I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

First Assignment, Spring 2015

Pick one:
  • Compare and contrast the “Hill styles” and “home styles” of two senators from any state. Explain the key similarities and differences. 
  • Pick one of the following party leaders: Reid, McConnell, or Pelosi. Evaluate that leader’s performance in 2014. That is, what were the leader’s main political and policy goals for the year, and how well did the leader achieve them in light of the relevant resources and constraints? 
  • Pick any House seat that changed party hands in 2014. Explain the outcome, with reference to candidates, the district’s characteristics, and the larger political climate.  Is the same party likely to hold the seat in 2016? 
Essays should reflect an understanding of class readings and discussions. Many resources, including CQ Weekly and Politics in America are at Honnold Library/Databases/CQ Library. see The Almanac of American Politics either in hardcopy at Honnold or via the library website. Consult other sources as well. See: http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/congress.html

The specifications:
  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • Cite your sources. Please use endnotes in the format of Chicago Manual of Style.  Endnotes do not count against the page limit. Please do not use footnotes, which take up too much page space.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays to the Sakai dropbox for this class by 11:59 PM, Thursday, February 12. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Two Political Branches, Two Chambers

Two Political Branches:
Two Chambers:

Bicameralism and Federalist 51:
But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions.
House-Senate Differences


A Senate session.

A House session:

One major difference between the chambers is that few House members run for president, and seldom get far when they do (see Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich). But a fairly large fraction of senators have gone for the White House or are thinking of doing so.
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 1996, 2000
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX) 2016
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 2016
  • Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 2000
  • John McCain (R-AZ) 2000, 2008
  • Rand Paul (R-KY) 2016
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL) 2016
  • Bernard Sanders (I-VT) 2016
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) 2016
And of course rememember President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Congress Is...

 Compare and Contrast Prime Minister's Questions with the State of the Union


Monday, May 5, 2014


When citing a work, make sure you put the words in context.

Sometimes the defenders of freedom must show patience as well as resolution. But that patience comes of confidence, not compromise. We believe, with Alexander Hamilton, that the "spirit of commerce" has a tendency to "soften the manners of men." 

Inherent limitations of Congress:
  • Except in simulation, legislation is slow. (And swift action is not necessarily smart action.)
  • In a body resting on geographic representation, parochialism is inevitable. (And it is often legitimate.)
  • A multi-member, bicameral institution will have a hard time planning.  (And planning is overrated.)


Reform proposals:
  • End the Tuesday-to-Thursday club.
  • Return to regular order and limit restrictive rules.
  • Change filibuster rules.
JFK on the complexity of courage:
  • The pressure to "go along" -- but we "should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals."
  • The pressure to seek reelection -- but lawmakers "who go down to defeat in a vain defense of a single principle will not be on hand to fight for that or any other principle in the future."
  • The pressure to serve interest groups -- but "they are the articulate few whose views cannot be ignored and who constitute the greater part of our contacts with the public at large, whose opinions we cannot know..."
On January 12, 1991, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) and Republican Leader Bob Michel (R-IL) spoke about the impending Gulf War. Click for video of their remarks, so you can see what grownups look like: