Steven Smith


Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Science

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Smith has worked on Capitol Hill in several capacities and has served as a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution and is the former director of WashU’s Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He has also authored or co-authored six books on congressional politics and recently a book on the formation of the Russian State Duma. He is working on books on party leadership in the U.S. Senate and the nature of party effects on congressional voting. Smith also directs The American Panel Survey (TAPS), a national political opinion poll that goes out each month to the same group of about 2000 citizens. 

A frequent media commentator, Smith also authors the blog, Steve’s Notes on Congressional Politics, where he shares insight on current events, key political figures and other important topics pertaining to Congress.

In the media

Stories

Is compromise possible in a split Senate?

Is compromise possible in a split Senate?

While there are no formal rules about how the Senate should function in the event of an even split, there is a template, says an expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis.
The historic 2020 election, and what’s next

The historic 2020 election, and what’s next

After the contentious 2020 presidential election, Washington University in St. Louis faculty experts offer their predictions and perspectives on the legal battle ensuing, the election process, the transition of power and the future for both President-elect Joe Biden’s administration and President Donald Trump’s.
2020 election talk: Congressional races

2020 election talk: Congressional races

Three political science experts at Washington University in St. Louis discuss the battle for control of the U.S. Senate and House. This roundtable discussion is the first of a two-part 2020 election series aimed to help listeners better understand the news, polls and issues in this year’s election.  
Supreme nomination system ‘makes no sense’

Supreme nomination system ‘makes no sense’

Daniel Epps, associate professor in the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, and Steven Smith, Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Science, weigh in on who has the most to lose before the election if a nomination is completed, how this situation differs from the Senate-stalled Merrick Garland nomination in 2016 and why the nomination system needs to change.
Most Americans expect cheating in the November elections

Most Americans expect cheating in the November elections

Who leads on election night, which may change as mail-in and challenged ballots are counted after Election Day, is surely to influence who considers the vote count to be accurate. This could get ugly. Just how ugly will be determined by the quality of election administration and the rhetoric of political leaders.
Rigged election? Partisans view threats to election integrity differently

Rigged election? Partisans view threats to election integrity differently

Even before they cast their votes, partisans of different stripes are poised to question the legitimacy of the election outcome, but for different reasons. According to political scientist Steven Smith at Washington University in St. Louis, findings of The American Social Survey, sponsored by the university’s Weidenbaum Center, indicate that the intensity of candidate and media attention about voting fraud threats — real or not — is influencing views of the legitimacy of the election outcome in November.
What to expect when you’re expecting a Senate impeachment trial

What to expect when you’re expecting a Senate impeachment trial

To govern all this, once the trial begins, a simple majority of the Senate can adopt supplementary rules — including the currently contentious question of the timing of motions to call witnesses, which largely divides senators along party lines.
Survey: Electorate wants candidates, parties to act on climate change

Survey: Electorate wants candidates, parties to act on climate change

In a November wave of The American Social Survey conducted by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, political scientists polled likely primary voters to find that — despite consensus among Democratic candidates and the Trump administration’s actions to repeal environmental regulations — the two parties’ electorates don’t match their candidates’ stances on climate change.
Impeachment ball in Senate’s court

Impeachment ball in Senate’s court

Whatever impeachment moves the Democratic-majority U.S. House of Representatives makes next, it’s ultimately up to the Republican-controlled and administration-friendly Senate to hold a trial on the matter — and Washington University in St. Louis political scientist Steve Smith anticipates the Senate could make a number of moves to avoid the issue.
Americans divided on Obamacare repeal, poll finds

Americans divided on Obamacare repeal, poll finds

As House Republicans struggle to define a new plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), public support for the 2010 legislation is at an all-time high, according to a national survey taken in January by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.
WashU Expert: Republican push for REINS Act could backfire, says congressional expert

WashU Expert: Republican push for REINS Act could backfire, says congressional expert

Conservative columnist George Will is encouraging Republicans to have the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act passed through the U.S. Congress and ready for Donald Trump’s signature on his first day in office. While some see the REINS Act as a way for Congress to reassert its power to control the regulatory rulemaking process, an immediate push for its passage could force the first big battle over Democrats’ use of the filibuster and make it more complicated for Republicans to repeal Obamacare, says Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
WashU Expert: Lots of filibustering ahead

