Congress and the President
Political Studies 20
Professor Dana Ward
The major goal of this course is to provide an understanding of the relationship between Congress and the presidency. To reach that goal we must first acquire an understanding of each institution, including the different constituencies served, varying organizational structures, the often overlapping responsibilities with which each institution is charged, and the Constitutional foundations of each insitution. Particularly with Congress, an understanding of the historical roots of present organizational structures is essential. To a large extent Congress is an on-going body that remains unchanged from election to election. The presidency, on the other hand, undergoes fundamental change with each new administration (with the large exception of the executive bureaucracy), and each administration undergoes its own developmental process. Thus, the goals, values and character of each chief executive add considerable variation to the office of the president.
Given these different contexts, the course will focus on the roots of present operating procedures. We will pay considerable attention to the Constitution, the committee system, the electoral connection, and the legislative process. At the end of the course you should have an extensive knowledge of basic operating procedures in Congress, legislative terms, and the precise means by which a bill becomes a law. You should understand the different institutional responsibilities attached to Congress and the presidency and the basic ways in which the presidency has developed and been organized. The history of particular administrations, the personality of recent presidents, the powers of the president, executive leadership and policy making will be the major foci of our study of the presidency. Finally, throughout the course we will concentrate on the relationship between Congress and the president.
A. READINGS: The dates on the syllabus are the due dates for the readings listed under each section. It will require roughly two hours to complete each reading assignment. All readings are required and MUST be read BEFORE the date on the syllabus. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Classroom discussion is an extremely important part of this course. Therefore it is essential that you keep up with the reading requirements. This is not a course from which you will benefit if you are in the habit of putting off reading until forced to read by exam deadlines.
The following books have NOT been ordered for sale at the Huntley Book Store (although the books might have mysteriously arrived). The new management at the bookstore has made it far too difficult for faculty to order books and since the books can be easily and more cheaply ordered over the internet I will no longer be using Huntley as a source of texts. The following books are required for the course:
B. PARTICIPATION: All students are required to participate in the congressional simulation during the week of March 30-April 2. The simulation will require substantial time commitments, particularly during the evening from 6:30-10:00 of that week. There will be no Monday or Wednesday class meetings nor readings during the simulation week. If you have evening commitments, then you should either not take this course, or you must make arrangements to be relieved of those commitments during the simulation. FAILURE TO PARTICIPATE WILL RESULT IN AUTOMATIC FAILURE IN THE COURSE.
The simulation is a fun, but intense, experience. It will take place between March 30 and April 2. Two classes will be participating in the simulation: ours, and a class from CMC. Roughly one third of our classs will play roles from the Obama Administration, and the remaining roles will be as Republican or Democratic Senators as well as journalists and lobbyists. Journalists will report on the simulation (and should have web skills) and will also prepare the "Meet the Press" session which will be videotaped and played at the simulation opening. The lobbyists will represent different sides of issues covered this year: [to be determined]. There may be lobbyists from other classes also. The job of the lobbyist will be to persuade the Senate to pass legislation favorable to their cause. All roles will be assigned during the third week of class and require extensive research on the particular administration officer, Senator, lobbyist or journalist who you will play. This year's role assignments will be found here: following this link. The Simulation Rules can be found here. The schedule can be found here (at bottom of the page).
In addition, all students will be responsible for two five minute presentations, one covering "This Week in Congress" and one covering "This Week at the White House". Each Wednesday, the first twenty minutes of class will be devoted to current events on Capitol Hill and in the Oval Office. You will up-date on-going stories in the news and keep the class informed of important pending legislation and events. There are five main purposes to this exercise: 1) To familiarize yourself with useful sources on Congress and the president, e.g., CQ's Weekly Report, The National Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post and various online sources including those linked on this syllabus; 2) To keep yourself and the class up-to-date on current issues; 3) to provide an opportunity to sharpen your organizational and oral skills; 4) to provide a forum for discussion of topical issues; and 5) to promote classroom cooperation. The students reporting on Congress and the students reporting on the White House will have to consult with each other to insure a coherent ten minutes and to avoid redundancy. I strongly encourage you to subscribe to The New York Times. I will pass out information on discount subscriptions during the first week of class.
