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POLSC331: Congressional Politics

Unit 4: Congress and Inter-Institutional Dynamics   In the American political system, no individual branch of government holds supreme power.  Although the founders may have wanted the legislative branch to wield the most power, the Constitution’s system of checks-and-balances and its separation of powers prohibit Congress from solely controlling the government.  Congress must work with other political actors in order to propose, promote, and implement legislation. This often involves significant bargaining, compromising, and negotiating with each other.  This unit will explore the relationship that Congress has with the other major players in American politics—the President, the bureaucracy, the courts, and the media.  Each of these entities plays a major role in influencing congressional action in some way.  After completing this unit, you will have a keen understanding of how Congress interacts with other political players in the American political system.  

Unit 4 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 23.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 6.5 hours ☐    Subunit 4.1.1: 1 hour
☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 1 hour
☐    Subunit 4.1.3: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 4.1.4: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 6.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.1: 1 hour
☐    Subunit 4.3.2: 4.5 hours
☐    Subunit 4.3.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.4: 9.75 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4.1: 2.75 hours
☐    Subunit 4.4.2: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 4.4.3: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 4.4.4: 2.75 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5: 1 hour
 

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Assess the relationship between Congress and the presidency and its many permutations over time.
  • Analyze the pros and cons of united and divided government.
  • Explain the influence of the president on congressional elections.
  • Discuss the role of congressional oversight as it relates to both the presidency and the bureaucracy.
  • Identify the role played by Congress as it relates to the judicial branch.
  • Analyze the complicated relationship that exists between members of Congress and the media. 

4.1 Congress and the Presidency   4.1.1 Constitutional Roles   - Reading: National Constitution Center: Interactive Constitution: Article II, U.S. Constitution Link: National Constitution Center: Interactive Constitution: Article II, U.S. Constitution (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above.  Read the text of Article II, which describes the constitutional role of the president, located in the upper window.  Click on the highlighted phrases of the text, which links to a detailed explanation (in the lower window) of that section.  Why does the Constitution say so little about presidential powers as compared to the legislative branch?
 
Reading and answering the question above 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: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “The Modern Presidency: Tools of Power” Link: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “The Modern Presidency: Tools of Power” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down to the 7th video on the list, and click on the “VoD” icon. The growing expectations that the public has of presidents creates a gap between expectations and formal powers.  This video discusses the ways in which presidents seek to bridge this gap by using personal attributes and cultivating strong public support.  It also illustrates how presidents have increasingly centralized policy-making authority as a means of maximizing their own power.
     
    Viewing this video should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.2 Unified vs. Divided Government   - Reading: The American Prospect: Rick Valelly’s “Divided They Govern” Link: The American Prospect: Rick Valelly’s “Divided They Govern” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article.  What are the pros and cons of both united and divided government?
 
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: C-SPAN’s “A Look at Presidential Vetoes” Link: C-SPAN’s “A Look at Presidential Vetoes” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the video in its entirety (24 minutes).
     
    Viewing this video and note-taking should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.3 Congressional Elections and the Presidential “Coattail” Effect   - Reading: George Mason University: Colleen Shogan’s “The Contemporary Presidency: The Sixth Year Curse” Link: George Mason University: Colleen Shogan’s “The Contemporary Presidency: The Sixth Year Curse” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and click on the article titled “The Contemporary Presidency: The Sixth Year Curse,” which is the 4th article listed.  Please read the entire article (13 pages).
 
This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Smithsonian.com: T.A. Frail’s “Top 10 Historic Midterm Elections” Link: Smithsonian.com: T.A. Frail’s “Top 10 Historic Midterm Elections” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the article linked above in its entirety.
     
    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: Yale University: The Yale Law Journal: Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren’s “The President: Lightning Rod or King?” Link: Yale University: The Yale Law Journal: Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren’s “The President: Lightning Rod or King?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above website, and click on the “View as PDF” hyperlink to open the PDF file of the report.  Please read the article in its entirety (12 pages).  Consider the impact that presidential (un)popularity has on congressional elections.
     
    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.

