Author compares current Senate to 'Great Senate' of '60s and '70s

Wednesday - 3/7/2012, 10:42am EST

Ira Shapiro, author, "The Last Great Senate"

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The last third of the 20th century produced some of the great landmark pieces of legislation like the Civil Rights Act. It also produced some huge national debates.

"I think we had a great Senate in this country from the early 1960s through the 1970s," said Ira Shapiro, veteran of the Senate staff of that era. Now a lawyer in Washington, he is author of the just-published "The Last Great Senate," an account of how the Senate operated during those years.

"For a period of almost 20 years, we had a Senate that was a progressive force and it was on the cutting edge of every important legislative issue and every important battle in the country," Shapiro said. "You can't think about the major issues of those times — civil rights, the Vietnam War, Watergate, energy, environmental legislation — without thinking of the Senate in the forefront."

Shapiro spoke to The Federal Drive with Tom Temin about how today's Senate measures up to the Senate of the 1960s and 1970s.