WashU Expert: Lots of filibustering ahead

With Donald Trump in the White House and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, Democrats will be looking to use the filibuster and other procedural options to exert as much influence as possible over Supreme Court nominations and other issues on the Trump-Republican agenda, suggests Steven S. Smith, a nationally recognized expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

WashU Expert: Boehner unable to pacify ‘no compromise’ Tea Party

While party politics have put House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the hot seat in recent months, his hasty resignation from Congress this morning was unexpected, suggests Steven S. Smith, PhD, a nationally recognized expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to discuss opportunities, challenges ahead for our nation

Former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. assesses our nation’s status at the next Assembly Series presentation, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25. in Graham Chapel.  The event is free and open to the public, though seating for the public will be limited due to an anticipated large campus turnout. Visit the Assembly Series website for more information or call 314-935-4620.

Most Americans, including Romney supporters, favor higher tax on rich, survey finds

President Barack Obama lately has been arguing for increased taxes on the rich through his proposed “Buffett Rule,” which would ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on their income. Most Americans, including supporters of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, support such a move, finds The American Panel Survey (TAPS), a new Washington University in St. Louis survey.

‘The Dysfunctional Senate’

Against a backdrop of harsh partisan political rancor, Steven S. Smith, PhD, the Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, will present a series of three lectures in November on “The Dysfunctional Senate.”

WUSTL experts comment on debt ceiling debate

Discussion of the federal debt ceiling has dominated the front page recently. Several Washington University in St. Louis faculty experts, all members of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, have offered their opinions to the news media on the history of the debt ceiling and what may happen if a deal is not reached.

Filibuster reforms set for debate Jan. 25 should appeal to Republicans, expert suggests

When the Senate convenes Jan. 25, it is expected to weigh a resolution to reform the filibuster rule and eliminate secret holds — protocols that many have blamed for encouraging congressional gridlock. Although the proposal is put forth by the Democratic majority in the Senate, it contains a series of relatively modest changes that should hold some appeal to the Senate’s Republiican minority, suggests congressional expert Steven S. Smith, PhD.

Reporter’s guide to filibuster reform in the U.S. Senate

Reporters covering the Senate and citizens watching from the sidelines will welcome a new guide to the upcoming battle over the filibuster from one of the preeminent authorities on Congress.  Political science professor Steven S. Smith has prepared a primer outlining proposals and procedures for reforming the Senate’s rules pertaining to filibusters. Get ready for the opening of the 112th Congress and a possible showdown over the parliamentary procedure that has been used to block legislation by both parties and famously by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Byrd was staunch defender of Senate traditions, says congressional expert

The U.S. Senate lost one of its staunchest defenders and most influential leaders with the death Monday, June 28, of long-serving Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. “The death of Robert Byrd is important,” says Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “He was first and foremost a senator. He loved the Senate and was the strongest defender of its traditions.”

Expert says U.S. Senate needs to reform its rules

Steven Smith, director of the Weidenbaum Center and political science professor is calling for filibuster reform in the U.S. Senate.  And he’s taking his message to Capitol hill.Smith is participating in a conference sponsored by the Weidenbaum Center and the Brookings Institution on the “State of the Senate” May 17 in Washington D.C. On May 19, Smith will testify before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to argue his case for reform of the rules that are obstructing and restricting the legislative role of the Senate.

Democrats’ end-run on health care could escalate Senate parliamentary arms race, expert predicts

As President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress head for a final showdown over long-stalled health-care reform legislation, pundits are struggling to explain an array of arcane congressional rules and protocols that may determine whether health care reform passes or dies on the vine. Many of these pundits are getting it wrong, suggests WUSTL congressional expert Steven S. Smith, Ph.D.

