These four questions are based on chapters 7-9 of the Landy textbook and our class discussions about them.
Among the primary duties of members of Congress is making laws. Discuss the process by which a bill becomes a law. In your discussion, be sure to include the role of each of the following in the lawmaking process: (a) the House Rules Committee and (b) the Conference Committee.
The Framers of the United States Constitution created a legislative system that is bicameral. However, it is not just bicameral; the framers also established two houses of distinctly different character and authority.
Identify and briefly discuss ONE way in which the House of Representatives and the Senate are different from each other and briefly discuss ONE reason why this difference is important.
Identify and briefly discuss ONE power unique to the House of Representatives and explain why the Framers gave the House this power.
Identify and briefly discuss ONE power unique to the Senate and explain why the Framers gave the Senate this power.
The 20th century witnessed a dramatic increase in the power of the presidency. In fact, the modern presidency has been described as the most powerful political office in the world.
Identify and briefly discuss TWO specific powers that the Constitution grants to the president or that the president has assumed since the 20th
Identify and briefly discuss TWO specific ways in which presidential power is restrained, limited, or checked.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton, writing in defense of the proposed Constitution, described the judiciary as “the least dangerous” branch of the federal government. Whereas the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and thus holds, as Hamilton put it, “the sword of the community,” and whereas Congress appropriates money and thus “commands the purse,” the judiciary “has no influence over either the sword or the purse” and “can take no active resolution whatever.” It has, Hamilton concluded, “neither
force nor will but merely judgment,” and thus is “beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power.”
Briefly explain in your own words Hamilton’s main claim here.
Identify and explain the primary power of the judicial branch within the system of
checks and balances.
Was Hamilton correct? Construct ONE argument in support of his claim and ONE
argument against it.
Answer the following questions in complete sentences, basing your responses on your reading of the essay “Why is the Constitution Not Democratic?” by Dennis Hale and Marc Landy:
What do the authors mean when they write that “the United States appears to have a government that makes it very difficult to accomplish anything”? Identify and briefly discuss ONE specific feature of the U.S. Constitution that slows down the process of lawmaking.
The authors point out that the Framers of the Constitution designed a system of government that “slow[s] down and even prevent[s] actions or policies that might be considered popular.” By “popular” actions or policies they mean those that express the will of the people (what they also call “majoritarian”). Identify and briefly discuss ONE specific way that the Constitution restrains the will of the people or majoritarian rule.
Why did the Framers design a constitution that places so many obstacles in the way of majority rule? Identify and briefly discuss ONE reason.
What do the authors mean by a stable majority as distinct from an ephemeral majority?
Identify and briefly discuss the specific historical example the authors give in the last part of their essay to illustrate how the long and often difficult process of democratic deliberation can lead to government action that does accomplish permanent and substantial results.
In reflecting on the course as a whole, what would you say are the two or three things that you learned about American government this semester that have been the most meaningful for you? What aspect of American government would you like to learn more about?
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