C. EXAMS: There will be two graded exams. The first exam will be given March 11 in class and will constitute ten percent of your final grade. It will cover lectures and reading material up to and including the March 11 readings. The second exam will be given May 6 and will constitute ten percent of your final grade. The second exam will cover lectures and reading material from March 24 through May 6 and will also constitute ten percent of your final grade. The focus of the exams will be on basic facts and concepts. There will be short answer questions in which you will demonstrate basic familiarity with terms, concepts, operating procedures and the like. Roughly half the first exam will require using a list of terms to describe how a bill becomes a law. Roughly half the second exam will require using a list of terms to describe how budgets are passed.
D. PAPERS: There are three required papers. The first paper is due February 23 and will constitute 15 percent of your final grade. It should be a five to seven page paper focusing on the role you will play in the simulation. If your role is an executive role, the paper should include a history of the office, a discussion of what role the office plays in the executive branch, a brief political biography focusing on the current occupant and the occupant's issue positions, and a comparison with previous office holders. If you are playing a journalist or lobbyist you will become "expert" in the area that lobbyist or journalist covers and the paper will also assess the literatures on lobbying or journalism and the public policy process. Most the paper will be a "policy analysis" of issues, but perhaps a quarter of the paper will focus on the individual journalist or lobbyist. The second paper is due April 20 and will also constitute 15 percent of your final grade. It should be a five to seven page paper on any topic covered in the course (except the topic of presidential or congressional elections), but you must clear your topic with me well before the paper is due. The third paper is due during the time scheduled for final exams on May 13 (submitted no later than 7:00 PM), and should be ten to twelve pages in length. Seniors: the final paper is due May 6. The third paper will focus on the relationship between Congress and the president during a post-war administration of your choice (i.e., from Truman through the current administration). While the paper is not due until the end of the semester, you should begin working on it tomorrow. Decide which administration you will analyze and begin reading background material now. If you wait until the last half of the course you will be too busy and will do an inadequate job. This is a paper you should be thinking about for three months, not three days. The final paper will constitute 30 percent of your final grade. For all papers, I expect proper citations of all sources. I much prefer APA style and you can find online guides to APA style, including internet citations at PsychWeb
LATE PAPERS WILL BE DOWN GRADED ONE GRADE FOR EACH 24 HOUR PERIOD THE PAPER IS LATE (e.g., from an A- to an AB). In addition, it is quite likely that I will simply grade late papers without providing my usual commentary.
E. PEER EVALUATIONS: There are two components to peer evaluations. Two thirds of the peer evaluation will be based on the simulation and will constitute ten percent of your final grade. By the first class after the simulation has been completed, each student will email to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) an evaluation of each student's performance in the simulation. Type the name of the student being evaluated, followed by a LETTER GRADE (e.g., A, A-, AB, B+, B, etc.). The evaluators will remain anonymous. The grade given should reflect your judgment of the student's understanding of the role played by the student, the student's knowledge of the legislative process and their contribution to the group effort. Some thought and consideration should be put into the evaluation. Perfunctory evaluations provide no benefit to anyone.
The second component of the peer evaluations is your evaluation of each of the other students' contribution to your understanding of Congress and the presidency. Did the student participate actively in class or outside class? How good were the students' oral presentations? In short, how effective was each student's participation in class in terms of adding to your knowledge of Congress and the presidency? Use the same format as in the simulation peer evaluations, i.e, email me the evaluation. Below the student's name and the assigned grade type as thorough and thoughtful an analysis as possible of the basis of your evaluation, emphasizing strengths and weaknesses and making suggestions for improvement. The second peer evaluations are due May 6 and will constitute five percent of your final grade. The combined peer evaluations will constitute fifteen percent of the final grade.
F. SELF EVALUATIONS: On Monday, January 26, each of you will submit a statement of your personal goals for this course. This statement should be as specific and detailed as possible. Plan your method for meeting the responsibilities of this course, set weekly goals and time schedules, or whatever will help you to think about why you are taking this particular course and how it fits in with your overall learning goals. Then, on the last day of class, you will turn in a self evaluation in which you will analyze how well you met your goals, how your goals changed, and what unforeseen goals emerged. You will then assign yourself an over-all grade based on your performance in this course and that grade will constitute five percent of your final grade.
G. There are a number of internet links you will find useful for preparing papers, presentations, and research on your simulation role. Over the semester more links will be added, but for now try these links:A Bill Becomes A Law
First Exam on March 11
Second Exam on May 6
First Paper due February 23
Second Paper due April 20
Final Paper due May 13