Sample political science assignment on American Government
Institutions and Policy Processes: Presidency, Bureaucracy and Congress
- The major formal and informal institutional arrangements and powers
- Structure, policy processes, and outputs
- Relationships among these three institutions and links between them and political parties, interest groups, the media, and public opinion
Federal Courts, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights
- Structure and processes of the judicial system, with emphasis on the role and influence of the Supreme Court
- The development of civil rights and civil liberties by judicial interpretation
- The Bill of Rights
- Incorporation of the Bill of Rights
- Equal protection and due process
Political Parties and Interest Groups
- Political parties (including their function, organization, mobilization, historical development, and effects on the political process)
- Interest groups (including the variety of activities they typically undertake and their effects on the political process)
- Elections (including the electoral process)
Political Beliefs and Behaviour
- Processes by which citizens learn about politics
- Political participation (including voting behaviour)
- Public opinion
- Beliefs that citizens hold about their government and its leaders
- Political culture (the variety of factors that predispose citizens to differ from one another in terms of their political perceptions, values, attitudes, and activities)
- The influence of public opinion on political leaders
Constitutional Underpinnings of American Democracy
- Federalism (with attention to intergovernmental relations)
- Separation of powers
- Checks and balances
- Majority rule
- Minority rights
- Considerations that influenced the formulation and adoption of the Constitution
- Theories of democracy
Detailed guidelines for learning outcomes
- differentiate between the various forms of government and democracy;
- analyze the various experiments with colonial government in the British colonies;
- discuss the issues, debates, and compromises that originated from the Constitutional Convention;
- describe the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism as manifested in the US Constitution;
- describe public opinion and how it is utilized as a barometer for measuring election results;
- define the major factors that influence an individual political socialization;
- describe the major ways in which Americans participate in the electoral process;
- analyze the role of the media in the American political system;
- explain the role and function of political parties;
- explain the process for electing congressional and presidential candidates to political office;
- explain how the Electoral College functions;
- assess the importance of incumbency in congressional elections;
- discuss the roles and functions of interest groups on the political process;
- explain the roles, duties, and functions of the US Congress;
- compare and contrast the inner workings of the Senate and the House of Representatives;
- explain the various factors that determine how a bill becomes a law.
- assess the role of congressional committees in facilitating the legislative process;
- explain the role and constitutional powers of the presidency, vice presidency, and the cabinet;
- explain how the bureaucracy functions as the implementation arm of the Executive Branch;
- explain the constitutional origins and structure of the federal court system and the Supreme Court;
- analyze the difference between the legal philosophies of judicial restraint and judicial activism;
- discuss the importance of judicial review as a power-checking mechanism on the other branches of government;
- assess the ways in which the judicial nomination process has become politicized over time;
- distinguish between civil rights and civil liberties;
- explain the various constitutional protections afforded to individuals in the Bill of Rights;
- trace the history of the civil rights movement and the expansion of civil rights to other disenfranchised groups;
- define public policy and explain the major steps in the policy-making process;
- explain the federal appropriations and budgetary process;
- explain the various theories of tax and spending policies and their methods of implementation; and
trace the history and goals of economic, social, and foreign policy in the United States.
The President of America is the has evolved into the most powerful office in the country and if one considers the position that the country occupies in the world, it can be understood to be the most powerful office in the world. The President is not just the head of state, the chief executive of the government but he also occupies the position of the commander-in-chief and leader of his political party. The United States is based on the Presidential form of government where the executive is independent from the legislature and hence is not responsible to it, unlike the parliamentary form of government where the executive is the party of legislature.
The Country of United States is a Republic hence, the head of the state is elected by its citizens. President of America is also the only office in the country which is indirectly elected through electoral college at the national level. Hence, over the period the office of President the United States has managed to create a prominent cultural position in the American society and the individual who occupies it is also the bellwether of the society he governs.
