MODEL ANSWERS – Lecture 3
“THE BILL OF RIGHTS & FEDERALISM“
1. In one sentence explain why Congress is called “bicameral”.“Congress is called bicameral because it has two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
2. In two sentences explain what you think is Congress’s greatest power, and why.
“Congress’s greatest power is the power to tax. The power of taxation is the power to encourage, restrict, and destroy.”
“Declaring war, because the states cannot, although they can levy taxes (which I think is the third most important power, the second being the coinage of money).”
“I think that Congress’ greatest power is the power to regulate foreign and interstate trade as stated in the Commerce Clause. This is its greatest power because almost all issues in politics involve commerce, and Congress has expanded this power so it can control almost all issues between states or between states and the federal government.”
“Congress’s greatest power would be Article I, Section 7: enacting legislation and the veto power. It not only enables Congress to make a new law but to override a president’s veto if they are determined to pass this law.”
3. Explain briefly how a bill is typically passed into federal law.
“A bill is passed in to law through six steps. The first step is its introduction into either the House of Representatives, the Senate, or both. The second step is when it comes before one of the committees. The committee delegates it to one of their subcommittees who hold hearings on it. After the hearings they hold a markup session where they may amend the bill and then they prepare a committee report, which contains the amended bill, a summary of its main provisions, and their reasons for approving it. Then it is given to the House rules committee which sets the scope and allocates time limits for debating and decides whether or not amendments will be allowed, however in the Senate there is no house rules committee so it goes straight to the floor. In the House, the debate requires only 100 members who can debate and amend the bill if allowed, then it is voted on by a minimum of 218 members of the House. In the Senate it is very different. Amendments are not prohibited or restricted and there are no time limits on discussion, which allows for filibustering. When discussion is finished a vote is taken. If there is a difference between the bills passed in the House and the Senate it is then sent to a conference committee where the differences are reconciled. Then the bill is sent to the president where he either signs it or vetoes it. If he vetoes it, it can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate.”
4. Members of the House of Representatives get nervous every ten years. Why? Explain details.
“Representatives get nervous every ten years because that’s when the federal census takes place. Since the number of Representatives is based on population, if the population of a state decreases then there will be a decrease in Representatives from a state and a Representative might lose his position. A decrease in Representatives from a Democratic state might also allow the Republicans to take more control of the House.”
5. Incumbents typically win reelection. But the reelection rate for congressmen is higher than for senators, which in turn is higher than for presidents. How do you explain this?
“People are more likely to get to know their Congressmen on a personal level than they are to get to know their Senators. Each State has two Senators. In Texas we have thirty-one Congressmen. It is even less likely for people to get to know the President personally. Therefore
Congressmen are more likely to be reelected than Senators and Presidents.”
“… At the senate and presidential level, it is more likely for a well-known person to challenge the incumbent. An example of a well known person running would be Arnold Schwarzenegger ….”
“Congressmen[‘s] … challengers are not usually as well know.”
6. President Bush complains that the Democratic Senators have blocked his judicial nominees through use of a filibuster. Explain what that means, and what Republicans need to do to confirm those judges.
“A ‘filibuster’ is a tactic used by senators who wish to delay action on a bill or try to kill it completely. This is a marathon speech on any subject that could go for hours with the senator yielding the floor to members that support his or her position. Filibusters can only end through ‘cloture’.”
7. List the major powers given to Congress by the Constitution. [Ans.: See mostly Art. I, Sec. 8]
8. The “Great Compromise” gave each state two senators, regardless of population. This made the addition of new states very controversial prior to the Civil War, because the Senate was evenly balanced between free and slave states. Now, Republicans benefit from this system because of all the rural, thinly-populated states. Overall, do you think this Senate structure is desirable? Does it make it easier or harder to override a presidential veto (see handout)?
“… I … think that equal representation prevents a large state from dominating Congress. I think that the current Senate structure makes it harder for Congress to override a presidential veto. … It is very hard to override a veto, if Congress passes a bill by a close vote and it is vetoed it will require ten or more votes from the Senate; and if senators had voted on party lines one party would have to convince several opposite party members to change their mind. This would become very difficult to do.”
” … I think it makes it harder to override a presidential veto, because if it were a matter of population that decides how many senators you get, the bigger states would be almost like factions, and if a bill concerned a few bigger states they would not need as much support from other states to override a veto.”
9. Database developers are now attempting to pass a new federal law creating ownership in unoriginal databases, like the listing of names in a telephone book. (Copyright law does not protect unoriginal listings.) Which committee in the House of Representatives should the developers approach for this: the committee for copyrights or for commerce? Refer to the Copyright Clause and Commerce Clause in your answer. You’re being hired to oppose this new legislation. What arguments or tactics might you use?
“Database developers should appeal to the Commerce committee if they want the law passed because the information in the database such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, and other information is not creative work of an individual author or inventor that would be protected by the copyright clause. Instead, the information in the database is used by businesses to expand their business. The commerce committee deals with regulating business. The database developers should not claim creative ownership of the information in databases, because it is not their own creative work. The federal government should not protect unoriginal work.”
10. Review the important overrides of presidential vetoes (see handout). Has the override power threatened the separation of powers? Explain.
“No, I do not think that overrides have threatened the separation of powers. This is proven in the Taft-Hartley Act when Congress overrode the President’s veto. If Congress did not have the power to override a presidential veto in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, then American economic
interests would be endangered. This Act was written because of serious union strikes that occurred after World War II. Millions of Americans left their jobs and left the auto, steel, communications, transit, and other industries vacant. Without the Taft-Hartley Act America could have been taken over by Socialism or Communism. …”
“The override power has threatened the separation of powers. … This was illustrated with the Tenure of Office Act ….”
“Though the override of a veto does seem to mix the powers of Congress and the presidency, it balances out the bias of one man with the view of the representatives of all the states ideas, preventing the president from having too much power.”
“Article I, Section 4 says that Congress shall decide the time, place, and manner in which senators and representatives shall be elected. If you are talking about the state governor, mayor, etc., in reference to the candidate, then it is NOT constitutional. If you are referring to the election of senators and representatives, then it is okay because the [section] gives Congress the power to choose the time, place, and MANNER in which they are elected.”
“I … believe that such an act on the part of Congress would be an unconstitutional usurpation of power and a violation of states rights.” [cites 10th Amendment]
Teacher’s note: This issue is unresolved. Some states require 50%, but many do not.
1. After a string of murders committed by traveling salesmen visiting homes in a small town, it passed an ordinance requiring anyone going door-to-door to register with the town hall first. Constitutional? Explain.
“This is unconstitutional. According to Amendment I Freedom of speech, making a law requiring door-to-door sales men to register first would be imposing on their freedom of speech. They have the right to sell their wares going from door-to-door whether they have good intentions or not.”
“To require everybody to register would hurt free enterprise. It would expand the government too much by giving them the right to choose who can and can’t knock on the doors of that town’s citizens. … So, basically I am saying that it would be ineffective for the town to require traveling salesmen to register, because it couldn’t be enforced. All it would be is a piece of ‘feel-good’ legislation, a law that although on the surface it looks like it helps eliminate a problem, it really does nothing. …”
“No, I do not think it is fair or constitutional. It violates the Freedom of Speech. You shouldn’t have to go register with the town just because you want to go rake someone’s leaves. …”