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POLSC331: Congressional Politics

Unit 5: Congress and Policy-Making   This final unit brings together many of the concepts from earlier in the semester and explores how Congress makes domestic and foreign policy.  Public policy refers to the actions taken by government—decisions that are intended to solve problems and improve the quality of life for its citizens.  At the federal level, public policies are enacted to regulate industry and business, to protect citizens at home and abroad, to aid state and city governments and people such as the poor through funding programs, and to encourage social goals.  The first half of the unit will concentrate on domestic policy-making as well as the history and evolution of the federal budget and various social programs.  In the second half of the unit, you will learn more about the role that Congress plays in the creation and implementation of international and defense policy.  Finally, we examine the future of Congress and the internal changes being considered in light of various scandals and other corruptive activities that have weakened the institution.  

Unit 5 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 19.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 9.75 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.1: 0.5 hour
☐    Subunit 5.1.2: 1.25 hours
☐    Subunit 5.1.3: 2.5 hours
☐    Subunit 5.1.4: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 5.1.5: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 5.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.1: 2 hours
☐    Subunit 5.2.2: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 5.2.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3.1: 1.5 hours
☐    Subunit 5.3.2: 3 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Analyze the role and performance of Congress in the budgetary process, economic policy, and foreign policy.
  • Explain the complications that arise as a result of shared foreign policy powers between Congress and the president.
  • Discuss how congressional policymaking has responded to post-9/11 governance.
  • Discuss the criticism of Congress, and assess the methods put forth to reform the institution. 

5.1 Congress and Domestic and Economic Policy-Making   5.1.1 The Federal Budget Process   - Reading: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Policy Basics: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process” Link: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Policy Basics: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process” (HTML or PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the entire article linked above.  You can view the PDF version by selecting the “PDF of this Policy Basics (7pp.)” on the right of the above linked page.
 
This reading should take approximately 30 minute to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.2 The Deficit, Debt and Tax Policy   - Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Deficit and Debt Ceiling” Link: Khan Academy’s “Deficit and Debt Ceiling” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the above video (approx. 10 minutes), which provides an overview on the basics of the federal deficit, debt and the debt ceiling.
 
Viewing this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/). It is
attributed to the Khan Academy.  
    
  • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Mindy R. Levit’s “Reducing the Budget Deficit: The President’s Fiscal Commission and Other Initiatives” Link: Congressional Research Service: Mindy R. Levit’s “Reducing the Budget Deficit: The President’s Fiscal Commission and Other Initiatives” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the hyperlink after “Download” to open the PDF file.  Read the entire report (23 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.

5.1.3 Entitlement Spending: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security   - Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Medicare Sustainability” Link: Khan Academy’s “Medicare Sustainability” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the above video in its entirety (approx. 8 minutes), which discusses how Medicare works and provides a critique on the federal program’s sustainability and financial viability over the long-term.
 
Viewing this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/). It is
attributed to the Khan Academy.
  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Social Security Intro” Link: Khan Academy’s “Social Security Intro” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the above video (approx. 6 minutes), which provides an overview on how Social Security works.
     
    Viewing this video and taking notes should take less than 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy.

  • Reading: The Cato Institute: Michael Tanner’s “Bankrupt: Entitlements and the Federal Budget” Link: The Cato Institute: Michael Tanner’s “Bankrupt: Entitlements and the Federal Budget” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, scroll down about half way to the box containing the text “Download the PDF of Political Analysis no. 673,” and click on this hyperlink to open the full PDF file.  Please read the entire report (36 pages).
     
    This reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.4 Congress and Health Care Reform   - Reading: Kaiser Family Foundation’s “National Health Insurance—A Brief History of Reform Efforts in the U.S.” Link: Kaiser Family Foundation’s “National Health Insurance—A Brief History of Reform Efforts in the U.S.” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and then click on the hyperlink titled “Issue Brief” to download the PDF file.  Please read the entire 8-page document.
 
This reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: FORA.tv: “Top Senate Aides Debate Health Care Reform” Link: FORA.tv: “Top Senate Aides Debate Health Care Reform” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the entire video (45 minutes).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: NPR: “Experts Debate Congress' Authority over Health Insurance” Link: NPR: “Experts Debate Congress' Authority over Health Insurance” (Adobe Flash and mp3)
     
    Instructions: Listen to the above radio clip (11 minutes).  If you prefer, you can download an Mp3 version by selecting the “Download” button to the right of the audio link.
     
    Listening to this radio clip and note-taking should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.5 Congress and the Economic Crisis   - Web Media: YouTube: HBO Films: “Too Big To Fail: Opening the Vault on the Financial Crisis” Link: YouTube: HBO Films: “Too Big To Fail: Opening the Vault on the Financial Crisis” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the above video (19 minutes), which is an insightful look at the 2008 financial crisis with the cast and crew of HBO Films' “Too Big to Fail,” plus financial experts and others.
 
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.

  • Reading: University of North Texas Libraries: Congressional Oversight Panel’s “The Final Report of the Congressional Oversight Panel” Link: University of North Texas Libraries: Congressional Oversight Panel’s “The Final Report of the Congressional Oversight Panel” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and click on the PDF of the report on the left side of the page.  Please read pp. 1-37.  The Congressional Oversight Panel was established by Congress in late 2008 to oversee the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  The report describes the financial crisis and evaluates the effectiveness of federal financial stabilization initiatives. 
     
