College of Sciences and Humanities

School of Humanities







 Course Number

  POL 320

Course Title

  The Congress

 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours


Name of Instructor

 William Miller

Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
 Tuesday-Thursday, 2:00 to 3:15pm; Rowley Hall G207 and Zoom as needed

Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Tuesday, May 3d, 2:00-4:30pm, Rowley G207

Office Hours, Location, Phone

 Tuesday and Thursday, 3:15 to 4:15pm; Rowley Hall 1018 or Zoom

 E-mail and Web Site;

Course Description (This is the course description listed in the Catalog)


A review of the history of Congress and a description of its functions, its structure, and the legislative process. The course examines current and historical issues that relate to the proper role of Congress in the American scheme of government. Prerequisites: grade of C or better in POL 104 or POL 230, and a grade of C or better in POL 250 or its equivalent, or permission of instructor. Liberal Arts Core/University Requirements Designation: SS-2. (3)


Check Out:

University Policies, Statements and Student Support Resources are now accessible in the menu of each Canvas course and can also be accessed at 


Click Academic Calendar for Spring 2022 for drop, add or withdrawal dates for the spring semester.






1.  COURSE OBJECTIVES:  Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to do the following:

  Liberal Arts Core Outcomes (general and discipline-specific)


 General Learning Outcomes – Skills – Analysis, Critical Reasoning and Problem-Solving 

·   Students will practice analytical discourse, critical reasoning and problem-solving through examination of the structure and function of the Congress as they pertain to the resolution of conflict and/or process of policy development available to the lawmaking body.

 The outcome will be measured by performance on short and long answers on tests and the research paper.


 General Learning Outcomes – Attitudes – Civic Responsibility

·   Students will apply their appreciation of the relation among individual choices, social issues and global concern through analysis of the lawmaking function of the United States Congress as exercised by its members. 

The outcome will be measured by class participation demonstrating knowledge of the reading and performance on tests.


 Course-Specific Outcomes

 Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected

(1) to demonstrate familiarity with the problems faced by contemporary congressional campaigns and with the techniques used to address and solve those problems;

(2) to demonstrate a general knowledge of the legislative process;

(3) to demonstrate an understanding of the major institutional changes and the development of Congress since 1789;

(4) to demonstrate familiarity with several of the significant issues presently facing the institution and the members of Congress; and

(5) to be able to analyze the structure of discursive writings about Congressional issues and to write and defend a short thesis on a topic relating to Congress.

 These outcomes will be measured by class participation and in written papers and exams.



2.  TEACHING METHOD   Lectures, multimedia, class discussions, presentations, projects, group activities. Courses designated as Inquiry (DSINQ) should demonstrate active learning methods.


 Class discussions of the assigned readings, lectures, and student presentations and projects.


The value (points and/or percentage of grade) of assignments, exams, quizzes, participation, and other graded course components must be specified.


Last day to drop a class without academic record: January 18th .

First day to drop a class with a grade of “W”: January 19th .

Last day to drop a class with a grade of “W”: March 18th .


The final grade will consist of the following components:


30%           Exam on the legislative process: Oleszek chapters, Sundquist chapter, other assigned essays

20%           Exam on the budget process, congressional oversight, and selected chapters of Dodd and Oppenheimer text

25%           Review of article on legislative process (10%) and Review-presentation of a Dodd & Oppenheimer chapter (15%)

20%           Quizzes and short class assignments

  5%           Active and informed participation in class discussions



Attendance: Federal law requires us to keep tabs on your attendance. Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed a total of nine absences, excused and/or unexcused. Students who miss ten or more classes for any reason whatever will receive an “FA” in the course.  


