Chapter4 Overview - Chapter Overview Introduction: Case...

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Chapter Overview Introduction: Case Study: Negotiating the Legislative Labryinth; Congress and Democracy This chapter focuses on the structure and powers of Congress, the members of Congress and their roles, and the dynamics of the legislative process. The authors discuss the limitations that the framers intentionally placed on the Congress as well as the limitations due to the very design of the institution itself. Throughout the chapter, Congress is analyzed in terms of its ability, as an institution of the American government, to either aid or impede the country's approach to democracy. The opening case study deals with the struggle in Congress to pass campaign finance reform, despite the efforts of Senators McCain/Feingold and Representatives Shays/Meehan in the House. Finally, a change political climate in 2002 (McCain's efforts to publicize a ban on soft money; the defection of Senator Jeffords; the ties of the bankrupt energy corporation Enron to political officials) pushed the Campaign Reform bill into law. Passed in mid-February, 2002, the law banned the raising of soft money by national parties after November, 2002, changed the amount of individual contributions to candidates and state/local parties, and banned issue advocacy ads that ran within 30 days of an election primary or 60 days of a general election. The Structure and Powers of Congress The Congress of the United States is both powerful and democratic. This fact insures that the American public will press their claims upon Congress, seeking to influence the policy-making process. The framers intended such receptivity on the part of Congress, and worked to design an institution that, while powerful, would be limited and, therefore, open to the input of the citizenry. To achieve both power and democratic representation, the framers created a bicameral legislature. One chamber, the House of Representatives, would be directly elected by the people every other year. The Senate, on the other hand, was designed to be more independent of popular whim. Senators would be selected by their various state legislatures and serve a six year term; only one third of the Senate, however, would be selected in any two year election period. This bicameral structure would insure that Congress would check its own impulses as well as be checked by the powers of the president and Supreme Court. While the Constitution intentionally provides checks on congressional power, it also grants Congress significant powers in three important areas: economic affairs, domestic affairs, and foreign affairs. In addition, Congress is granted flexibility in the elastic clause that allows Congress to pass laws that are "necessary and proper" for executing the powers explicitly assigned to it in Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution. The Constitution, including Article 1, section 8, also limits the powers of Congress since
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Chapter4 Overview - Chapter Overview Introduction: Case...

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