"What's Wrong with Congress?"

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center; Mondays, September 8, 15, 22, and 29, 2014; 4-6 p.m.
JeDon Emenhiser, Emeritus Professor of Politics, Humboldt State University

Through class discussion, a number of mini-lectures, and a few optional readings we shall examine some structural and procedural characteristics of Congress, plus other elements of American society to decide tentatively why Congress may be failing. Members of the class may select for discussion those elements they believe most likely explain Congressional defects.

References and Recommended Reading

Constitution of the United States, As Amended, Unratified Amendments, Analytical Index, 2007.

C-SPAN Congressional Glossary

Kaiser, Robert G. 2013. Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How it Doesn't. New York: Knopf, 417 pp.

Scheiber, Noam. 2013. "Chamber Made," The New York Times, July 11.

Binder, Sarah. 2014. "Polarized We Govern," Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. current. The United States Government Manual, Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Haskell, John, Sara Grove, and Marian Currinder. 2014. Congress in Context. Boulder: Westview, 504 pp.

Johnson, Charles W. 2003. "How Our Laws Are Made," Washington, D.C.: House of Representatives, 108th Congress.


Topics for Discussion

Each week we shall focus on a general topic and discuss those elements that might explain some of the defects in Congress. Bibliographies list works used for the mini-lectures and provide sources for optional reading.

Week I. Introduction to the Course and Discussion of Congressional Powers and Functions, Monday, September 8, 2014.


Discussion of Congressional Powers and Functions. What is Congress supposed to do? (Represent, Legislate (Authorize and Appropriate), Confirm, Consent, Oversee, Investigate, Impeach?) What does it really do? Why is it failing to do what it is supposed to do? What can we do about it?

Fenno, Richard F., Jr. 1978. Home Style: House Members in Their Districts. Boston: Little Brown. 304 pp.

Grimmer, Justin. 2013. Representational Style in Congress: What Legislators Say and Why It Matters. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hibbing, John R., and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. 1995. Congress as Public Enemy: Public Attitudes toward American Political Institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press. 208 pp.

_____. 2002. Stealth Democracy: Americans' Beliefs about How Democracy Should Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Macedo, Stephen. 2009. "Toward a More Democratic Congress?" Boston University Law Review, 89:609-628.

Manning, Jennifer E. 2014. "Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile," Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. January 13.

U.S. House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 2d Session. 2014. H. Res. 644. Reported with amendments, referred to the House Calendar, July 31.

Week II. Congressional Campaigns and Elections. Monday, September 15, 2014.
Staggered Terms, Apportionment, Single-Member Districting (the U.S. Constitution, State Legislatures, Commissions, Governors, Commissions, Popular Initiatives, Gerrymandering), Factions, Parties, Calendar Elections, Plurality Winners, Voting Rights and Turnout, Campaign Finance, Polls, and Media (Information or Entertainment, Editors, Reporters, Commentators, and Pundits).

113th Congress, 2d Session. 2013. S.J. Res. 19.

Blow, Charles M. 2014. "The Politics of the ISIS Threat," The New York Times, August 31.

Burden, Barry C., and Charles Stewart, III, eds. 2014. The Measure of American Elections. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Burstein, Paul. 2014. American Public Opinion, Advocacy, and Policy in Congress: What the Public Wants and What It Gets. New York: Cambridge University Press.

*Committee on Political Parties, American Political Science Association, "Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System," The American Political Science Review, Supplement, 44 (3, Pt. 2 September).

The Editorial Board. 2014. "Legal Authority for Fighting ISIS," The New York Times, September 11.

Emenhiser, JeDon A. 1994. Book Review: Mark E. Rush, Does Districting Make a Difference?: Partisan Representation and Electoral Behavior, Congress and the Presidency, 21: (2 Autumn): 151-152.

Goodwin, Kenneth, Scott Ainsworth, and Erik Godwin. 2012. Lobbying and Policymaking: The Public Pursuit of Private Interests. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hibbing, John R., Kevin B. Smith, and John R. Alford. 2013. Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. New York: Routledge.

Jacobson, Gary C. 2012. Politics of Congressional Elections. 8th ed.; New York: Pearson. 320 pp.

Lessig, Lawrence. 2013. Brief of Amicus Curiae in Support of Federal Election Commission. No. 12-536. July.

Lofgren, Mike. 2012. The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. New York: Penguin. 232 pp.

Lopez, Ian Haney. 2014. Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class. New York: Oxford University Press. On Bill Moyers

Mayhew, David R. 2004. Congress: The Electoral Connection. 2nd ed.; Yale University Press. 216 pp.

Nader, Ralph. 2014. Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. New York: Nation Books.

Nichols, John, and Robert McChesney. 2005. Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy America. New York: New Press.

_____. 2013. Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election-Complex is Destroying America. New York: Nation Books.

Nixon, Ron. 2013. "Typhoon Revises Debate on U.S. Food Aid Methods," The New York Times, November 22.

Noel, Hans. 2014. Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Odegard, Peter H. 1928. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League. New York: Columbia University Press. HV5287.A64 O4.

Patterson, Thomas E. 1993. Out of Order. New York: Random House.

Center for Responsive Politics

Post, Robert C. 2014. Citizens Divided: Campaign Finance Reform and the Constitution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 264 pp.

Potok, Mark. 2011, 2014. "HATEWATCH" and "The Year in Hate and Extremism," Southern Poverty Law Center.