4.1.4 Struggles for Power   - Reading: The Library of Congress: Louis Fisher’s The Politics of Executive Privilege: “Chapter 1: Constitutional Principles” and “Chapter 3: The Impeachment Power” Links: The Library of Congress:Louis Fisher’s The Politics of Executive Privilege: “Chapter 1: Constitutional Principles” (PDF) and “Chapter 3: The Impeachment Power” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Be sure to first read the “Contents, Foreword, and Introduction” (16 pages) before delving into Chapters 1 and 3.  Click on the hyperlink for chapters 1 and 3, and read the documents in their entirety (26 and 24 pages, respectively).  The above chapter readings can be found on the Law Library of Congress website, which has links to each of the chapters in the book The Politics of Executive Privilege. 
 
This reading should take approximately 3 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2 Congress and the Bureaucracy   4.2.1 Role of the Bureaucracy   - Web Media: Democracy in America’s “Bureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity” Link: Democracy in America’s “Bureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to the 8th video on the list, and click on the “VoD” icon.  Few people attach much importance to bureaucracies, but as this video shows, bureaucracies are the key link between policymakers and the beneficiaries of policy decisions.  The video also demonstrates that, contrary to general impressions, bureaucrats are not simply office workers located in some headquarters building, but are often on the front lines directly delivering services.
 
This video should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: ThisNation.com’s “The Realities of Bureaucracy” Link: ThisNation.com’s “The Realities of Bureaucracy” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the webpage 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. 

4.2.2 Congressional Oversight   - Reading: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Frederick Kaiser’s “Congressional Oversight” Link: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Frederick Kaiser’s “Congressional Oversight” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the website linked above, scroll down toward the bottom to the report dated January 3, 2006, and click on the hyperlink for the title “Congressional Oversight” to open the PDF file.  Note that the reports are listed in chronological order by date.  Please read the entire 6-page document.
 
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: Foreign Affairs: Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann’s “When Congress Checks Out” Link: Foreign Affairs: Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann’s “When Congress Checks Out” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the above website.  Please read the entire 8-page article titled “When Congress Checks Out.”
     
    Instructions: Go to the above website.  Please read the entire 8-page article titled “When Congress Checks Out.”  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: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Special Investigations Division: “Congressional Oversight of the Bush Administration” Link: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Special Investigations Division: “Congressional Oversight of the Bush Administration” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and click on the hyperlink for the title “Congressional Oversight of the Bush Administration.”  Please read the entire report (22 pages).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web page above.

  • Web Media: PBS Newshour: “Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?” Link: PBS Newshour: “Intelligence Oversight: Is Congress the Problem?” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the above 13-minute video clip. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3 Congress and the Courts   4.3.1 Constitutional Role of the Courts   - Reading: National Constitution Center: Interactive Constitution: Article III, U.S. Constitution Link: National Constitution Center: Interactive Constitution: “Article III, U.S. Constitution” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the text of Article III, which describes the constitutional role of the judicial branch, located in the upper window.  Click on the highlighted phrases of the text which links to a detailed explanation (in the lower window) of that section.  The Supreme Court is the only federal court that is required explicitly by the Constitution.  Why do you think the Framers left it to Congress to create lower courts?
 
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.

  • Web Media: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “Our Courts: The Rule of Law” Link: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America’s “Our Courts: The Rule of Law” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down to the 12th video on the list, and click on the “VoD” icon.  This video explores the unique role that courts play in American society.  It also explores the variety of courts and assesses their role in the governmental system, questioning, for instance, the source of judicial power. 
     
    Viewing this lecture should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.2 Advice and Consent: The Judicial Confirmation Process   - Reading: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Denis Steven Rutkus’s “Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President, Judiciary Committee, and Senate” Link: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Denis Steven Rutkus’s “Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President, Judiciary Committee, and Senate” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and scroll down about half way to the report dated February 19, 2010.  Click on the hyperlink titled “Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President, Judiciary Committee, and Senate” to download the PDF file.  Please read this entire document (63 pages).  Why has the judicial nomination process become so politicized in recent years?
 
This reading should take approximately 3 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: American Constitution Society: “The Filibuster and the Pace of Judicial Confirmations” Link: American Constitution Society: “The Filibuster and the Pace of Judicial Confirmations” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the entire video (90 minutes), which discusses how the U.S. Senate’s use of the filibuster (the right of an individual to unlimited debate to prevent a vote on a given proposal) as a mechanism to delay floor votes on controversial presidential judicial nominees.
     
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4.3.3 The Courts and Campaign Finance Reform   - Web Media: Utne Reader: Will Wlizlo’s “The Story of Citizens United” Link: Utne Reader: Will Wlizlo’s “The Story of Citizens United” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the video (9 minutes) about Citizens United, a nonprofit political group that challenged provisions of the federal campaign law, specifically the provision that banned speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.   The Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that corporate speech should be offered the same protection as individual speech.  Do you believe the Court ruled correctly in this case?  Why or why not?
 
