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Congress Today How well does the system designed in 1787 serve us today? Is Congress the “supreme” branch? Should it be?

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Presentation on theme: "Congress Today How well does the system designed in 1787 serve us today? Is Congress the “supreme” branch? Should it be?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Congress Today How well does the system designed in 1787 serve us today? Is Congress the “supreme” branch? Should it be?

2 But first...some review Locke: Legislative is “supream branch” because makes laws affecting entire body politics All branches subject to the law Legislative closest to people; most responsive to people’s will

3 Virginia Plan First house elected by people (proportionately) Plenary legislative power First house selects second house Legislature selects President and Courts Veto power over state legislation Council of Revision to assure deliberation

4 Instead of Virginia plan... States represented in second house Legislature has no say in selection of President; limited say about federal judges Legislative power limited –All power “herein granted” –Bicameral legislature/successive majorities –Checks by other branches

5 First Congress the most productive in history Achievements Organizational decisions Overseeing growth of country

6 Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, An online exhibit of the documentary history of the most productive Congress in US history k - Cached - Similar pagesBirth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress CachedSimilar pagesBirth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress · Next Page. The First Federal Congress: Introduction The Federal Procession in New York, k - Cached - Similar pagesCachedSimilar pages

7 Developments affecting Congress’ power Bill of Rights Political parties Judicial review Wars and emergencies Civil War Amendments Increase in size

8 Where is power today? Congress? –House –Senate Presidency? Bureaucracy? Supreme Court? States? Media?

9 What are Congress’ most important functions today? Enacting legislation? Constituent casework? Executive oversight? Approving nominees? Other?

10 Factors affecting Congress’s performance Executive proposes most legislation “Pork barrel” Ethics scandals Political parties Money in politics Internal organization Others?

11 How Confident Are Americans in Their Public Institutions? How should confidence be measured? Public opinion polls? Blogs? Voter turnout? Talk shows?

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13 2008 Gallup Poll

14 Group discussion Working in small groups, identify the factors you believe contribute to low public opinion of Congress. Identify a spokesperson to report to the group as a whole.

15 Center on Congress, Indiana University Established 1999 Non-partisan Extensive programs

16 Lee Hamilton Newsletters, Center on Congress Overview Is This The Congress We Want? We Can't Wait Much Longer To Fix Congress Lobbying Murkiness Undermines Our Trust in Congress Congress Confuses the Public and Itself Congressional Bickering Who Lobbies for the Rest of Us? It's Time for the Public to Fund Congressional Travel Congress Needs to Invigorate Its Ethics System, Not Weaken It Why Congress Must Learn To Look Ahead Broken Budget Process Congress and Individual Liberties A Balanced View of Congress The Money Chase Tackling the Tough Issues Is Congress out of Touch? Congress and the Pork Barrel

17 GROUP PROPOSALS Working in different small groups, prepare a list of recommendations for large group discussion about Congress. Consider the following possibilities (and any others you think appropriate)... Identify a spokesperson to report to the group.

18 What needs to be done? Nothing—for many reasons! Internal changes—rules/organization Public education Constitutional change

19 Group debrief Compare proposals Discuss strategies for achieving change if change is desirable

20 CONCLUDING QUESTIONS Should the Constitution be amended to strengthen or weaken Congress? Will Congress exercise oversight when it is of the same party as the President? Can Congress legislate effectively when it is not of the same party as the President? How can citizen awareness/participation be improved?


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