Congressional leadership takes place within an institution that serves two primary functions: making laws and representing citizens. Leaders play essential roles organizing the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senatethey set the schedule for debating bills and resolutions; formulate proposals to address public problems; represent their party's priorities through the media and in relations with leaders of the opposing party; support or oppose the president's initiatives in the legislative process; and build coalitions to pass legislation. The main challenge of congressional leadership is to advance the collective interests of the nation or of the leader's political party, while enabling individual members of Congress to represent their constituents. This entry describes the roles and responsibilities of congressional leaders, reviews the relevant theories for explaining congressional leadership, identifies notable congressional leaders in various historical situations, and raises key issues for further study.

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Copyright © 2004 Berkshire Publishing Group and Sage Publications. This chapter first appeared in Encyclopedia of Leadership: Volume 1

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