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POLSC331: Congressional Politics

Unit 3: Congressional Organization   In the previous units, you learned about the history of Congress and the actions of its individual members.  In this unit, you will begin to look more closely at Congress as an institution.  You will also begin to discover the true complexities of “how a bill becomes a law.”  The first subunit will focus on the importance of party leadership, especially in the House of Representatives, and its influence on cohesion within the rank-and-file, congressional actions and outcomes.  You will then learn about the role that committees play in Congress and will take a look at how committees have become more important over time, in addition to study groups and task forces which are often created out of public policy necessity.  The third subunit will shed light on some of the (often controversial) rules and procedures of the House and the Senate and discuss the ways in which these rules shape legislation.  By the end of the unit you will learn how the internal organization and rules of Congress create a dynamic and complex legislative process. 

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 16.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 5.25 hours ☐    Sub-subunit 3.1.1: 2 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 3.1.2: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4: 5.75 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4.1: 2.5 hours
☐    Subunit 3.4.2: 1.25 hours
☐    Subunit 3.4.3: 2 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the leadership systems used in the House and Senate.
  • Describe the roles and functions of legislative leaders and political parties in Congress.
  • Name and describe the various types of congressional committees.
  • Explain why the committee system is central to an understanding of the legislative process.
  • Describe the major steps in a bill becoming a law.
  • Evaluate the influence of constituents, colleagues, political parties, and interest groups on congressional decision-making.

3.1 Congressional Leadership   3.1.1 Leading the House and Senate   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Valerie Heitshusen’s “Party Leaders in the U.S. Congress, 1789-2011” Link: Congressional Research Service: Valerie Heitshusen’s “Party Leaders in the U.S. Congress, 1789-2011” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above link, scroll down to the reports dated February 11, 2011, and click on the hyperlink titled “Party Leaders in the U.S. Congress, 1789-2011” to open the PDF file.  Please read the entire document (39 pages).  How has party leadership in Congress evolved over time?
 
Reading and answering this question should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.1.2 Leadership and Party Cohesion   - Reading: University of Virginia: Jeffery Jenkins’ “The Evolution of Party Leadership” Link: University of Virginia: Jeffery Jenkins’ “The Evolution of Party Leadership” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above link, and click on “The Evolution of Party Leadership,” which will direct you to the PDF file of the essay.  Please read the entire essay (44 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education): Martin Gruberg’s “The Politics of Bolting” Link: USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education): Martin Gruberg’s “The Politics of Bolting” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the above article about party defection in Congress in its entirety (5 pages).  Make sure to click on “next” or the subsequent page number to move on to the next page of the article.  What are the ramifications for both the individual member and the institution when this occurs?
     
    Reading and answering the questions should take 1 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2 Committees and Other Internal Structures   - Reading: University of Virginia: Jeffrey A. Jenkins’ “Property Rights and the Emergence of Standing Committee Dominance in the Nineteenth-Century House” Link: University of Virginia: Jeffrey A. Jenkins’ “Property Rights and the Emergence of Standing Committee Dominance in the Nineteenth-Century House” (PDF)
 
Instructions:  Go to the above link; scroll down to the link (the reading is the second-to-last one on the page).  Please read the entire document (27 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.1 Types of Committees   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Valerie Heitshusen’s “Committee Types and Roles” Link: Congressional Research Service: Valerie Heitshusen’s “Committee Types and Roles” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above link, scroll down to the reports dated February 11, 2011, and click on the “Committee Types and Roles” hyperlink.  Please read the brief 4-page document, and consider answering the following question.  How are committees critical to the legislative process, especially in terms of streamlining and specialization?
 
Reading and answering this question should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Contacting the Congress: “Congressional Committees and Subcommittees” Link: Contacting the Congress: “Congressional Committees and Subcommittees” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above link, which is a listing of all congressional committees.  Click on a few of the committee links that interest you, which will direct you to their websites.  Peruse the sites to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of individual committees and subcommittees.
     
    You should dedicate approximately 15-20 minutes browsing this website.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2.2 Caucuses and Task Forces   - Reading: Center for Association Leadership: Peter Farnham’s “Congressional Caucuses: Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors” Link: Center for Association Leadership: Peter Farnham’s “Congressional Caucuses: Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage.  Why do congressional caucuses exist?  Are they effective?  Why or why not?
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire webpage.  Why do congressional caucuses exist?  Are they effective?  Why, or why not?
 
This reading and these questions should take you approximately 25-30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Democrats.rules.house.gov: CRS Report for Congress: Walter Oleszek’s “The Use of Task Forces in the House” Link: Democrats.rules.house.gov: CRS Report for Congress: Walter Oleszek’s “The Use of Task Forces in the House” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the above link, and look under the heading “Congress: The House.”  The above report is 10th on the list.  Click on the title, which will direct you to the PDF file.  Please read this brief 6-page document.
     
