POLS 6100 Week 5 Congress


The Constitution gives most of the power and authority of government to Congress, but over the last 200+ years Congress has delegated much of that power to the president. Still, Congress remains the branch responsible for passing legislation, setting the government’s budget, and overseeing the executive branch. This week’s chapter from the textbook gives an overview of how Congress works, including a section on how a bill becomes a law. (If you want the nostalgic cartoon version you can watch it here.) Mayhew provides a vital discussion of what motivates members of Congress, and Fenno examines how Congress members interact with their constituents. Lee discusses how polarization influences congressional parties’ approach to the legislative process, and Sinclair discusses how the actual business of lawmaking differs from the “official” description given in the textbook. The optional textbook chapter covers interest groups; we don’t have a week on lobbying this summer but groups primarily interact with Congress so reading it this week would be appropriate.

Questions to consider:

  • What do members of Congress want? How does this influence what they do in the chamber?
  • How and how much does public opinion influence Congress?
  • How are the House and Senate similar to one another, and how are they different? Not just in terms of constitutional differences (2 vs. 6 year terms, etc), but in terms of how the chambers are organized and their approaches to passing legislation.


    Logic of American Politics, Chapter 6 (Chapter 13 optional)David R. Mayhew 1987 (1974) “The Electoral Connection and the Congress.” in Congress: Structure and Policy, Mathew D. McCubbins and Terry Sullivan, eds.Richard Fenno 1977 U.S. House Members in their Constituencies: An Exploration. American Political Science Review. 71:3 883-917Frances Lee. 2018. Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign. Chapter 3.Barbara Sinclair. 2006. Party Wars. Chapters 5, 6.

Requirements: 2pgs

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