed with major bipartisan support. Since a unified, single-party, filibuster-proof government is unlikely and short-lived if it occurs, cooperation on both sides of the aisle will be necessary for any significant achievements to occur. The nature of the partisan passage of the Affordable Care Act is unlike the passage of similar major pieces of legislation, such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Social Securities Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all of which were passed with broad bipartisan support.