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06 Structures and Processes (320B 2013).pdf

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Political Science
POLI 101
Paul Quirk

Political Science 320B Prof. P. Quirk Lecture 06 October 1(begins) Preliminaries -- exam date: Oct 22. -- term paper: working on docs. No preliminary plans due. -- seating chart --paper assignment delay --keep following shutdown --PQ’s pin Participation assignment: Is there a solution? What? We will come back to this? Structures: The Presidency, Congress, Bureaucracy, and Courts Major features of US Political System Stressing comparisons to Canada and other Parliamentary Systems. Overview: Here are the main features. How US is different than most. •Separation of powers—not Parliamentary system. Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches. •Full bicameralism—House and Senate roughly equal. •Federalism—states independent, but weaker than the Cdn provinces. •Two-party system, with same two parties in all regions. (Many areas in effect one party control.) •Weaker political parties—Members of Congress independent. (Boehner defeat on deficit deal.) [No edit needed from last year.] Separation of Powers Three branches of federal government Legislative Executive Judicial Each is independent (theoretically—not always in practice) President and Congress are separately elected. Both have roles in the legislative process Federal judges are appointed for life. Doctrine of “checks-and-balances”. Each branch has power to block action by the other (details later). Supposed to keep other in place. One problem with separation of powers: It doesn’t take into account political parties. They can reduce effect of separation, or increase it. 1) With unified control, parties may cause two branches to act like one team rather than act independently. Congress often did not check the Bush administration, and Obama administration—esp. in periods of unified control. Controversy over presidential signing statements. Bush claimed power to ignore provisions of laws. 2) With divided control, institutions may not cooperate at all. Legislative branch Congress—the most powerful national legislature of any major country, by far. Bicameralism: Senate and House of Representatives. - both play full role in the legislative process. Organization of each chamber: Senate 100 members, two from each state elected for staggered six-year terms Structures: Party organization in each party Majority party presides over Senate Committees for each area of policy—budget, foreign affairs, military, agriculture, health, homeland security, etc. House of Representatives (“House”) 435 members, allocated to states by population elected to two-year terms, all elected at same time. Structures ( parallel to the Senate) Dem and Republican Party organization (majority party presides) Committee System Conference committees Ad hoc committees appointed from both houses to reach agreements on specific provisions of bills, if they have been passed by House and Senate in different forms. (Often not used nowadays.) House versus Senate –significant differences. House: Majority party controls the agenda. House acts by majority vote. Therefore, the majority party can rule, if it is unified. (E.g., Republicans now.) Senate: individual members have the right of unlimited debate. They can filibuster to block action. Exceptions: -- unanimous consent agreement. -- certain measures: budget, conference bills -- cloture procedure ends filibuster (60 votes to invoke) Mere majority cannot rule. Must have 60 votes to act. Must negotiate with minority party, gain consent of some members. Executive branch The president elected for a four-year term, with limit of two terms; vice president, elected together—becomes pres if pres disabled The Executive Office of the President White House staff National Security Council Budget Other staff agencies Cabinet departments (same as ministries) Independent agencies Main powers in the legislative process Legislation must be passed by majority vote by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. The president can veto a bill passed by Congress. Congress can override the president’s veto: -- both houses must pass the measure by a two thirds vote. This is rare. To sustain a veto, the president only needs one third +1 member from either house. Administrative agencies Agencies develop regulations to implement laws (much as in any other country). The president appoints top leadership of agencies. But Congress also influences them: Senate confirms appointments (top levels) Congress holds hearings on agency performance can shape the budget, potentially reward or punish can threaten legislation, change agency’s authority Actions by agencies can often be appealed to the federal courts. Federalism Basic idea: the 50 states are independent governments, not creations of the federal government. -- original Constitution gave most powers to the states. But federal power has grown through changing interpretation. For example,Federal power to “regulate interstate commerce” has been defined very broadly. -- federal government plays a larger role than in Canada -- for example Medicare and Medicaid; most environmental policy. -- most areas of domestic policy have shared power, federal and state. Recent, conservative court has been pulling back federal power. E.g. ruled that an endangered species of fish, in one small stream, was not in interstate commerce. 5-4 vote, narrowly upheld Obama’s health care reform. Elections Federal elections occur every two years. Every four years it is a presidential election. Other years, it is a “midterm” election. All House members (435), every election. One third of senate (33 or 34), each election. President (with vice president), every second election (four years). Midterm elections (e.g. 2010, 2014) are often viewed informally as referenda on the presidential administration. Separate Elections, illustration: Structure of the ballot: [put checks in the blank spaces] President and vice president ____ Obama and Biden (Dem) ____ Romney and Ryan (Rep) US Senator ____ xxxxxxxxxxx (Dem) ____ xxxxxxxxxxx (Rep) US House of Representatives ____ xxxxxxxxxxx (Dem) ____ xxxxxxxxxxx (Rep)
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