The Article II of the American Constitution, enumerates the following qualification required to get elected to the office of the President:
- The individal must be a natural born citizen of America. No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible the Office of President.
- The Person must be of 35 years of age or above.
- Resident of United States for 14 years and more.
TERM OF OFFICE:
The Term of office of the President of America is for no more than for 4 years. The original constitution did not prescribe any limitation about the number of times an individual can get elected through the process of re-election. George Washington set the precedent of getting elected for no more than two consecutive years and the other followed it. However, after President Roosevelt occupied his office for 4th consecutive term in 1944 the Congress passage the XXII Amendment that limited the number of times the President can try for re-election. Through this, the President can get elected only through two consecutive elections.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS:
According to the Constitution of America all the executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. The President of America is the head of the government. He enjoys the position of being at the head of the executive branch of the country. The constitution when created did not entrusted the office of President with the powers it enjoys in the contemporary period. The states were given more power than the union headed by the President.
However, over a period the office of President has evolved to occupy the most significant power and position in the Country. The successive Presidents have helped in increasing the power and authority of the office that the ones provided in the Constitution. Even Congress, the country’s legislative organ enjoys more power than the President is provided by the Constitution and though the office of President has manged to expand the scope of its powers and functions it still requires the support of the Congress to pass certain laws and ensures its further implementation. To better elaborate upon the kind of powers and functions enjoyed by the President of America I would like to classify and divide it into- Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers.
As mentioned earlier, the Congress is the legislative organ of the government however the office of the President has evolved and currently executes significant functions. Few of them are as follows:
Messenger to Congress:
The President is required by the Constitution to provide information to the Congress various information related to the Union, its States or on the issues that he deemed to be urgent. This message can’t be ignored by the Congress and sometimes these messages contain proposal for the enactment of different legislations.
According to the American Constitution, a bill can become a law only through the consent of the President. However, the President has a power to withhold his consent to the bill through the exercise of his veto powers. The veto power exercised by the President can be divided into- Suspensory veto and Pocket veto. Under the Suspensory veto the President has to return the bill within 10 days that it was passed. The bill then needs to be passed with a two third of majority falling which the bill can’t be passed. But if the bill is passed with the majority the second time the bill doesn’t require his assent and after the10 days expirers it becomes a law. However, it’s is difficult for the bill to enjoy the support of two third of house.
Under, the Pocket Veto if the President hasn’t returned the bill within 10 days the session of the Congress has been adjourned within these 10 days then the bill expires.
However, if the Congress is in session it can passes the bill after the period of 10 days is passed without the President’s consent.
Under this, the President can exercise his powers to issue executive orders to meet the need arising out of the unforeseen circumstances. This Executive order possess the same power as the ordinary bill. The exercise of this power has significantly increased the powers of the President.
Commence a special session of Congress:
The President also has the power to call for special session of the Congress under extraordinary circumstances. Also, once such session is conveyed and if either of the house is unable to decide when this session is supposed to be adjourned, in such circumstance the President can make such decision.
The Constitution has provided the President to be the Executive head of the State. It is under his name that all the important decisions, laws and policies are taken. The President enjoys significant executive powers. Some of them are as follows:
The President of the United States enjoys the power to appoint the Secretaries, Ambassadors and other diplomats. He also enjoys the power the point judges of the Supreme court and various federal courts. However, such appointments have to be approved by the Senate. He also enjoys the power to appoint people at different federal positions.
The President of America is the chief Architecture of the country’s foreign policy. He frames them and conducts the Foreign policy relations with different countries with the help of his Secretary of State and other officials. He also enjoys the power to form and negotiate treaties with other nations. However, his decisions and treaties must be approved by at least two third of membership of Senate present and voting. The President also enjoys the sole power to recognize a new nation state.
