Bellagio Library/

Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis

by Jeff Bingaman

Jeff Bingaman participated in the Bellagio residency program in 2017. During this residency, he worked on Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis (University of New Mexico Press, 2022). Jeff was a U.S. Senator for New Mexico for five terms between 1983 and 2013, where he served on the committees for Finance; the Armed Services; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Joint Economic; and Energy and Natural Resources. He was the New Mexico Attorney General from 1979 to 1982.

A few words with Jeff

“The book contains observations and opinions that were formed during my 30 years in the U.S. Senate. While at Bellagio, I was doing the first drafts of several chapters.

“The book contains suggestions for how Congress and its members can address the problems I discuss and do a better job of serving the public interest.”


In his 30-year career representing the citizens of New Mexico in the US Senate, Jeff Bingaman witnessed great things accomplished through the legislative process. He also had a front-row seat for the breakdown of governing norms and the radical increases in polarization and partisanship that now plague the deliberative body.

Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis traces the development of congressional dysfunction over more than three decades and provides eight case studies that examine how the crisis affects our government’s ability to meet major policy challenges. Presenting insightful analysis of the causes and consequences of the dysfunction in Congress, Breakdown shows how Congress fails at the tasks Americans expect it to perform and, more importantly, how it might begin again to succeed.

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To find out more about Jeff’s work, you can visit the website dedicated to his public career, and his profile on