CMC Gov 101, Spring 2010
Monday and Wednesday 2:45-4:00
Classroom: Bauer 23
J.J. Pitney -- Office: D16 Center Court
Hours: Monday and Wednesday 11AM-noon, 4:15-5:15 PM
these times are inconvenient, please make an appointment
Like a vast picture thronged
with figures of equal prominence and crowded with elaborate and obtrusive
details, Congress is hard to see satisfactorily and appreciatively at a single
view and from a single stand-point.
complicated forms and diversified structure confuse the vision, and conceal
the system which underlies its composition.
It is too complex to be understood without effort, without a careful
and systematic process of analysis.
-- Woodrow Wilson, Congressional
In this course, we shall undertake such analysis.
We shall ask how lawmakers behave at home and on Capitol Hill.
We shall study Congress's procedures and structures, with an eye to
explaining why some bills pass while others languish.
Class sessions will include lecture and discussion.
Finish each week's readings before class because our
discussions will involve those readings.
We shall also talk about breaking news stories about Congress, so you
read a good daily news source such as
Real Clear Politics.
Our class blog is at
shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We
shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your
convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog.
(Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I
encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the
readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions
with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.
part of your class participation grade, all students must post to the blog
at least twice.
The following will make up your course grade:
One three-page essay
One five-page essay
The papers will develop your research and
writing skills. In grading your
papers, I will take account of the quality of your writing, applying the
Strunk and White’s
of Style. If you object to this approach, do not take this
course, or anything else that I teach.
simulation will require you to study your part and
spend several sessions in character.
not take this class if you cannot take part in the simulation.
exam will test your comprehension of course material.
Graduating seniors will turn in a take-home exam, due on the last day of
will hone your ability to think on your feet, as I shall call on students at
random. If you often miss class
or fail to prepare, your grade will suffer.
Because we have a take-home exam instead of a sit-down, I shall use the
cold calls to judge how well you are keeping up with the material.
object to this approach, do not take this course. I also
expect you to post relevant material to the blog.
In addition to the required readings (below), I may also give you
emails, and web links covering current events and basic factual
information. The exam may cover
a courtesy to your fellow students, please arrive on time, and refrain from
eating in class.
Check due dates for coursework and the exam. Arrange your schedule
accordingly. Do not plan on
or any other form of academic dishonesty will result in referral to the
Academic Standards Committee. See:
Gary J. Andres, Lobbying Reconsidered: Under the Influence (New York:
Pearson Longman, 2009).
H. Davidson, Walter J. Oleszek, and Frances E. Lee, Congress and Its Members, 12th ed.
(Washington: CQ Press, 2010).
- Louis Fisher, Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the
President, 5th ed. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas,
John F. Kennedy,
Profiles in Courage (New York: HarperCollins, 2006 ).
Schedule The schedule is subject to change, with advance notice.
Jan 20: Introduction
"Ron Howard is about to make a risky
career move. His friend and collaborator, Russell Crowe, is
waxing poetic about Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal and
laws passed by Parliament to battle the Great Depression
when Howard musters the courage to interrupt the star. `Pssst,'
Howard says, leaning over, his mouth cupped. `It's Congress.
Congress passes the laws in the U.S.'" --
What are the
major functions of Congress?
Jan 25, 27: Two Chambers, Two Congresses
"Larry, you know, one of the things that's most troublesome to
me, having come from a state legislature, is the lack of
interaction between the House and the Senate. You know, there's
just an institutional barrier there. And I tell you this, I'm
not really sure what's going on." --
Rep. Barney Frank (D--MA)
are the "two Congresses"?
Do lawmakers present different faces on Capitol Hill and at home? What are the major differences between the
House and Senate?
ESSAY ASSIGNED JAN 27, DUE FEBRUARY 10.
READ STRUNK AND
Feb 1, 3: Elections
"I think Katrina just did us a big favor, to
be crass about it." -- Then-DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel, 2005.
Who runs for the House and Senate?
How do House and Senate elections differ?
8, 10: Leaders, Followers and Parties
"Having five children in six years is the best training in the world for
speaker of the House. It made me the ultimate multitasker and
the master of focus, routine and scheduling." -- Nancy Pelosi
Do leaders drive the rank-and-file
members, or merely reflect their views? What is the connection between congressional parties
and electoral parties? How does majority or minority status change the way
lawmakers do their work?
Oleszek, ch. 5-6
Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, "The Johnson System,"
in The Legislative Process in the US Senate, eds. Lawrence K. Pettit
and Edward Keynes (Chicago: Rand-McNally, 1969).
