UT professor argues "Gingrich Senators" stall US Senate

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UT government professor Sean Theriault argues in his new book, “The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress,“ that the delay in senate processes is due to a small group of senators, which has created a more hyper-partisan atmosphere in the United States Senate. 

This has resulted in a slower process of passing bills, according to Theriault. He said he arrived at this argument through years of researching, after writing two previous books on the United States Congress. Theriault said he wanted to figure out how the United States House of Representatives practices blocking or promoting legislation flowed into the Senate after 1978. 

Through his research, he identified Republicans who moved from the House to the Senate as the ones who brought hyper-partisian attitudes. The move began in 1978 when Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, was first elected to Congress.

The current senators today who he calls “Gingerich Senators” include Rick Santorum, Jim Inhofe and Tom Corbett.

Theriault said he came to his conclusion by looking at roll call votes and who was sponsoring amendments, following Gingrich’s lead. His research went so far as to figure which senators participated in a secret Santa tradition and frequently appeared on Sunday morning talk show aimed at specific demographics.

“In both parties, 70 percent of members participated, but within this group of senators the number is 20 percent,” Theriault said.

UT government professor Brian Jones said he agreed with the book, and believes representatives serving with Gingrich in the House were later elected to the Senate, and brought with them a dimissive attitude from the House.

“This is a fine book bringing a very different perspective to legislative analysis,” Jones said. “It will be read and discussed by political scientists and any and all interested in American legislative politics.”

Theriault said in order for the United States to break away from the effect of the Gingrich Senators, the public needs to elect representatives who are problem solvers, rather than those who only have ideals that are similar to their own.

But not everyone believes the Senate has become more hyper-partisan. UT College Republicans President Danny Zeng said it comes down to perception. 

“The media defines what is more conservative and what is more liberal,” Zeng said. 

Theriault said he is currently working on a textbook about the role of the Tea Party in the United States.