Unit3_TheCongress - 1 Unit 3: The Congress Scope and Limits...

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1 Unit 3: The Congress Scope and Limits of Legislative Power Controversies Regarding the Legislative Branch: Term Limits, Electronic Voting, Pork-Barrel Spending, Campaign-Finance Reform Expected Outcomes : To understand the structure and process of the legislative branch, and to be familiar with both sides of the debate surrounding electronic voting and other controversies. Unit 3 Overview The US Constitution provides for "separation of powers" and "checks and balances," but it is still fair to claim that the Founding Fathers anticipated that Congress would be the most central branch of government – the branch that gave clearest voice to the diverse opinions and aspirations of voters. That's partly why its duties and responsibilities are included in Article I of the Constitution. The principal architect of the US Constitution, James Madison, made this clear in The Federalist Papers #51 : "But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates." James Madison also feared excessive power in the Congress, which is why he and others settled on the proposal for a "bicameral" legislative branch: a House of Representatives and a Senate. For a bill to become a law, it would have to pass both houses of Congress, which is difficult. As James Madison continued: "The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions."
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2 While Madison and others were acutely aware of the potential tyranny of a single despot, king or even president, they were also cautious about the concept of "direct democracy," suspecting that Congress might become a vehicle for "tyranny of the majority." In such a tyranny, a majority would begin to restrict the rights of individuals and minorities. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist #10 : A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischief of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. He saw direct democracy as a danger to individual rights and advocated a representative democracy (also called a republic), in order to protect what he viewed as individual liberty from majority rule, or from the effects of such inequality within society. Thomas Jefferson
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This note was uploaded on 06/18/2011 for the course POLS 210 taught by Professor Prof.wood during the Spring '11 term at American Public University.

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Unit3_TheCongress - 1 Unit 3: The Congress Scope and Limits...

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