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American Government. Unit 4. Lesson 21 pages 143-150. What is the role of Congress in American Constitutional Democracy?

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lesson 21 pages 143 150
Lesson 21pages 143-150

What is the role of Congress in American Constitutional Democracy?

  • Objective: Explain the basic differences between Congress and the British Parliament and how Congress reflects America’s commitment to representative government and federalism. Identify constitutional sources of congressional power. Identify several challenges member of Congress face in representing and serving their constituents. Evaluate, take and defend positions on contemporary issues about congressional representation and organization.
how does congress differ from the b ritish parliament
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • Representation
  • Separation of Powers
  • Length of Terms
  • Federalism
how does congress differ from the british parliament
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?

1.Representation

  • In 1999 the Labor government abolished the hereditary right in the English Parliament.
  • House of Lords- has about 1200 members (many who are honorary)
    • Final court of appeal for civil cases through Britain and for criminal cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
how does congress differ from the british parliament1
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • House of Commons- preeminent body of Parliament
    • Members are elected and hold office until Parliament is dissolved or for a maximum of five years.
    • Members represent a geographic division.

US take away: wanted Congress to represent all people, not particular social classes. House: Diverse constituents, frequent turnover (2 years). Senate: 6 years representing the whole state.

how does congress differ from the british parliament2
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?

2. Separation of Powers

  • Parliament- close link between the executive and the legislature.
  • People vote for a party platform when voting for members of the House of Commons.
  • Party in power claims a “mandate to govern”.
  • That party’s leader becomes the Prime Minister.
  • Prime Minister is the Chief Executive AND he Chief Legislative Officer.
how does congress differ from the british parliament3
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • Member of that party also hold all cabinet level positions.
  • Creates a unified government to legislate and execute policy.

US take away: 2 co-equal branches. Congress makes laws, but does NOT pick the President. Congress also plays a limited role in who will be in the cabinet and in the federal courts.

how does congress differ from the british parliament4
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • US- Article I Section 6 – prohibits any member of Congress from occupying any other office in the federal government.
  • Thereby preventing any form of a parliamentary system in our government.
how does congress differ from the british parliament5
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?

3. Length of Terms:

  • House of Commons- not on a fixed schedule. Must occur every 5 years, but can occur sooner.
  • Prime Minister can call for an earlier election if he/she thinks that his party can win a larger percentage in the House of Commons.
  • If the party in power loses a vote of confidence in Parliament another election can be triggered.
how does congress differ from the british parliament6
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • USA – members have specific times for elections, no matter how popular or unpopular they are.
  • The elections for Senate are staggered. 1/3 is up for election every 2 years.
how does congress differ from the british parliament7
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?

4. Federalism

  • Federalism is a constitutional arrangement in which power is divided and shared between a central government having nationwide responsibilities and constituent governments having state or local representation.
  • In Great Britain- cities and towns have their own local governments, but they are administrative units of the central governments. Powers are delegated to them by the national government.
how does congress differ from the british parliament8
How does Congress differ from the British Parliament?
  • USA: legislative body – Congress, but also state legislative bodies that wield considerable power.
  • National government and state governments.
what are congress s constitutional powers
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?
  • Framers saw Congress as the strongest branch (making laws). So they carefully LIMITED ITS POWERS.
  • Article I, Section 8: limits powers to those “herein granted”. 17 specifics and #18 is the elastic clause.
  • Article I, Section 9: identifies several matters that Congress “shall not legislate”
    • Ex:
      • No export taxes
      • Title of nobility
      • All $ must have appropriations bill
what are congress s constitutional powers1
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?
  • Bill of Rights: lists rights that Congress “shall not infringe”:
    • Examples:
      • No national religion
      • No laws regarding speech
      • No laws limited the language of the press
      • No excessive fines
      • No cruel and unusual punishments
      • etc
what are congress s constitutional powers2
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?

1. Enumerated powers:

  • Listed in Art. I, Section 8:
    • Regulate commerce with foreign governments and states
    • Interpreted as: manufacturing, child labor, farm production, wages, work hours, labor unions, civil rights, interstate commerce and foreign commerce.
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What are Congress’s constitutional powers?
  • Article 2
    • Senate must advise and consent when the president:
      • Makes treaties
      • Appoints ambassadors
      • Appoints judges
      • Other public officials
  • Article 3
    • Complete control over the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
    • Authority to create lower courts
what are congress s constitutional powers4
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?
  • Article 4:
    • Power to admit new states and adopt rules and regulations respecting US territories and properties.
  • Article 5:
    • Can propose constitutional amendments.
what are congress s constitutional powers5
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?

2. Implied Powers

  • Comes from the necessary and proper clause.
  • Create a national bank
  • Create hundreds of agencies to make rules and execute laws. Most of these are found in the executive branch.
  • Congressional oversight- monitoring and supervising agencies of the government.
  • Appropriating funds to those agencies.
what are congress s constitutional powers6
What are Congress’s constitutional powers?

3. Enforcement Powers

  • 13th Amendment was the first to give power to Congress to enforce it “by appropriate legislation”.
  • 14,15,19,23,24 and 26.
  • 1960-1970s- Congress used its enforcement powers to enact sweeping changes in civil rights, voting rights and employment laws.
  • Commerce Clause- enforce civil rights
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What are Congress’s constitutional powers?

4. Inherent Powers:

  • Powers that are innate or ingrained in an institution – do not need to be stated in words:
  • Congress’ power to investigate.
how does congress represent the people and the states
How does Congress represent the people and the states?
  • Both people AND states have a voice in Congress.
  • No term limits on members.
  • Before 1842- all states voted “at large” for representatives
  • After 1842- all states that have a population large enough to have more than one representative are divided into districts that in turn vote for a single member of Congress. Called: single-member-districts.
why is districting controversial
Why is districting controversial?
  • No matter how the lines are drawn, some groups will be benefited and some groups will be harmed.
  • District lines within a state must be drawn so that the number of people in each district is mathematically equal to the number of people in the other districts.
  • “one person= one vote”
why is districting controversial1
Why is districting controversial?
  • Gerrymandering: Drawing lines to achieve favorable political results for on political party.
why is districting controversial2
Why is districting controversial?
  • 1913- 17th Amendment- direct election of senators- state wide- all states get two.
  • 1913- Congress fixed the size of the House of Representatives at 435 members. Most districts have about 700,000.
  • Other nations have larger representative bodies:
    • Germany- 672 ,69
    • Mexico 500, 128
    • Both of these countries have populations much lower than the US.
what theories of representation guide members of congress
What theories of representation guide members of Congress?
  • Delegate theory of representation: delegates must mirror their constituents
  • Trustee theory of representation: gain the trust of their constituents and exercise their best judgment
  • Most members say that they do both.
how do members of congress serve their constituents
How do members of Congress serve their constituents?
  • Communications: letters, newsletters, media appearances, websites, blogs, town hall meetings and other personal appearances in the district
  • Casework: employs staff in DC and local offices. Helps constituents solve problems with the national government, personal favors, help in agencies (IRS, SSA, Tours). Usually helps get them reelected.
  • Serving Constituent’s interests and concerns: introducing legislation, sponsoring amendments, work on federal projects in their district or state.
finishing up
Finishing up!

Reflect!

Work on your PROJECTS!