1. Pick any bill from the 113th (2013-15) or 114th Congresses (2015-present). Explain its fate. Instead of giving a mere chronology, tell why the measure moved or stalled. What happened to previous versions? Which groups or blocs backed and fought it? Which strategies and tactics did its friends and foes use? Even if it failed or stalled, did it prompt the passage of a similar measure in a different form? Look at parliamentary strategies, major amendments, and roll calls. Again, you should explain the outcome, not just describe the process.
2. Analyze a proposed reform of congressional procedure (e.g., Rand Paul's Read the Bills Act). Carefully explain arguments for and against the reform. Would it achieve its goal? Would it improve the operation of Congress? (The two questions are not necessarily the same.)
3. Pick pending legislation that has not yet passed either house. Write a memo to its prime sponsor detailing a plausible strategy for securing its passage at least in one chamber. In your answer, consider all phases of the legislative process and take account of the influence of interest groups and the administration.
Get background from a source such as Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, where you may find the partisan breakdown of roll-call votes. (Use the hardcopy or the online version at http://library.cqpress.com). You may also find a key-votes database at The Washington Post.
Other possible sources include:
- Congress.gov (http://www.congress.gov/) -- official site for bill summary and status
- GovTrack (http://www.govtrack.us/) – unofficial site for congressional information
- ProQuest Congressional (http://congressional.proquest.com/profiles/gis/search/basic/basicsearch ). -- many congressional documents including searchable Congressional Record. If your computer will not accept this URL, go through the library web page (http://libraries.claremont.edu). Click “databases,” then the letter “P,” then “ProQuest Congressional.”)
- Committee web pages, which usually contain testimony and text of reports. See http://www.house.gov/committees/ or http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/d_three_sections_with_teasers/committees_home.htm
- Sunlight Foundation tools and websites at http://sunlightfoundation.com/tools/
- Essays should be typed, double-spaced, and no more than five pages long. I will not read past the fifth page.
- Cite your sources with endnotes in standard Turabian format.
- Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays (as Word documents, not pdfs) to the Sakai dropbox by 11:59 PM, Friday, October 7. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.