The role of the Congress is essential to any study of American government and politics. It would be impossible to gain a complete understanding of the American system of government without an appreciation of the nature and workings of this essential body. This text looks at the workings of the United States Congress, and uses the Republican period of ascendancy, which lasted from 1994 until 2000, as an example of how the Congress works in practice. The book illustrates the basic principles of Congress using contemporary and recent examples, while also drawing attention to the changes that took place in the 1990s. The period of Republican control is absent from many of the standard texts and is of considerable academic interest for a number of reasons, not least the 1994 election, the budget deadlock in 1995 and the Clinton impeachment scandal of 1999. The book traces the origin and development of the United States Congress, before looking in depth at the role of representatives and senators, the committee system, parties in Congress, and the relationship between Congress and the President, the media and interest groups.

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15 The United States francisco e. gonzález and desmond king Any discussion of the United States’ political democratization is fundamentally complicated by its role since 1917 as a global model and defender of liberal democracy, a role that burgeoned after 1941. As a consequence of this responsibility, historically the United States’ democratization has been both a domestic and international process. National and international politics have presented two trajectories that cohere into a common narrative of democratization (King 2004). This narrative is a

in Democratization through the looking-glass
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7 President and Congress President John Tyler stated that he enjoyed good health, and felt much better since Congress had finally adjourned. (L. A. Godbright, 1869) At the heart of the Constitution is the separation of power between the President of the United States and Congress. The President has the roles of chief diplomat, Commander-inChief of the Armed Forces and, as head of the executive branch, the responsibility for executing the laws passed by Congress. While the President and Congress were given separate powers and responsibilities, the Founding

in The United States Congress

1 Origins and development of Congress All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. (The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 1) The origins of the Constitution In 1787, when the Founding Fathers of the United States of America crafted the Constitution – a Constitution which still endures today – they chose for the very first article, not the institution of the President or the Supreme Court, but the US Congress. The

in The United States Congress
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United States Congress 18 Table 2.1 Party control of the House and Senate since 1945 Congress Year House Senate 79th 80th 81st 82nd 83rd 84th 85th 86th 87th 88th 89th 90th 91st 92nd 93rd 94th 95th 96th 97th 98th 99th 100th 101st 102nd 103rd 104th 105th 106th 107th 1945–47 1947–49 1949–51 1951–53 1953–55 1955–57 1957–59 1959–61 1961–63 1963–65 1965–67 1967–69 1969–71 1971–73 1973–75 1975–77 1977–79 1979–81 1981–83 1983–85 1985–87 1987–89 1989–91 1991–93 1993–95 1995–97 1997–99 1999–2001 2001–03 Democrat Republican Democrat Democrat Republican Democrat Democrat

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5 Parties in Congress The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then get elected and prove it. (P. J. O’Rourke) One of the most often overlooked aspects of Congress is the role played by political parties. It is true that parties in the United States are weaker and more fragmented than many of their Western European counterparts. It is also true that the majority of members of

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, radio, television and the Internet for information about their elected representatives. This position gives the media the potential to influence the political agenda of the nation greatly. It also has opened up the media to accusations that it is not living up to its responsibilities. Development of the modern media In a country the size of the United States, the media has always had an important role to play in relaying information about 144 The United States Congress the federal government to citizens across the nation. From the beginning of the republic until

in The United States Congress

experience; only one-third of the Senate’s seats are up for election at any one time (leaving two-thirds of the Senate to continue their six-year term without the need for re-election) and the majority of the other members of Congress will be returning to their offices after successful reelection. As discussed in the previous chapter, on average, over 90 per cent of the Representatives and Senators who choose to run for re-election are successfully returned to the next Congress. 40 The United States Congress What sort of person gets elected? To make an

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9 Assessing the US Congress I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress. (President Ronald W. Reagan) At first glance, while the nation of the United States of America has changed greatly since the Constitution was written in 1787, the political system has remained remarkably stable. The United States is still a federal system, with its government based on the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. Congress, the legislative branch of the government, remains a

in The United States Congress

surprised by how few members are present during a typical debate. For low profile issues, or those which are technically complex, debates often take place with 106 The United States Congress only a handful of members present. This situation can change suddenly; when a vote is called or a quorum count is to be held, a bell is rung in the Capitol Building and surrounding offices and members pour through the corridors and the tunnels which connect their offices to Congress into the chamber. Floor debate The chambers of the House and Senate are where all legislation begins

in The United States Congress