Feb 15, 17: Legislative Process I
"The problem with hotlining bills is they
don't get due deliberation. Here is a stack of bills that were offered by
unanimous consent in the Senate before the August break. Most of the Senators
had never read the bills, didn't know what was in the bills. Thankfully, many of
them were objected to by Members of the Senate. It is not a good way to
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).
Do lawmakers actually read or write the
bills? What are the strategies and tactics of legislative drafting?
What do committees do? How do they differ from one another?
ONE-PAGE MEMO ON SIMULATION ROLE DUE FEBRUARY 17.
PAPER ASSIGNED FEBRUARY 17, DUE MARCH 3.
Feb 22, 24:
Legislative Process II
“If you let me write procedure and I let you write
substance, I'll screw you every time.” --
John Dingell (D-MI)
How does the majority try to control the floor? How can the minority
overcome the majority's procedural advantage? How does Congress
deliberate on issues?
Mar 1, 3: Congress and
"A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate
Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. `There are a
number of things he was for on the campaign trail,' quipped Pelosi, who has no
intention of making the deliberations public. People familiar with Pelosi's
thinking wasted little time in explaining precisely what she meant by a `number
of things' – saying it reflected weeks of simmering tension on health care
between two Democratic power players who have functioned largely in lock-step
during Obama’s first year in office.: --
The Politico 1/1/10
In the struggle between Congress and the
president, what circumstances favor each side? How does the president
try to influence Congress?
Davidson & Oleszek, ch. 10
Fisher, ch. 5-6
Readings on President Obama & Congress, TBA
Mar 8, 10: Congress and the
"Can I quit now? Can I go home?" -- FEMA
director Michael Brown, during Hurricane Katrina
How do bureaucratic and congressional
structures affect each other? Do "iron triangles" actually exist?
How well does Congress oversee the bureaucracy?
Mar 15, 17: Spring Break
Mar 22, 24: Congress, Courts, and
"Depending on whose party is running the
show, the arguments about how judges should be confirmed has gone back and
forth like a windshield wiper. When the GOP was out of power, Republicans
pounded the table about their responsibility to study the records of the
nominees, while the Democrats insisted the president deserved deference.
Flip things around and — boom — the Republicans want deference and the Dems
bust out the Federalist Papers." --
How do interest groups try to influence judicial confirmations and other
Mar 29-Apr 1:
Legislative Simulation --
Legislative sessions may
run from Monday through Friday nights.
“Termination of fecundation.” -- 1998 simulation
April 5, 7: Congress and Interest Groups
"At least 166 former aides
from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in
shaping health overhaul legislation – along with at least 13 former lawmakers –
registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of
last year, according to the analysis. Their health care clients spent $635
million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows. The total of
insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying
on health issues are added in, the analysis found." -
Chicago Tribune, 12/20/09
n the relationship between Congress and interest groups, which is more
prevalent: bribery by lobbyists, or extortion by lawmakers?
Budgets and Domestic Policy
"They sought to secure money for their
favorite causes outside of the congressional appropriations process -- a
practice that lobbyists and appropriations insiders call `phonemarking.'" --
report on how lawmakers reacted to curbs on
How does Congress manage budgets,
appropriations, and revenue legislation? How much federal spending is
controllable? How do budgetary and policy goals shape each other?
WRITEUP DUE APRIL 14.
National Security, Homeland
Security, and Foreign Policy
Al Qaeda is what, I asked,
Sunni or Shia?
“Al Qaeda, they have both,”
Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”
“Sure,” I said, not knowing
what else to say.
“Predominantly — probably
Shiite,” he ventured.
He couldn’t have been more
wrong. Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an
al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer
Jeff Stein interview with
Silvestre Reyes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee
Can Congress effectively check the executive branch in wartime? Do
lawmakers have the expertise and information to make decisions about
national and homeland security?
Apr 26, 28: Reviewing Congressional
"It quickly became clear that there is nothing new or unusual about the
pattern of sharp partisanship shown in the past two presidential
elections and in the frequent battles on Capitol Hill. David Brady of
Stanford University made the point that the late 19th century and parts
of the 20th century were also times of party warfare; the anomaly was
the relative truce for roughly 25 years after World War II." --
How does today's Congress compare with that of
the past? Have lawmakers gotten better or worse?
May 3, 5: Reviewing
Congressional History II
"It may take courage to battle one's
president, one's party, or the overwhelming sentiment of one's nation; but these
do not compare, it seems to me, to the courage required of the Senate defying
the angry power of the very constituents who control his future." -- John
Will Congress yield more
ground to the White House? Have the two chambers become more alike? Are
the two Congresses ultimately compatible?
FINAL EXAMINATION TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2:00 PM.