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Congress in Context

Book Description

"The U.S. Congress is by the far the least popular—and most misunderstood—branch of the federal government. Congress in Context de-mystifies the institution, giving students a comprehensive and practical understanding of Congress and the legislative process. This book takes a different approach to the study of Congress than other texts. Usually Congress is treated in isolation from the rest of the government. But the Framers of the Constitution explicitly intended for the branches of government to be interdependent. Congress in Context introduces readers to Congress’s critical role in the context of this interdependent system. Using the metaphor of a board of directors, the authors explain the three key roles of Congress within the federal government—authorizing what government does, funding its activities, and supervising how it carries out the laws Congress passes—and shows students how Congress interacts with the rest of the government to exercise these powers. The thoroughly expanded and revised second edition features brand-new chapters on Congress and the courts and Congress and interest groups. It also includes expanded coverage of Congress’s relationship with the executive branch, campaign finance, and today’s major budget issues. Grounded in the latest political science literature coupled with contemporary examples, Congress in Context offers students an informed yet accessible introduction to how the legislative branch carries out its duties."

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. List of Illustrations
  6. List of Features
  7. Preface
  8. Acknowledgments
    1. 1 | Congress as the Board of Directors
      1. Five Examples of the Federal Government in Action
      2. Congress as the Board of Directors
      3. Congress in a Separated System
      4. The Plan of the Book
    2. 2 | The Two Congresses: Lawmaking and Representation
      1. Two Distinct Responsibilities
      2. Conclusion: The Primacy of the Representative Role
    3. 3 | The House and Senate, Party Leadership and Committees
      1. The Great Compromise and the Origins of a Bicameral Legislature
      2. Today’s House of Representatives: Leadership and Committees
      3. Today’s Senate: Leadership and Committees
      4. House and Senate Organization and the Pressures of the Legislative and Representative Roles
      5. Conclusion: Constitutional Design and the Modern House and Senate
    4. 4 | Congressional Elections
      1. The Electoral Connection
      2. Running for Congress
      3. The Geographical Context of Congressional Elections
      4. The Incumbency Advantage
      5. Financing the Campaign
      6. Campaign Themes and Issues
      7. The Stakes in Congressional Elections
      8. Conclusion: The Board of Directors and the Continuous Campaign
    1. 5 | Understanding the Legislative Process
      1. First Principles of the Legislative Process
      2. Key Stages in the Legislative Process: The House
      3. Key Stages in the Legislative Process: The Senate
      4. Reconciling the Differences
      5. Conclusion
    2. 6 | Authorizing the Work of Government
      1. The Authorizing Committees
      2. Authorizing Legislation: Exerting Control over Government Policy
      3. Authorizing Direct Spending
      4. Conclusion
    3. 7 | The Power of the Purse
      1. Understanding the Federal Budget
      2. The President’s Budget: Kicking Off the Congressional Budget Process
      3. Congress Responds: The Concurrent Budget Resolution
      4. The Appropriations Process
      5. Conclusion: The Importance of the Power of the Purse
    4. 8 | Federal Budget Issues in the 21st Century
      1. The Budget Process: Keeping the Government Running
      2. The Major Issues Congress Faces: Deficits and Balancing the Budget
      3. Conclusion
    5. 9 | The Oversight Power
      1. The Central Purpose of Oversight: Protecting the People’s Liberties
      2. What Are the Limits to Congress’s Oversight Power?
      3. Bolstering Oversight Through Statute
      4. Why Oversight Happens
      5. Conclusion
    6. 10 | Methods of Congressional Oversight
      1. Congressional Oversight Committees and Hearings
      2. Congress Investigates: The Senate and the IRS
      3. Other Methods for Getting Results Through Oversight
      4. Conclusion: The Politics of Congressional Oversight
    1. 11 | Congress and the President: The Struggle over Directing Public Policy
      1. The Relationship Between the Branches in the 20th Century: A History of Delegation
      2. The Toolkits of Each Branch
      3. Putting the Toolkits to Work: Two Case Studies
      4. Congress and the President: Domestic Versus National Security Policy
      5. Conclusion: Who’s the Boss of the Federal Agencies?
    2. 12 | Congress and the Courts
      1. The Creation of the Federal Court System
      2. Congress and the Supreme Court: A History of Judicial Review
      3. The Nomination and Appointment Process
      4. Conclusion: The Federal Courts in the 21st Century
    3. 13 | Interest Groups and Congressional Policy Making
      1. The Universe of Interest Groups
      2. Lobbying Tactics
      3. Corruption and the Regulation of Lobbying
      4. Conclusion: How Influential Are Interest Groups?
    4. 14 | Congress in the 21st Century
      1. Congress’s Inherent Limitations
      2. Congress Admits Its Weaknesses
      3. Congress’s Fatal Flaws: Not What People Think
      4. Conclusion: Can Congress Work in the 21st Century?
  12. Appendix: A Century of Congress
  13. Glossary of Key Terms
  14. Index