Course Description

470.701 - Congress: Why the First Branch Matters

Congress is the First Branch, "the People's Branch," and one of the most powerful legislatures the world has ever known. At this moment in history, however, the people do not assess the institution favorably and political scientists and pundits have declared it the "broken branch." Is Congress "broken" or merely reflective of our political times? In an era of "unorthodox lawmaking" is a return to "regular order" and "textbook lawmaking" realistic or a fantasy? This course will discuss these questions in the context of the evolving nature of Congress as an institution. The class will examine the institutional development of Congress and explore changes in its representative and legislative functions, as well as constitutional responsibility of holding the "power of the purse." Congress remains a dynamic institution and it behooves citizens to understand its complexity and centrality to governance in the U.S.