The President enjoys the power of being the Supreme Commander of the armed forces and is responsible for maintaining the country’s defense. He also possesses the power to appoint military officers with the advice of the Senate and can also remove them. Although the power to declare war lies in the hands of the Congress yet the President can make war unavoidable and necessary by his actions. As Commander-in-Chief, the President can decide where troops are to be located and stationed. Every action by the armed forces on land and sea is carried in accordance to the orders given by the President.
As mentioned earlier the President has the power to appoint the judges of Supreme court and other federal courts. This thus provides him with a considerable power. He also has the power to grant pardon and reprieve to all offenders against federal laws, except those who have been impeached or those who have offended against the State.
The Congress is the highest law-making body of the United States; it is also the oldest law-making body in the world with a legacy of almost 200 years established under the Constitution of America in the year 1789. It is bicameral in nature consisting of two separate houses. The Upper Chamber is called Senate, which provides equal representations to all of its states and lower house is the House of Representatives, where the political representatives are directly elected.
Congress remains one of the few national assemblies that research and draft their own legislation rather than simply voting on bills created by the government in power. In addition to its legislative and different law-making functions that it executes, the U.S. Congress is empowered by the Constitution to ensure that the administration of government is carried out according to the laws it establishes, to conduct special investigations if and when it deems necessary and to exercise other special powers in relation to the executive and the judiciary. Also, the President without the support of the Congress cannot make any legislative changes or introduce any new policy and programs.
It is the upper chamber of the Congress. This chamber has been created with a view to provide representation to various federating units. Hence, the total membership of the House includes that of 100 members thus providing equal representation to the 50 states of the federation.
Their respective state legislatures elect the members or senator for the term of 6 years. The Senate is a continuous body; it is referred to as such because every after 2 years 1/3rd of its members gets retired and equal number gets elected. This ensures the continuous nature of the house.
The qualification to become the member of United States Senate includes-
- The individual must be a citizen of America for 9 years or more.
- The candidate must be 30 years of age or more.
- Must be the resident of the state that the individual is supposed to represent.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS:
In the bicameral system of legislature, the lower house enjoys more power and authority than the upper house. Though similar assertions can be made about the Senate, the upper house seems to enjoy considerable power and occupies prominent position in the decision making process. Following are some of the powers and functions that Senate posses:
Legislative Powers: The Legislative power is shared between the both houses. Ordinary bills can be introduced in the either house. However, the money bill can only be introduced in the lower house of the Congress. But, it can be understood that most of the significant bills orginated and were intoduced in the Senate and then referred to the other house. Also, a bill becomes a law only when it gets passed by both the houses and is later approved by the President. In case of disagreement between the two Houses, a Committee consisting of 3 to 9 members from each House is constituted to resolve the deadlock. Again in such instances historitcally it can be observed that it is the Senate which plays a significantly domianat role. Hence, it can be argued that the US Senate plays a very domianat role in the decision making process of the government.
Impeachment: The Article I of United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives ‘shall have the sole Power of Impeachment’ and that ‘the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.... (but) no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present’. It essentially implies that under the Constitution, the House of Representatives have the power to impeach a government official including that of the president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States.
While, the Senate has power to conduct these prosecution essentially serving as jury and judge. Since 1789 the Senate has tried seventeen federal officials, including two presidents. It is an important tool to maintain a system of ‘checks and balances’ between the different branches of the Government and ensure they remain responsible to the citizens of the United States.
Nominations: The Constitution of America under Article II provides that the president, ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States...’ The Senate has always safeguarded and maintained its power to review, approve or reject any presidential appointees to various positions in executive and judicial branch of government.
Treaties: The Constitution provides the Senate with the power to approve treaties made by the executive branch. It requires the approval of the majority of the house of at least 2/3rd of its members. Over a period, the Senate has rejected relatively few of the hundreds of treaties it has considered. The Senate may also amend a treaty or adopt certain changes to a treaty. However, not all foreign policy agreements and decision tken by the President require Senate’s approval.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The House of Representatives was established under the Constitution of United States in the year of 1789. The lower chamber of Congress was established to represent the popular will and reflects public opinions. It functions along with the Senate and performs the function of the government. The member of the House of Representative gets directly elected after every two years. The number of seats allotted to a particular federal unit is decided upon the population that it contains. Under the law passed in the year 1911 increased the membership of the house from 391 to 435. The present membership of the House includes 435 members.
