Congress: The First Branch

Congress: The First Branch

Congress: The First Branch

Congress: The First Branch

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Written by an award-winning political scientist and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is now an instructor, Congress: The First Branch introduces students to the inner workings of Congress. The text examines the process by which laws are made and passed and the many factors that influence congressional decisions. Presenting the standard material covered in the typical Congress class, this text also pays special attention to the overarching trends in the legislature—specifically hyper-partisanship and the high rates of reelection for incumbents in the midst of very low public regard for the institution. Given all that is at stake, Congress: The First Branch highlights the role of Congress as a critical component in the separation-of-powers system and in creating law and policy for the United States. The combination of these elements creates a unique text that provides students with an insider's look at real life on Capitol Hill.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199811304
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 01/10/2019
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Sean M. Theriault is an award-winning instructor and scholar. He currently serves as Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mickey Edwards was a member of Congress for sixteen years, serving on the House Budget and Appropriations Committees and as Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. He has taught at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He currently serves as Vice President of the Aspen Institute, where he directs a bipartisan fellowship for elected public officials.

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Fundamentals

Chapter 1: The Complexity of Congress
Congress Seen and Unseen
Congress: The First Branch of Government
Empowerment and Constraint: The Limits of Power
Herding Cats: Choosing to Make Things Difficult
A Matter of Principle
A Matter of Politics
A Matter of Party
Caught in the Web: Conflicting Interests
The Culture of Congress
Congress in Perspective

Chapter 2: The People
I. Vox Populi - The Voice of the People
What do Constituents Expect?
How Members View the Constituency
Presentation of Self

II. The Complexities Behind "Vox Populi"
Whose Views Matter?
Determining the Constituents' Preferences and Interests
The Absence of Committed Political Views
The American Public Doesn't Have Faith in the System
The American Public is Politically Ignorant
Voter Turnout

III. Restoring the American Public
The Vigilant American Spirit
Police Patrols and Fire Alarms
The Electoral Process: Adversarial and Competitive
"Potential" Preferences

Chapter 3: Getting Elected to Congress
I. A Historical Perspective on Congressional Elections
Early Congressional Election Contests
The Era of Strong Parties
Candidate-Centered Elections

II. The Four Factors of Congressional Elections
Fixed Factors
Long-term Factors
Medium-term Factors
Short-term Factors
Which Factors Matter Most?

III. The Campaign
The Candidates
The Incumbents
The Power of Money
Campaign Finance Laws
The Power of Organization
The Power of Ideas
IV. Who Wins?
Quality Challengers
Really Lucky Candidates

V. Who Votes?

Chapter 4: Being a Member of Congress
I. The Members of Congress
Race, Ethnicity, and Sex of Members of Congress
Other Member Characteristics

II. Perquisites of Serving in Congress
Health Care Coverage
Office and Other Expenses

III. The Daily Life of a Member
IV. How Members Vote
V. Members Goals
Providing Good Constituent Service
Formulating Good Public Policy
Furthering their Political Careers
Having Majority Party Status

Part 2: The Legislative Process

Chapter 5: The Legislative Process
I. The Textbook Process
II. Introducing a Bill
The Floor
—The House of Representatives
—The Senate
Action after the Floor
On to the White House
The End of a Congress
III. Different Pieces of Legislation
IV. Implications of the Textbook Process

Chapter 6: Modern Developments in the Legislative Process
I. Forces that Brought about the Irregular Order
Individual Member Enterprises
The Stalling of Civil Rights Legislation
Supreme Court Opinions
Northernization of the South; Southerniztion of the North
The Fiscalization of Politics
The Sorting of the Parties by Ideology
Party Competition
The Imperial President
II. The Irregular Order
Multiple Referrals
Subcommittee Bill of Rights
Discharge Petitions and the Threat of Discharge Petitions
Omnibus Bills
Continuing Resolutions
Ad Hoc Working Groups and Task Forces
Restrictive Rules
Special Special Rules
Complex Unanimous Consent Agreements
Self-Executing Rules and Post-Committee Adjustments
Avoiding Conference Committees
Fast Track Authority
Filibusters and Holds
Death by Amendment and the Filling of Amendment Trees

III. Consequences of the Changes

Chapter 7: The Committees
I. The History of Committees
II. The Committee System of Today
Authorizing Committees
The Appropriations Committees
The Taxing Committees
The Budget Committees
Other Committees
III. The Makeup of Committees
Committee Leadership
Committee Assignments

IV. Ranking the Committees
V. The Committees at Work
In Committee
To the Floor

VI. Studying the Committee System

Chapter 8: Political Parties
I. History of Political Parties in Congress
II. Political Parties in the Contemporary Congress
Unified Constituencies
Intense Party Competition
Polarized Parties

III. The Structure of Leadership
The Speaker
Majority Leader of the Senate
Majority Leader in the House
The Minority Leaders
The Whips
Conference or Caucus Chairmen
Party Campaign Committees
Other Leadership Positions
Leadership Staff
Winning a Leadership Position
IV. The Resources of Party Leaders
Committee assignments
The Power of Party Leaders during Floor Debates
Conference Committees and Negotiations Between Chambers

Chapter 9: External Influences
I. The President
Party Leader
Unilateral Actor

II.The Bureaucracy
III. The Courts
IV. Interest Groups
Interest Groups as an Extension of Members' Offices
Interest Groups and Watch Dogs over the Bureaucracy

V. The Media

Chapter 10: The Congress of the Future

Appendix: Modeling the Legislative Process
I. Criteria for Evaluating Models
Clarity of Assumptions, Processes, and Outcomes
Surprise Valley

II. Lawmaking Models
Median Voter
Pivotal Politics Model
Streams Analysis
Punctuated Equilibrium
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