    This reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: George Mason University: New Voices in Public Policy: K.J. Hertz’s “Consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: How this Landmark Bill Made Its Way through a Divided Congress” Link: George Mason University: New Voices in Public Policy: K.J. Hertz’s “Consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: How this Landmark Bill Made Its Way through a Divided Congress” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the website linked above, and find the title of Hertz’s article.  Click on the “PDF” hyperlink next to the title to open the file.  Please read the entire document (26 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.

5.2 Congress and Foreign Policy-Making   5.2.1 Evolution of U.S. Foreign Policy   - Web Media: University of California Television: “Conversations with History: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Political Tradition, with Walter Russell Mead” Link: University of California Television: “Conversations with History: U.S. Foreign Policy and the American Political Tradition, with Walter Russell Mead” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Adobe Flash
  
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the entire video (57 minutes).
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.2.2 Cooperation and Conflict: Congress, the President and Foreign Policy   - Reading: U.S. Department of State: CRS Report for Congress: “Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress” Link: U.S. Department of State: CRS Report for Congress: “Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entire report linked above.  Why has foreign policy power been such a source of tension between the executive and legislative branches? How does the President act unilaterally in foreign policy?  How has Congress tried to reign in the President’s ability to do this?  Has Congress done this effectively?
 
Reading and answering 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: The Center on Congress at Indiana University: The Hon. Lee Hamilton’s “Foreign Policy Consultation between the President and Congress” Link: The Center on Congress at Indiana University: Lee Hamilton’s “Foreign Policy Consultation between the President and Congress” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire lecture.
     
    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.
     

  • Reading: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Richard Grimmett’s “The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty Years” Link: FAS.org: CRS Report for Congress: Richard Grimmett’s “The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty Years” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire report linked above.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.2.3 The Post-9/11 Role of Government   - Reading: USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education): Craig Eisendrath’s “U.S. Foreign Policy After September 11” Link: USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education): Craig Eisendrath’s “U.S. Foreign Policy After September 11” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article (5 pages) linked above.  Make sure to click on the “Next” button at the bottom of each webpage to move on to each subsequent page of the article.
 
This reading should take approximately 20-25 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: PBS Newshour: Dave Belt’s “The USA Patriot Act” Link: PBS Newshour: Dave Belt’s “The USA Patriot Act” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire article linked above.
     
    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: Homeland Security Affairs Journal: Charles Perrow’s “The Disaster after 9/11: The Department of Homeland Security and the Intelligence Reorganization” Link: Homeland Security Affairs Journal: Charles Perrow’s “The Disaster after 9/11: The Department of Homeland Security and the Intelligence Reorganization” (HTML or PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire article linked above.  You can download a PDF version of this article by selecting the PDF icon at the top of the above linked page.
     
    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.

5.3 The Future of Congress   5.3.1 Weathering Scandal and Corruption   - Web Media: YouTube: Adams State College: Dr. Stephen Roberds’s “Congressional Scandals” Link: YouTube: Adams State College: Dr. Stephen Roberds’s “Congressional Scandals” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please watch the entire video (70 minutes), which is part of a faculty lecture series at Adams State College.  Political scandals have come to dominate the news media, campaigns, and government itself.  After watching the video, think about how political scandals have evolved over time, and how both the media and the public have responded to them.
 
Viewing this lecture and responding to the prompt for consideration above 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.

  • Web Media: NPR: Talk of the Nation’s “A Politician’s Guide to Avoiding Personal Scandal” Link: NPR: Talk of the Nation’s “A Politician’s Guide to Avoiding Personal Scandal” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Listen to the above podcast, beginning at 12:30 minutes.
     
    Viewing this portion of the lecture should take approximately 20 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

5.3.2 Congressional Reform   - Web Media: PBS Videos: Bill Moyers Journal: “Congressional Ethics” Link: PBS Videos: Bill Moyers Journal: “Congressional Ethics” (Adobe Flash)
  
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the entire 19-minute video.
 
Viewing this lecture 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.
 

  • Reading: The Brookings Institute: Sarah Binder and Thomas Mann’s “One Year Later: Is Congress Still the Broken Branch?” Link: The Brookings Institute: Sarah Binder and Thomas Mann’s “One Year Later: Is Congress Still the Broken Branch?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on “Download PDF” in the menu bar toward the top of the webpage below the title and by-lines.  Please read the entire document (24 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: Boston Review: U.S. Representative Jim Cooper’s “Fixing Congress” Link: Boston Review: U.S. Representative Jim Cooper’s “Fixing Congress” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entire article linked above.  In your opinion, how could Congress be designed to work better, reflect the people’s desires, and become more respected?
     
    Reading and answering this question should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Boston University Law Review: Barbara Sinclair’s “Question: What’s Wrong with Congress? Answer: It’s a Democratic Legislature” Link: Boston University Law Review: Barbara Sinclair’s “Question: What’s Wrong with Congress? Answer: It’s a Democratic Legislature” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire document (11 pages).  After reading the two resources for this subunit, consider what effect democratic processes have on the way Congress operates.
     
    This reading and prompt above for consideration should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.