Politics And Government

1.  Perhaps the most fundamental role of Congress as an institution is legislating, but passing legislation in a highly polarized environment is very difficult.  The filibuster is one of the primary obstacles in the legislative process.  What is the filibuster, how is it used today, what changes could be made to it, and should we make them?  Also, in the lecture, I note that Congress is widely disliked — so then why do its members almost always get re-elected?

2.  The Founders gave limited powers to the presidency — and yet the office is today the most powerful in American government, by far. What are the expressed, delegated, and inherent powers of the presidency? What additional tools and resources do modern presidents use today? As presidents rely more on the unilateral actions inherent in many of those tools, does that pose a threat to the Founders’ ideal of checks and balances? Why or why not?

3.  What is “bureaucracy,” and why do we have it?  How is the U.S. executive bureaucracy organized?  How do Congress, the President, and the Courts control bureaucracy — and how effectively?  How might the executive bureaucracy be reformed?

4. What is judicial review, and how did the courts originally acquire that power? The competing philosophies regarding the exercise of judicial review — judicial restraint versus judicial activism: what are they, and how do they differ? The text’s authors note that, “…the philosophy of activism versus restraint is, in part, a smoke screen for political ideology” — what do they mean by that?

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