    This reading should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.3 The Legislative Process   3.3.1 How a Bill Becomes a Law   - Reading: U.S. Constitution Online: Constitutional Topic: How a Bill Becomes a Law Link: U.S. Constitution Online: “Constitutional Topic: How a Bill Becomes a Law” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  Think about how a bill moves through the process to
becoming a law.  Why is it so much easier to prevent a bill’s
passage rather than successfully making it through every stage of
the legislative process?  
    
 Reading this text and answering this question should take
approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.  
  
  • Web Media: MSNBC.com's: The Dylan Ratigan Show Link: MSNBC.com's: The Dylan Ratigan Show (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the 8-minute video, which explains some of the complexities in the lawmaking process.
     
    Viewing this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "The House and Senate"

    Link: The Saylor Foundation's "The House and Senate" (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please complete the linked assessment in order to test your mastery of congressional organization, roles and procedures.

    You should dedicate approximately 1 hour to this assessment.
     
    When you are done, please check your work against The Saylor Foundation's "Answer Key: The House and Senate" (PDF).

3.3.2 “Log Rolling” and “Pork Barreling”   - Reading: University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Nicholas R. Miller’s “Logrolling” Link: University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Nicholas R. Miller’s “Logrolling” (PDF)
  
Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down, and click on the PDF file entitled “Logrolling.pdf.”  Please read the brief 5-page document.
 
This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Harper’s Magazine: Ken Silverstein’s “The Great American Pork Barrel: Washington Streamlines the Means of Corruption” Link: Harper’s Magazine: Ken Silverstein’s “The Great American Pork Barrel: Washington Streamlines the Means of Corruption” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the article linked above in its entirety.
     
    This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

  • Web Media: CNN Video: “New Bill Has Billions in Earmarks” Link: CNN Video: “New Bill Has Billions in Earmarks”(Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the 8-minute video clip.
     
    Viewing this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • Reading: CBS News: Brian Montopoli’s “House Republicans Adopt Earmarks Ban in New Congress” Link: CBS News: Brian Montopoli’s "House Republicans Adopt Earmarks Ban in New Congress” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the article linked above in its entirety.
     
    This reading should take less than 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

3.4 Complicating the Process of Lawmaking   3.4.1 Voting and the Influence of Party   - Reading: Michigan State University: The Consequences of Party Organization in the House: The Role of the Majority and Minority Parties in Conditional Party Government” Link: Michigan State University: “The Consequences of Party Organization in the House: The Role of the Majority and Minority Parties in Conditional Party Government”

 Instructions: Please go to the above link and click on the document
titled above to access the PDF.  Please read the entire document (64
pages).  To what extent does the majority party get its way in the
House of Representatives?  What legislative tools does it use?  
    
 Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 3
hours to complete.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The New Yorker: Peter Boyer’s “House Rule: Will John Boehner Control the Tea Party in Congress?” Link: The New Yorker: Peter Boyer’s “House Rule: Will John Boehner Control the Tea Party in Congress?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article (9 pages).  Make sure to click on the “next” button at the bottom of each page to move on to the subsequent pages of the article.
     
    This reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Brookings Institute: Steven S. Smith’s “The Senate Syndrome” Link: The Brookings Institute: Steven S. Smith’s “The Senate Syndrome” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article.  Click on “Download the Full Paper” (PDF) to access it (30 pages). 
     
    This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

3.4.2 Voting and the Influence of Constituency   - Reading: Ohio State University: Janet Box-Steffensmeier, David Kimball, and Katherine Tate’s “Linking Representation and House Member Behavior to Constituents’ Voting Behavior” Link: Ohio State University: Janet Box-Steffensmeier, David Kimball, and Katherine Tate’s “Linking Representation and House Member Behavior to Constituents’ Voting Behavior” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above link and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the PDF file of the report.  Click on the hyperlink next to the PDF icon to open the file.  Please read the entire document (26 pages).
  
This reading should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.4.3 Voting and the Influence of Interest Groups   - Reading: University of Florida’s version of John R. Wright’s Interest Groups and Congress: Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence: “Chapter 3: Interest Groups, Congress and Public Policy” Link: University of Florida’s version of John R. Wright’s Interest Groups and Congress: Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence: “Chapter 3: Interest Groups, Congress and Public Policy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above link and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the file titled “wright1996.pdf.”  Please read Chapter 3 in its entirety (21 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics: “Influence and Lobbying” Link: OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics: “Influence and Lobbying” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and click on each of the topics to learn more about Washington's influence industry and its most powerful players.
     
    Reading and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Common Cause: Josh Zaharoff’s “Legislating under the Influence” Link: Common Cause: Josh Zaharoff’s “Legislating under the Influence” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, scroll down to the bottom of the webpage, and click on the hyperlink to the report.  Please read the report in its entirety (27 pages).  This document shows how the health care industry has spent billions on campaign contributions and lobbying over the past decade to influence Congress, most recently on the health care reform bill.
     
    This reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.