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Uncompromising Positions: God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives (Religion and Politics series)
Uncompromising Positions: God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives (Religion and Politics series)
Elizabeth Anne Oldmixon
Georgetown University Press, 2005
262 pp., $19.95

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Amy E. Black


Moral Issues and Legislative Politics

God, sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

How does any researcher begin to explain the motivations and work of 535 unique individuals (or even just the 435 members of the House of Representatives)? Congressional research is not simple, formulaic, or easy to grasp—and that is why political scientists like me find such work both invigorating and infuriating. Books, articles, and datasets can lead us to important insights, but study alone is not enough to grasp the intricacies of a complex and ever-changing institution like the U.S. Congress.

One source of assistance for congressional scholars hoping to explain aspects of legislative behavior is the American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellowship program, a fellowship based on the novel premise that those who study politics should get real-world experience to better understand the institutions and people they research. Congressional fellows spend a year working as full-time legislative staff on Capitol Hill, gaining an insider's perspective of life in the office of one or two members of Congress. While conducting much of the research for Compromising Positions: God, Sex, and the U.S. House of Representatives, APSA fellow Elizabeth Anne Oldmixon worked for two members of the House of Representatives, Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.). Her time on Capitol Hill working for members from both political parties gave her a window into the legislative process and access to members of Congress that made this insightful book possible.

Oldmixon began her research with this question: Do legislators approach moral issues differently from other issues they confront during the congressional term? Drawing upon interviews with 35 legislators and key congressional aides, data from a decade of roll call votes and cosponsorship of bills, and census information about congressional districts, she finds that lawmakers—and constituents as well—do indeed approach moral issues distinctively.

Several common factors distinguish the ...

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