Despite move to Democrats, Specter likely to vote outside the fold

SmithPennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to switch his allegiance to the Democratic Party will likely raise further questions about the Republican Party’s ability to appeal to moderate voters, but Democrats should realize that Specter will remain fairly independent in his voting on key issues, including ongoing opposition to pro-union “card check” provisions, suggests Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

‘Politics as usual’ complicate push for bi-partisan stimulus bill, expert says

Smith As the White House pleads for bipartisan support of a massive federal stimulus plan, congressional Democrats and Republicans are maneuvering, strategizing, nervously seeking partners in an awkward legislative first dance that may determine whether Barack Obama makes good on his promise to bring change to Washington, suggests Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Bush power struggle with Congress poses messy constitutional, political issues, expert says

Steven SmithBy claiming far-reaching and unprecedented executive privilege in its power struggles with the U.S. Congress, the Bush White House has roiled the political waters, forcing both Democrats and Republicans to weigh near-term political consequences of their response against a real and tangible threat to the long-term constitutional powers of Congress, suggests a congressional expert from Washington University in St. Louis.

White House will likely dodge congressional contempt charges, expert suggests

Steven SmithWhile members of the U.S. House and Senate are threatening to hold White House officials in contempt of Congress over the administration’s efforts to withhold testimony in an ongoing investigation of the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys, the dispute is likely to fizzle without much of a showdown, suggests a congressional expert from Washington University in St. Louis.

Bush’s State of Union may be least consequential in a generation, suggests congressional expert

Steven SmithPresident George W. Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 23 may be remembered as one of the least consequential State of the Union addresses in a generation, but its presentation could open the door on a period of real legislative compromise as both parties struggle to boster reputations in advance of the 2008 elections, suggests Steven Smith, an expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Video Available

Post-election Democrats will push popular agenda, appeal to moderates, expert says

Steven SmithIf Democrats want to expand their House and Senate majorities, they need to protect new members who were elected from Republican-leaning districts while showing they can govern by passing a limited popular agenda: “Satisfying the base while appealing to moderates is squarely the central strategic problem for both parties in the new Congress,” suggests Steven S. Smith, a congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Democrats’ closing of Senate session offers taste of tactics for battling Supreme Court nomination

SmithBy invoking a little known procedural rule to force a closed session of the Senate on Tuesday, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid put Republicans on notice that Democrats are prepared to use similar tactics, such as the filibuster, in pending Supreme Court nomination battles, suggests WUSTL congressional expert Steven Smith. Reid’s move “was a shot across the bow,” says Smith.

A political mind

Steven S. Smith, Ph.D., one of the nation’s premier congressional scholars, got his foot in the door of the U.S. Senate by holding it open — literally. Smith, the Kate M. Gregg Professor of Social Sciences in Arts & Sciences, got his first taste of the Senate in the early 1970s while working as a […]

Republican threats of “nuclear option” put United States at brink of parliamentary war, suggests congressional expert Steven Smith

SmithSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist is playing with fire when he suggests that Republicans will deploy the so-called “go nuclear” option to prevent Democrats from using filibusters to block controversial judicial nominations expected to reach the floor in mid-to-late February, says congressional expert Steven S. Smith.

Republicans have nothing to gain from planned 30-hour Senate debate, says congressional expert

SmithSenate Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a 30-hour marathon debate on judicial nominations starting about 6 p.m. Nov. 12 and running as long as early morning on Friday, Nov. 14. Republican senators say they want the country to know that Democrats are stalling judicial nominations made by President Bush. Democrats have filibustered on four recent Bush appeals court nominations and may use similar tactics on future nominees. Congressional expert Steven Smith says this is business as usual in Congress and that Republicans have used the same tactics in the past.

Democrats ‘are in a bad way’ for 2004 elections; liberal and moderate wings of party may duke it out

Campaign 2004 will be a rough and tumble, says Steven S. Smith, Ph.D.While most 2004 campaign coverage remains fixated on the wild and crazy race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the 2004 election also promises to be especially challenging for Democrats seeking seats in the House and Senate. The Democrats are in for a fight in 2004, and the liberal and more moderate factions of the party may likely be their own worst enemy if they engage in a political and philosophical battle for the hearts and minds of voters. “The Democrats are in a bad way in 2004,” said Steven Smith, Ph.D., an authority on congressional politics and the Kate M. Gregg Professor of Social Sciences in Arts & Sciences.