American Government Question One Interest Term Paper

  • Length: 17 pages
  • Subject: Government
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #2621651

Excerpt from Term Paper :

" Then there are the "...5 million employees of the federal bureaucracy and the military" at his disposal.

Also, the president runs the executive branch of government; Cummings writes that he is "chief of state" - the "ceremonial and symbolic head of state as well as head of government" (391) - as well as being "chief executive" of the government. He has the power to "grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States" (394), he has the power to declare war, and as Franklin Roosevelt showed during WWII (397), the president can "exercise extraordinary power over food rationing and the economy, only partly with congressional authorization." The president is the "Chief Diplomat" (Cummings, 398), the president has "sole power to negotiate and sign treaties" (399), the president "has the sole power to recognize or not recognize foreign governments" (400), and both the "arrows and the olive branch depicted in the presidential seal are available to him, a good example of how presidential roles overlap."

What is presidential greatness? The best answer for that question would be a logical one and that is presidential greatness is measured by how many positive things the president accomplished during his time in office. Certainly there can be no doubt Franklin D. Roosevelt achieved "greatness" given his programs to dig the nation out of the Great Depression (Social Security, and many more), his leadership during WWII, and his ability to stay in close touch with the citizens through frequent press conferences and his "fireside chats."

QUESTION SIX (Impeachment): The language regarding impeachment is "scattered in four places" in the U.S. Constitution (Cummings, 420), and "leaves many unanswered questions." The Constitution does say the president must be convicted of "Treason, Bribery of other High Crimes and Misdemeanors" (420) in order to be impeached. The way it works is, the House of Representatives brings impeachment proceedings against the president, after debate and discussion, and it only requires a majority vote to bring impeachment against a president.

The U.S. Senate actually holds a trial on the impeachment issue, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial as judge. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to impeach and move the president, and, in the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, the Senate could not muster the two-thirds votes necessary to remove him from office.

One of the problems in the impeachment proceedings is understanding (Cummings, 421) whether or not the "high crimes and misdemeanors" must "literally be crimes in the legal sense," such as breaking real laws, or whether "serious abuses of the office of president" actually falls short of impeachable crimes.

Cummings mentions in his narrative about impeachment that the Congress generally avoids having to go through impeachment because, for one reason, impeachment could be used as a partisan weapon if he (420) "displeased a Congress controlled by the opposition political party." Also, he is the person elected by "all the people," and that in itself brings reluctance on the part of Congress, an institution where unpopular decisions made can bring retribution during the next election cycle.

QUESTION SEVEN (Deliberate, slow speed of Congress in making decisions): In the book Government by the People (Burns, et. al, 411-412), the authors state that Congress receives some outside criticism because, "by its very nature is controversial and argumentative," and there "is a lack of agreement on what the primary functions of Congress should be." Should Congress be making policies, debating them, keeping an eye on the president's powers, investigating issues?

Critics point to several facts "to support the charge that Congress is woefully inefficient," the authors write. Part of that inefficiency is that "procedure in both chambers - especially in the Senate - is often very slow and cumbersome," the authors assert. "Much of their time" is consumed with "time-wasting activities, such as running errands for individual constituents or making speeches to an almost empty chamber," Burns continues. Specifically, Burns charges that the three-quarters of an hour it takes to call roll in the house is a "specific example of inefficiency."

The authors suggest that though the "slow, incremental pattern" of making decisions has more up-side than down-side: "The main reason for slow, cumbersome procedure is the congressional tradition of protecting the rights of minorities and individual legislators. This tradition is an important one." The expressing of "opposing and unorthodox views" must be tolerated, and those take up a lot of time, plus, "some of the inefficiencies in Congress have nothing to do with Democracy," Burns writes on 412. And Burns concludes, on page 413, "in terms of sheer output alone, its performance is impressive...the amount of work done is remarkable."

Cummings (475) writes that despite the lumbering pace of progress, and the scandals, and the fact that Congress has given up more and more power to the executive branch, "Congress does a fairly good job on the whole." When Congress is divided on an issue "and fails to act," Cummings explains, "it is because the country is divided on that issue." The answer to the question posed - "Do the disadvantages of the slow, incremental pattern of decision-making..." By Congress outweigh the advantages?" - has to be no; the advantages of the methodical, sometimes painfully slow process of legislation and oversight definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

QUESTION EIGHT (Speaker of the House; Majority Floor Leader; Majority Whip; filibuster; logrolling): The Speaker of the House, according to Burns' book (384-85), has the authority to "grant or withhold recognition to those who wish to speak," he settles "parliamentary disputes...appoints members of select and conference committees, and in general directs the business on the floor." Cummings (489) explains that the Speaker also appoints members of committees "that conduct special investigations," and he is the political leader of the majority party in the House. The speaker has "two chief assistants," Cummings explains (490), "the majority leader, chosen by the party caucus, and the majority whip... [the majority leader] is the party's floor leader and a key strategist. Together with the Speaker and members of the House Rules Committee, the majority leader schedules debate and negotiates with committee chairmen and party members on procedural matters."

Cummings describes the role of the "majority whip" as working with "deputy whips" (they don't really use actual whips, of course, but they are supposed to "whip up" action on the floor of the House; the term "whip" derived from "whipper-in" who, in England, was the one to make sure the hounds didn't stray during the fox hunt) to gather votes for specific legislation, and to "count noses" (490) to see if there are enough votes to pass a given bill.

"filibuster" (Janda, 375-76) is used by a Senator to delay an action; it can be reading out of the Bible, or just talking on any subject to hold the floor and prevent the opposing party from passing a bill, or in the case of the recent filibusters by Democrats in the Senate, they filibustered to delay Bush's selection for federal judges. The Democrats, in these controversial filibusters, contended that the judges Bush nominated for lifetime positions were not qualified, were too ideologically conservative (and not "mainstream"), and the Democrats also complained that the Bush Administration had not released all available information about the voting records of these nominees. "Logrolling" (Janda, 378) is when a legislator agrees to support a bill by another member, if that member will support the legislation promoted by the first legislator. It is a "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" approach to legislation.

QUESTION NINE (Committee system in Congress): There are several kinds of committees in Congress: "Standing committees" are permanent (Janda, 365-66) that have a specialization in one area, such as the "House Judiciary Committee" of the "Senate Environment and Public Works Committee." There are 16 standing committees in the Senate, and 22 in the House. "Joint committees" have members of both the House and the Senate; "select committees" are temporary, set up to deal with "special circumstances" (Janda, 367); "conference committees" are not permanent either, and are designed to negotiate differences between legislation in which the House has one version, and the Senate has another version.

The advantage of committees is that, without committees, legislation would not be able to move through the House and Senate, but on the other hand, Janda writes (370), "...government by committee vests a tremendous amount of power in the committees and subcommittees of Congress - especially in their leaders." Janda makes that point about the leaders because one of the "disadvantages" of the committee system is that committee chairpersons and committee members can "bury a bill" by failing to report it to the full House or to the Senate. Let's say a farmer in Iowa is finding it very difficult to get a profit from his dairy farm, and his elected representative "Gary" in the House knows very well when his constituents are suffering financially as a group,…

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