This course covers four aspects of Congress: congressional elections, the history of Congress, the legislative process, and selected topics relating to current institutional behavior. When the course is offered during a general congressional election campaign, the course naturally focuses a disproportionate amount of time on the elections. When the course is offered during a Spring semester, such as it is now, we de-emphasize elections and focus on the history, the legislative process, and selected topics of current interest. The history will be presented in a couple of handout articles. The legislative process—which will be the primary focus of the semester and the first exam—will be presented in Walter Oleszek's well-known Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process, 10th ed., a required text. The topic(s) that you select to focus on will be based on the equally famous Dodd and Oppenheimer text, Congress Reconsidered, 11th ed., a required text, but one that you might want to double up with a another student.

For the Final Exam:

The final exam will be held in our classroom on Wednesday at 3:00pm. Bring pens, not pencils, and your student ID.

The final will consist of two essay questions on the assigned material since the mid-term:

  1. Chapters 8 & 9 of Oleszek
  2. Fisher and David's article on the War Powers Resolution
  3. the Oleszeks' article on Legislative Sausage Making
  4. the posted material on the gerrymandering cases before the Supreme Court
  5. the posted material on the consideration of the House to reform the recommital rule and on the Senate's execution of the "nuclear option"
The questions will focus on the first three above, not on the short, posted articles in #4 and #5, but I will try to figure out a way to see if you have read all of the listed materials. The exam should take no more that 75 or 90 minutes.

For the Last Class, May 1st:

Each of you will have about ten minutes to brief the class on the article/chapter that you reviewed. Prepare a two-page summary of your review and read it to the class.

Tentative Schedule for the Rest of the Semester:

For the paper/review:

I did not have the time to mention a couple of things before we rushed out of class on Wednesday.

Note Well: The article/chapter that you are reviewing is a chapter in a book edited by Dodd and Oppenheimer. Use the "Chapter or other part of an edited book" example for your footnote citation. Use the appropriate form for your other sources in your review.

As I indicated a couple of weeks ago, the specific rules for this paper are on the Article and Book Reviews memo linked here and on my main webpage. Since I have worked with most of you already, there is not need for ID numbers: put your name on the title page with a suitable title (but no page number: your first page of text should be numbered page 1).


Article Reviews on WikiHow and on this very webpage, infra.

Here's an article on the changes in the Senate's cloture rules (the nuclear option) that the Senate just made.

Holman Jenkins on "Dieselgate."

For the Class of Wednesday, March 27th:

For Wednesday, two things: please read these two (make that three; I just added an article reviewing the Court's oral arguments yesterday) short articles on the Gerrymandering cases before the Supreme Court: Rucho v. Common Cause (North Carolina) and Lamone v. Benisek (Maryland):


In the coming weeks we will also be reading articles (one a week) on how the War Powers Resolution and the Affordable Care Act were made. Brian and Nicholas will report on those chapters.

Please review the chapters/articles in sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Dodd and Oppenheimer text, which is the eleventh edition, and select two as your first and second choices to review. I have previous editions of the text that you may review in case you do not find any articles in the latest version to your liking. I will place a copy of the tenth edition in the rack on the wall outside my office door for you to peruse; please return it to the rack when you are finished with it. I will meet with you individually during class time (and during office hours) if you want input into your selection process. If you are interested in congressional history, let me know, too.

For the Class of Wednesday, March 20th:

For Wednesday, please read (1) chapters 8 and 9 of the Oleszwk text. James and Lily will report on sections of chapters 8 and 9, respectively.

For the Class of Wednesday, March 6th:

The mid-term will be a ninety-minute, closed-book exam that includes definitions and essay questions. The mid-term will cover the Sundquist handout and the Aldrich-Rohde article (chapter 2 of Dodd and Oppenheimer), Oleszek chapters 2-7, and the Woodrow Wilson excerpt.

The exam will require you to write one-page definitions/descriptions of five terms from a list of eight or ten terms selected from this list: important terms from the Oleszek text. I will select important terms that you should be familiar with. Each definition/description should include (1) a clear, concise definition of the term's meaning, which distinguishes the term from other closely related terms, and (2) an explanation of its political—strategic and tactical—use on the Hill. Each will be worth ten points.