Roberts, Cokie, and Steven V. 2014. "One Small Blow against Gridlock," express, July 16.

Shultz, David A. 2000. It's Show Tie!: Media, Politics, and Popular Culture. New York: Peter Lang.

Sherman, Gabriel. 2014. The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox New–and Divided a Country. Interview with author: "Book Chronicles the Building of Roger Ailes' Fox News Empire," Fresh Air, National Public Radio, January 16.

Schumer, Senator Charles E. 2014. "End Partisan Primaries, Save America," The New York Times, July 21, 2014.

The Upshot. 2014. "Senate Forecasts," The New York Times, current.

Week III. Discussion of Congressional Structures and Procedures, Monday, September 22, 2014.
Public Interest, Pluralism, and the Right to Petition, Interest Groups (PACs, Think Tanks, and 527s, Whirlpools and Networks, Bicameralism, Divided Government (Separate Institutions Competing for Shared Power and Advice and Consent), Party Leadership (Caucus and Conference, Speaker, Leaders, Whips), House Rules Committee and Senate Unanimous Consent (Filibuster, Silent Threat, Secret Holds, Senatorial Courtesy, Blue Slip) and Cloture (Rule XXII), Staff (Congressional Research Service, Governmental Accountability Office, Congressional Budget Office, Committees, and Personal).

Schoolhouse Rock. 1975. "I'm Just a Bill."

Bailey, Stephen K. 1950. Congress Makes a Law: The Story Behind the Employment Act of 1946. New York: Columbia University Press. 282 pp.

Blow, Charles M. 2014. "The Do-Even-Less Congress," The New York Times, August 3.

Chu, Vivian S., and Todd Garvey. 2014. "Executive Orders: Issuance, Modification, and Revocation," Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, April 16.

Committee on Rules & Administration, U.S. Senate. Current. "Rule XII."

Corey, John L., and JeDon Emenhiser. 2008. "Chapter I, Representation and Legislative Behavior: Representation in California's State Legislature," Social Science Research and Instructional Council.

Davidson, Roger, Walter J. Oleszek, and Frances E. Lee. 2011. Congress and Its Members. 13th ed.; Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 664 pp.

Davis, Christopher M. 2013. "Invoking Cloture in the Senate," Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. November 25.

Dobb, Lawrence C., and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, eds. 2012. Congress Reconsidered. 10th ed.; Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. 532 pp.

Editorial Board. 2013. "Democracy Returns to the Senate,"The New York Times, November 21.

_____. 2014."The Custom-Made 'Super PAC'," The New York Times, August 3.

Green, Matthew N. 2010. The Speaker of the House. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Griffith, Ernest S. 1952. Congress: Its Contemporary Role. New York: New York University Press, 193 pp. *Review by Senator Estes Kefauver, Louisiana Law Review 12 (2 January): 222-224.

Heclo, Hugh. "Issue Networks and the Executive Establishment," in Anthony King, ed., The New American Political System. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, pp. 87-124.

Hulse, Carl. 2014. "Post-Filibuster, Obama Faces New Anger over Judicial Choices," The New York Times. February 27.

Jones, Charles O. 1994. The Presidency in a Separated System. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

Keith, Robert. 2005. "The Budget Reconciliation Process: House and Senate Procedures," Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, August 10. 108 pp.

Klein, Ezra. 2009. "The 50-Vote-Senate," The American Prospect, March 23.

Lowi, Theodore J. 1969. The End of Liberalism. New York: Norton.

Oleszek, Walter J. 2010. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. 12 ed.; Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Palmer, Betsy. 2009. "Evolution of the Senate's Role in the Nomination and Confirmation Process: A Brief History." RL31948. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. 13 pp.

Savage, Charlie. 2014. "Congress's Inaction Could Be Legal Basis for Stronger Executive War Powers" The New York Times, September 18.

Republican Study Committee, U.S. House of Representatives current.

Schneider, Judy. 2006. "Committee Assignment Process in the U.S. Senate: Democratic and Republican Party Procedures," RL30743. November 3. Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service.

Shear Michael D., and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. 2014. "Immigration Clash Could Lead to Shutdown," The New York Times, August 27.

Schultz, David A., ed. It's Show Time: Media, Politics, and Popular Culture. New York: Peter Lang.

Sinclair, Barbara. 2011. Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress. Washington, D.C.: CQ. Press. 312 pp.

Turley, Jonathan. 2013. Oral Testimony and Prepared Statement before the Committee on the Judiciary Committee, House of Representatives, 113th Congress. December 3, pp. 11-26.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2014. "Department of Defense—Compliance with Statutory Notification Requirement," August 21.

Weisman, Jonathan. 2014. "In Audio from a Koch Event, McConnell Envisions Undoing Obama Initiatives," The New York Times, August 27.

Week IV. Discussion of Societal Factors and Conclusion, Monday, September 29, 2014.
Two Congresses, Constituent Service (Errand Function), Pork Barrel, Logrolling, Corruption, Multiculturalism, Hyperpartisanship and Branding, Hyperindividualism (Civic Neglect and Decline of Public Spirit), Confusion, Lack of Time, and Negativity Bias.


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Berger, Ben. 2011. Attention Deficit Democracy: The Paradox of Civic Engagement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 201 pp.

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Bruni, Frank. 2014. "Lost in America," The New York Times, August 25.

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