Excused absences, up to the absolute total of nine, will not be penalized. Each unexcused absence beyond three, again up to the absolute limit of nine, will result in a lowering of the final grade by two percentage points. To be excused, an absence must be documented, unless I indicate otherwise. Excused absences are typically medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Acceptable documentation typically consists of a statement or form on official stationery (1) signed by a third party (doctor, clinic, police, judge, supervisor) that (2) refers specifically to the day of absence from class and (3) the reason for the absence. Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I will excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. I need the documentation. Remember, you all are permitted three unexcused absences with absolutely no penalty, as long as you do not have an exam or presentation on the day of the absence.


The limit of nine total absences recognizes that excessive excused absences may also be a problem. You should discuss such situations with me well before the last month of the semester. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness or a family crisis keeps you away from class, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see the section titled “Attendance” in the University Catalogue).


When in doubt about any of these policies, please come and talk to me. They have been formulated with our substantial commuter and working student population in mind and are intended to be fair to everyone. You should also review the University's policies on absenteeism in the section titled “Attendance” in the University Catalogue.


Make-up Exams and Papers: The same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking mid-terms and presenting papers. My policy of giving makeup exams on or near the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a legal, family, or personal emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies, and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam, and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam on or around May 3. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible.


The same policy applies to your presentations in class. An unexcused absence on a day you are scheduled to present a paper results in a zero for the paper. An excused absence with advanced notice to me allows you to present the paper the following week. More than one such excused absence requires a discussion with me. The papers that you present in class are intended to provoke discussion, questions and comments by fellow students. The extent of the discussion, questions, and comments that you provoke is a part of your grade and part of the class participation grade of the other students.




Lawrence C. Dodd, et al. Congress Reconsidered, 12th ed. Washington, D.C.: Sage/CQ Press, 2021.

Walter J. Oleszek, et al. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process, 11th ed. Washington, D.C.: Sage/CQ Press, 2020.



     For each class session, students should be able to see what is being covered and assignments due. This is an example of how this information could be represented.


The following topics and dates of discussion are approximate and are subject to change due to cancelled classes, Covid policies, and so on. I shall try to maintain the due dates for papers and exams as they are listed below. Plan on about sixty to seventh pages of reading a week and frequent short quizzes, announced and unannounced.


WEEK 1 (1/11 & 13ZOOM CLASSES Introduction to the course; comments on some basic rules of Congress, some basic political and election history; introduction to congressional history: James Sundquist, “Endemic Weaknesses of Congress.”

WEEK 2 (1/18 & 20) Sundquist, “Endemic Weaknesses”; Oleszek, ch. 1.

WEEK 3 (1/25 & 27) The Legislative Process: Preliminary & House of Representatives; chapters from Oleszek

WEEK 4 (2/1 & 3) The Legislative Process in the House of Representatives; chapters from Oleszek

WEEK 5 (2/8 & 10) The Legislative Process in the House and Senate; chapters from Oleszek

WEEK 6 (2/15 & 17) The Legislative Process in the Senate; chapters from Oleszek

WEEK 7 (2/22 & 24) The Legislative Process—Endgame;  Oleszek & article; choice of paper topic.

WEEK 8 (3/1 & 3) Mid-term Examination and Article Review


               SPRING BREAK!!


WEEK 9 (3/15& 17) The Budget Process: Oleszek, ch. 2; Dodd and Oppenheimer (“D&O”), ch. 13.

WEEK 10 (3/22 & 24) Congressional Oversight and Investigations: Oleszek, ch. 9; D&O, ch. 15.

WEEK 11 (3/29 & 31) Elections and/or Nominations

WEEK 12 (4/5 & 7) Elections and/or Nominations; Second Mid-term examination

WEEK 13 (4/12) Student Presentations on selected chapters from D&O

WEEK 14 (4/21) Student Presentations on selected chapters from D&O

WEEK 15 (4/26 & 28) Student Presentations on selected chapters of D & O


Final Draft of Selected Chapter due Tuesday, May 3d.


If you cannot take a mid-term at the regularly scheduled time because of an excused absence, you may take it on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of Finals Week.


Please make your travel plans accordingly.