Access the CSU Online
Library. Within the database “Academic OneFile,” locate and read the following
articles: Gregg, G. L. (2011). Unpopular vote: Enemies of the
Electoral College aim to scrap the Founders’ design. The American Conservative,
10(12), 33+. Retrieved from http://www.amconmag.com Underhill, W. (2012).
Changing up the Electoral College? State Legislatures, 38(1), 9. Retrieved from
http://www.ncsl.org/Upon reading the two articles, write a response essay of at
least 500 words. Your essay should address the Electoral College as it
currently functions, as well as the proposed changes discussed in the two
articles. Are you in support of the current Electoral College? Do you agree or
disagree with the proposed changes? Is it right for states to circumvent the
Constitution on this matter? Your essay should be well thought out and include
direct references to the articles. Limited direct quotes are permitted. All
references (paraphrased or quoted) should be correctly cited using APA format.The 2 required articles are attached from the library. Please use on the articles that are attached and not other articles.
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UNIT V STUDY GUIDE
Congress and the
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
Perceive the evolution of Congress members’ goals and the steps they take to maintain their offices.
Identify the roles of prominent members of the legislative branch.
Discuss the different forms of committees and their focus.
Elaborate on the procedure a bill follows as it becomes a law.
Discuss the role Congress plays as a policymaker.
Interpret the actual role of the president in the U. S. government.
Explain how the president and members of his or her staff are chosen.
Determine the various factors that affect how well the president leads the nation.
Congress: Balancing National Goals and Local Interests
The Presidency: Leading the Nation
From the moment a politician is elected to office, they spend much of their time trying to get re-elected. They
are shaking hands, kissing babies, and attempting to raise as much money as possible for the next election
cycle. The job of a politician is never easy. When making or passing laws, they must take into consideration
not only the good of the people, but also the will of the people. In the end, they must face the voters of their
constituency to get re-elected. When President Obama was first elected to the presidency in 2008, the
Democrats were in control of the House and Senate. Due to the bailouts and other legislation passed that
many people did not like, there was a large turnover in elected officials when voters went to the polls at midterm election time in 2010. Since the mid-1980s, it has been harder and harder to get the work of Congress
done due to a larger and larger partisan divide. For example, the 2010 health care reform bill was passed
without a single Republican vote.
Congress is the preeminent branch of government with the power to make laws. Patterson tells us, “No
executive agency or lower court can exist unless authorized by Congress” (2013, p 268). Those elected to
Congress in both the House of Representative and the Senate have a responsibility to the interests of the
While it is true that during times of extreme swings in voter satisfaction there will be larger than usual upsets,
an incumbent usually has around a 90% chance of getting re-elected. Those already in the office have many
advantages over candidates who want to run against them. Senators and representatives have staff members
who spend all of their time working on issues brought to their attention by the constituency of a state or
district. Members of Congress will fight hard and fight dirty for pork projects attached to various bills that will
help their constituencies. Congressional members are allowed to fly home for free and also have the ability to
send out free mailings (informing the people what they have done for them while in office). Press releases
also give members of Congress face recognition the next time elections come up. Incumbents also have the
advantage when raising money for their campaigns, since they have already run for office and have lists of
those willing to contribute. Most PACs are more than willing to back the incumbent over the challenger.
Sometimes, an incumbent runs into problems if they want to run for reelection. Redistricting (re-drawing of
voting districts) can raise issues for an incumbent if the state has lost seats in the House of Representatives
PS 1010, American Government
due to a loss of population. If the voters become angry with the party in office UNIT
made (as in the mid-term elections in 2010) and personal misconduct of a sitting
member of Congress can
also affect an incumbent’s chances at reelection. Many politicians have ruined their careers with personal
misconduct, such as taking bribes, adultery and other ethical problems.
Because there is so much work to do in
Congress, the load must be divided to get
any of it done. The Constitution specifies
that the House of Representatives will be
presided over by a Speaker (elected by
members of the House). While the Senate
has a majority leader, the Constitution
holds that the presiding officer of the
Senate is the Vice President of the United
States. The vice president can only vote in
the case of a tie, so he or she does not
usually attend but has a stand-in called the
president pro tempore. These leaders are,
in turn, helped by the majority whips in
both houses and the minority leaders and
whips in both houses.