The qualification to become the member of United States House of Representatives includes-
- The individual must be of 25 years of age or above.
- A citizen of the United States for at least 7 years
- Must be the resident of the state that the individual is supposed to represent.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS:
Legislative Powers: The House of Representatives enjoy the power to initiate the laws and legislation that specifically deal with revenue and taxes and can only be introduced in this house. However, its exclusive power to introduce money bill is not extended to other ordinary bills. Both chambers of Congress also enjoy extensive investigative powers and may compel the production of evidence or testimony toward whatever end they deem necessary from various government agencies. Members of Congress spend much of their time holding hearings and investigations in their committee.
Impeachment: The process of impeachment can only be initiated in the lower house of the Congress while the further proceeding is conducted in the Senate. As mentioned earlier, Article I of the constitution provides the House with an exclusive right to initiate the process of impeachment of various governmental officials.
Power to Elect: The House of Representative also enjoys the right to exercise the wining vote in the election of the President of the United States in case of tie. The house of Senate enjoy the similar powers to caste the wining vote in case of tie during the election for the Office if Vice President.
BUREAUCRACY: A bureaucracy is a unit of government established to achieve the goals and objectives framed by the legislative organ of the government. In the United States, the federal bureaucracy enjoys a greater degree of autonomy compared to the units of the other countries. In the U.S. government there are number of bureaucratic agencies, some with more broader objectives and framework than another. The Congress forms some of them and agencies are under its control will some others are under the direct control of the American President. The various bureaucratic agencies can be divided into four general types including- cabinet departments, independent executive agencies, regulatory agencies and government corporations.
The Cabinet Departments: There are almost 15 Cabinet departments with each headed by a Secretary who is a part of the President’s Cabinet, the exception to which is the Justice Department, which is headed by the Attorney General. The Secretaries are responsible for directing the department’s policy and its operations. The Organizational strcuture of all these department consists of Secretaries, Undersecretary and number of Assistant Secretaries they all are entrused with conductinf major policy programs.
Independent Executive Agencies:
The Independent agencies closely resemble Cabinet departments, but they are considerably smaller and less complex. The area of function is also narrower than the Cabinet departments. Most of these agencies are under the direct control and influence of the President. These agencies have not only practical but also symbolic significance. The examples of such agencies are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) etc.
Regulatory Government Corporations:
Government corporations are not included under any department, they exists independently. The best-known examples of government corporations are the United States Postal Service and Amtrak. They are different from other agencies in that they are created by the legislation passed by Congress and they also further charge for their services. Like any other business, government corporations have private agencies that includes organization like Federal Express and United Parcel Service, there are also different state agencies called Jersey Transit Authority.
These agencies regulate important parts of the economy farming rules and regulation that framed the large industries. They aren’t directly control by the President however, each commission has from 5 to 11 members appointed by the President, but these members enjoy security of tenure and can’t be removed by the President. Examples of these agencies are the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the stock market, brokers, and investment practices. Another is the Environmental Protection Agency which serves as a guardian over the nation's environment, making and enforcing standards for the industrial and commercial sectors.
The American Government is divided into three separate branches- The Legislature (Congress), Executive (President along with the Bureaucracy) and the Judiciary. Here, the various branch of Legislative as well as Bureaucratic organ of the government though enjoy a separate sphere to perform their functions the constitution still provides them with various provisions that ensures that the various governmental units can be held responsible when it appears that they have violated the law of land or are no longer responsible to the public will. Thus, maintaining a system of checks and balances.