Viewing the video and answering these questions should take 15-20 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: National Affairs: Bradley A. Smith’s “The Myth of Campaign Finance Reform” Link: National Affairs: Bradley A. Smith’s “The Myth of Campaign Finance Reform” (HTML or PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire article, which provides a concise history of Supreme Court rulings on the issue of campaign finance reform.  You can access the PDF version from the top of the above linked page.
     
    This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4 Congress and the Media   4.4.1 The Media and Democracy   - Reading: Common Cause Education Fund: “Media and Democracy in America Today: A Reform Plan for a New Administration” Link: Reading: Common Cause Education Fund: “Media and Democracy in America Today: A Reform Plan for a New Administration” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the above website, and click on the hyperlink after the text “Read more in our August 2008 report” toward the top of the webpage.  Please read the entire document (32 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.

  • Reading: The Annenberg Washington Program, Northwestern University: Stephen Bates’ “Realigning Journalism with Democracy: The Hutchins Commission, Its Times, and Ours” Link: The Annenberg Washington Program, Northwestern University: Stephen Bates’ “Realigning Journalism with Democracy: The Hutchins Commission, Its Times, and Ours” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the above paper, which details the findings of the Hutchins Commission, which issued a 1947 landmark study on the proper function of the media in a modern democracy.  Be sure to click the right hand arrow at the bottom of the page beside “Contents” to read the article in its entirety (15 pages).
     
    This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell’s “The State of the News Media 2011” Link: Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism:Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell’s “The State of the News Media 2011” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire webpage linked above. 

    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.

4.4.2 Media Coverage of Congress   - Web Media: C-SPAN’s “Congress and the Media” Link: C-SPAN’s “Congress and the Media” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please watch the entire video (87 minutes), which features First Amendment advocacy and monitoring groups and journalists discussing the issues faced when covering the legislative process.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4.3 Partisanship and Bias   - Web Media: YouTube: UCTelevision’s “American News Media—Liberal or Conservative Bias” Link: YouTube: UCTelevision’s “American News Media—Liberal or Conservative Bias” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the entire video (about 1 hour and 22 minutes), which is a debate sponsored by the University of California, Santa Barbara, about the state of the news media.  It features Eric Alterman, columnist for "The Nation" and author of "What Liberal Media?" and Tucker Carlson, conservative commentator for Fox News.
 
Viewing this video and note-taking 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.

4.4.4 Political Campaign Advertising   - Reading: Politics Daily: Carl M. Cannon and Andrea Stone’s “Campaign Ads 2010: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny” Link: Politics Daily: Carl M. Cannon and Andrea Stone’s “Campaign Ads 2010: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny” (HTML and Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Read the entire article, and view the accompanying videos of political ads from the 2010 midterm elections.  Which did you find the most effective?   Which was the least effective?  Why?
 
Reading, viewing these video clips, and answer these questions should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: ThisNation.com’s “Do Negative Campaign Ads Work?” Link: ThisNation.com’s “Do Negative Campaign Ads Work?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the webpage in its entirety.
     
    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.

  • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “Lectures in History: History of Political Campaign Advertising” Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “Lectures in History: History of Political Campaign Advertising” (Adobe Flash) 
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, then select “Complete Program” on the right side of the webpage to launch the video, and watch the video (1 hour, 18 minutes) in its entirety.  One of the most iconic political advertisements in American history was the 1964 “Daisy Girl” spot produced by the presidential campaign of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Professor Robert Mann uses that ad among others in his class on political communication at Louisiana State University, which looks at the history of campaign advertisements.

    This resource 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.

4.5 Analyzing Political Cartoons   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "Analyzing Political Cartoons"

Link: The Saylor Foundation's "[Analyzing Political
Cartoons](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/POLSC331-Assessment3-FINAL.pdf)"
(PDF)  
    
 Instructions: Please complete the linked assessment in order to
test your understanding of the role that editorial cartoons play in
political commentary about Congress and government.  

 This assessment should take approximately 1 hour to complete.  
    
 When you are done, please check your work against The Saylor
Foundation's "[Guide to Responding: Analyzing Political
Cartoons](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/POLSC331-Assessment3-AnswerKey-FINAL.pdf)"
(PDF)