Political Science 307, Legislative Process

Fall 2003

Professor Mikel Wyckoff

Office:  Zulauf 403

Hours:  M 3:30-4:30 & by appointment





This course focuses on the U.S. Congress and on the larger question of how our national legislature contributes to the making of American public policy.  Several aspects of Congress will be examined including: (1) the historical origins and evolution of Congress; (2) Congressional elections; (3) the individual members of Congress who must regularly win elections “back home” in their states and districts if they wish to retain their jobs; (4) rules and procedures used in the legislative process; (5) presidential-congressional relations.





The following books are required and should be available for purchase at the campus book stores: 


            Burdette Loomis, The Contemporary Congress (4th ed.).

            James Young, The Washington Community.

            David Price, The Congressional Experience (2nd ed).

            Barbara Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking (2nd ed).





Grades.  Grades will be determined by your performance on two exams (a midterm and a final) and a term paper.  The weights assigned to each element are as follows:


            Midterm                       37.5%

            Final Exam                   37.5

            Term Paper                  25.0



The exams will include some multiple choice items but will emphasize essay questions.


The term paper will focus on a bill (a legislative proposal) considered by the U.S. Congress during the 107th Congress (2001-2002).  With the aid of various sources available in Founders Library and on the Internet, the paper should examine the background of the legislation, specify what public and private agencies and individuals worked for and against it, and analyze what happened to the legislation as it worked its way through the legislative process.  Your principal goal is not to evaluate the bill on its merits but rather to use the bill as a device for analyzing the mechanics and politics of the legislative process.   Additional guidelines for the paper will be provided in class.  The paper should be approximately 8-10 pages long (typed and double-spaced) and is due on Nov. 17.  Late papers will be penalized at the rate of 1/3 of a letter grade per day.


University rules concerning plagiarism and other forms of cheating will be strictly enforced.  Students have primary responsibility for familiarizing themselves with university rules.  Information found on the Internet, by the way, is no different from information drawn from newspapers, magazines and other traditional research sources.  If you use it you must provide a proper citation for it in your paper.


Attendance is not formally computed into your grade but I expect you to come to class regularly, to be on time when at all possible, and to do the assigned readings on schedule.  To encourage you in this regard I reserve the right to increase a final course grade by up to one-third of a letter as a reward for good class participation.  Of course, good class participation means more than simply coming to class.  It means coming to class and participating, in an informed way, in class discussions.  To help me learn your names I will be setting up a seating chart about one week from today, and from then on will keep a daily record of attendance.


Extra Credit.  Sorry, but none is allowed.  No exceptions.


Makeup Exams and grades of incomplete will be provided only for extraordinary reasons (such as serious illness) and documentary evidence is required.  Makeup exams may consist solely of essay questions.  Exams missed  without a valid excuse will count as a zero in the computation of final grades.







   A.  Introduction and Overview  (August 25)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 1.


   B.  Constitutional Framework  (August 27)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 2, pp. 15-17.

                        Federalist Papers 10, 47, 48, 51  http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm





   A.  The Early Congress and the Washington Community, 1800-1828


            1.  Washington D.C. – Inauspicious Beginnings  (September 3)

Read:  Young, Prologue and Ch. 1.


            2.  Early Government:  Isolated, Disjointed, Inactive  (September 8)

                        Read:  Young, Ch. 2-4.


            3.  The Early Congress:  unstable, informal, disorderly, parochial  (September 10)

                        Read:  Young, Ch. 5 and Ch. 6, pp. 110-120 only.


            4.  Early Congressional-Presidential Relations  (September 15)

                        Read:  Young, Ch. 8, Ch. 9, pp. 179-193 only, and Epilogue.


   B.  Subsequent Developments  (September 17)

1.  The Institutionalization of Congress

2.  The Changing Environment of Congress


Read:  Loomis, Ch. 2, selected pages (TBA)  and Ch. 3.

            Price, pp. 205-211.






   A.  Congressional Districts and Representatives  (September 22)

            1.  The different meanings of “constituency”

            2.  Advantages held by incumbents


            Read:  Price, Ch. 1 and Loomis, Ch. 4 (first half only).

                        Price, Ch. 9


   B.  Campaign Finance, Organization and Strategy  (September 24, 29)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 4 (portion dealing with campaign finance), and Price, pp. 160-164.

                        Price, Ch. 2.


   C.  National Politics and Congressional Elections  (October 1)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 4 (remaining portion of chapter) and Price, Ch. 3.





   A.  Adjusting to the Workplace: Organizing staff and resources  (October 6)


            Read:  Price, Ch. 4 and Loomis, Ch. 8.


   B.  Congressional Committees  (October 8)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 7 and Price, Ch. 5.



MIDTERM EXAM – Monday, October 13






   C.  Committees and the Legislative Process  (October 15, 20)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 5 and Price, Ch. 6.


   D.  Party Leadership and Organization in Congress  (October 22, 27)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 6 and Ch. 10, selected pages (TBA).

Price, Ch. 8, pp. 159-160, 165-178.      


   E.  Presidential-Congressional Relations  (October 29, November 3)


            Read:  Loomis, Ch. 9 and Ch. 10, selected pages (TBA).

                        Price, Ch. 8, pp. 178-185 only.                                               


   F.  The Battle of the Budget  (November 5, 10)


            Read:  Price, Ch. 7.                                         





   A.  The New Legislative Process I  (November 12, 17)

            1.  Traditional vs. unorthodox lawmaking

            2.  Following legislation through the House, Senate and Conference


            Read:  Sinclair, Ch. 1-4.


   B.  The New Legislative Process II  (November 19)

            1.  Omnibus and budget legislation

            2.  Why and how the process has changed


            Read:  Sinclair, Ch. 5-6.


   C.  Three Examples of Unorthodox Lawmaking  (November 24, December 1)

            1.  National Service Legislation

            2.  Regulatory Overhaul

            3.  The Omnibus Drug Bill


            Read:  Sinclair, Ch. 7-9.


   D.  Lawmaking and The Budget Process  (December 3)

            1.  Clinton’s Economic Program

            2.  The Republican Revolution and the Budget Process


            Read:  Sinclair, Ch. 10-11.


FINAL EXAM – Monday, December 8