Committees do all of the work in the House
and Senate. Standing committees are
made up of both permanent committees
Standing Committees of Congress (Patterson, 2012)
(such as the Armed Services Committee)
and select committees that have
responsibilities but do not produce legislation. Congress will also use joint committees that have members of
both the House and Senate to take care of things like the Library of Congress. They also have conference
committees, which are joint committees used to hammer out differences of legislation being voted on.
Committees are broken down into subcommittees made up of smaller groups and they have committee staffs
that help draft legislation and gather information. Committees have a fixed number of seats, and most House
members sit on no more than two, while Senate members will often be on anywhere between two and four.
Most congressional members look to be on committees that are important to their constituencies. Some
committees, such as that of the Armed Services committee, can be very prestigious, and the position of
committee chair is a powerful one. Legislation can be left to die within a committee and never see a vote if the
committee chair and members want that to happen.
One of the most confusing things to voters is how the President of the United States becomes the president.
As one of the visible politicians in the United States, the president must weather lots of ups and downs. In the
Constitution, the president has very
modest formal powers, although he or
she is considered the commander-inchief of the armed forces and the chief
executive. The president’s power
depends on circumstances and the
charisma/political savvy of the person in
the office. Over time, the powers of the
president have expanded beyond what
the framers of the Constitution imagined.
Presidential Selection (Patterson, 2012)
PS 1010, American Government
In an attempt to limit the power of the
executive office, the framers came up
with the plan to elect the president
through an electoral vote system
(Electoral College). In this plan, each
state would have one elector for each
member of Congress, and these electors,
who were picked by their state, would
elect the president. This system was modified in 1828 when Andrew Jackson UNIT
system we still
use today, where the candidate who wins a state’s popular vote gets the electoral
Titlevotes of that state and must
have 270 electoral votes to win the election. Since this variation was started, only four presidents have won
the office without winning the popular vote.
Once a president is elected, the process begins to gear up for the next election. Millions of dollars must be
raised for each stage of the election process. According to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974,
candidates that raise at least $5000 dollars from at least 20 states are eligible for matching funds. Those who
accept matching funds must agree to limit how much they spend on the race. Candidates who are chosen to
be the candidate for their party are then allowed accept or decline more matching funds. According to the
Washington Post (Dec. 2012), President Obama raised $1.2 billion and spent $1.11 billion while his opponent,
Mitt Romney, raised $1.18 billion and spent $928 million dollars. One of the biggest expenses for any
campaign is airtime on both television and radio.
The Vice President of the United States is chosen by the presidential candidate and voted for as part of the
presidential ticket. The only president of the United State not to be elected by the people was Gerald Ford. He
was picked by Nixon to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew when he was forced to resign. When President
Nixon was then forced to resign office, Ford became president without having ever been voted on by the
people. The president determines the vice president’s duties, and each president has been different in what
they ask of their vice president.
The president is given a staff known as the Executive Office of the President (EOP), and this staff helps to
coordinate the activities of the executive branch. Within this organization, the White House Office (WHO)
consists of the president’s personal assistants and others who do the legwork and information gathering. The
president also has his or her advisors in the cabinet, which holds the heads of the fifteen executive
departments, such as the secretary of state. These advisors are appointed by the president but must be
confirmed by Congress.
All presidents come to the office with an agenda or strategic vision. It is a hard fact that they will not get much
of what they want and must use the arts of compromise and bullying to get any work done. In order to get
things done, the president must have the support in Congress and a good standing with the American people.
Presidents must look at the bigger picture. They must not only consider the issues present on the home front,
but they must also consider America’s place within the world. It is one president doing the work of two
presidencies (domestic and foreign). Only twice has a president collided so badly with Congress that
impeachment proceedings were brought about (both times they were acquitted). President Nixon left office
before the process could be started because he knew that he would not win. In the end, the president is often
given too much credit for the good things that happen in the country and too much blame for the bad.
Click here to view a virtual tour of the United States Capitol Building.
Click here to view an interactive tour of the White House.
Patterson, T. (2013). The American democracy (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Washington Post (2012). 2012 Presidential Campaign Finance Explorer. Retrieved from
Click here to view a PDF of the Chapter 11 presentation.
Click here to view a PDF of the Chapter 12 presentation.
“The Electoral College” by William C. Kimberling found here: www.fec.gov/pdf/eleccoll.pdf
PS 1010, American Government
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