The other fifty points (or fifty per cent) of the exam will consist of two essay questions that focus on the historical changes in Congress, as described in the Sundquist, Wilson, and Aldrich/Rohde articles as well as in the Oleszek text. Focus on the leadership structures and the changes in legislative procedures that occurred over the years (and that exist today) in response to changes in political and party forces.

For the Class of Wednesday, February 20th:

The House Motion to Recommit is in the news!

Ah! the dreaded "university closure because of snow" has occurred, creating, in true bureaucratic fashion, more work for all of us (do you really think I wanted to come up with this extra assignment rather than just take the day off?).

Anyway, to please the powers that be and to avoid having to schedule a make-up class at another time, please (1) read the following excerpt from Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government and (2) write and submit a one-page/two-paragraph response to one of the points that Wilson made about the Senate in his 1880 monograph:

From Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government

The excerpt is about 6000 words long, the length of a typical short-to-medium length journal article. It should take you an hour or more to read, which, when combined with the short writing assignment, will cover the length of a typical class. Here's what I want you to do:

  1. Wilson makes a number of points about the Senate in the excerpt: descriptive, critical, theoretical. Pick one that seems really correct or really incorrect (or really anything in between) and compare it to what Oleszek says in the assignment for today (chapters 6 & 7).
  2. In your first paragraph, explain Wilson's point and put it in the context of the rest of Wilson's excerpt. Show me that you understand Wilson's point in the overall context of his argument.
  3. In the second paragraph evaluate Wilson's point by referring to relevant present-day conditions recounted in Oleszek's book or to even more current news events (but be careful there).
  4. Put the two paragraphs in a separate document (like a Microsoft word document), attach it to an email, and send me the email ( by midnight Sunday evening.
  5. I will count this as a quiz and evaluate it mostly on the basis of whether it shows me that you read the excerpt or not.

In light of this last point, be smart: do not pick some comment that Wilson makes in the first few paragraphs of the excerpt. Give me some clear evidence that you read the whole excerpt by making brief references to other things he says in the assignment. On the other hand, don't write a summary of everything he says, paragraph-by-paragraph. I would like to give every one a "10" on this assignment, but if I am not convinced that you read it, you will not get a "10" and this assignment will find its way onto the mid-term. (Man! I am starting to change my opinion of snow days.)

The assignment for the next class, February 27th, will be the same as it is for today, February 20th. Nothing new.

Gerald Seib on Current Party Realignment

Please read chapters 6 and 7, on the legislative process in the United States Senate, for class. Anthony will present on chapter 6 and Angela will present on chapter 7. Let's keep up the good work!

For the Class of Wednesday, February 13th:

Please read chapters 4 and 5, on the legislative process in the House of Representatives, for class. Sophia will present on chapter 4, with special emphasis on the House Rules Committee, and José will present on chapter 5, with special emphasis on minority, opposition tactics. The first two reports were excellent; let's keep it up.

For the Class of Wednesday, February 6th:

Please read chapters 2 (on the budget process) and 3 (on preliminary legislative action) in the Oleszek text Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. Madison will present a summary of chapter 2; Kay will present a summary of chapter 3. The rest of the class will present a summary of their understanding in a quiz, given by yours truly.

For the Class of Wednesday, January 30th:

Please read (1)Sundquist's chapter on "Endemic Weaknesses of Congress" (what does endemic mean?) from his book, Decline and Resurgence of Congress and (2) chapter 2 of Dodd and Oppenheimer's Congress Reconsidered. I had thought I could carve up chapter 2 to eliminate some parts of it for the purposes of the course. In reading it more closely, I think it is an excellent introduction to the leadership structure of the House today, explaining how it developed over the past half century. Please read all of chapter 2.

For the Class of Wednesday, January 23d:

Please read these two chapters from the Dodd and Oppenheimer text (hereinafter "D&O"), Congress Reconsidered, 11th ed.:

We will spend the first half of class on the Erikson/Wright article, the second half on Jacobson. I'll try to come up with a few quiz questions, so get to class on time.

"Dark Money"

"Government Revenue"

"Top 1%"

"Top 1% (Again)"

"High Income Taxpayers"

For the class ofJanuary 30th, the assignment will be readings from James Sundquist (a handout on the "Endemic Weaknesses of Congress") and Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government.