1.Identify each of the important differences that exist in the way the House of Representatives and the Senate represent the American people. Does the existence of two very different, yet co-equal law-making bodies enhance our democracy, or hinder it? Explain.
2.Do members of Congress truly care about the views of average Americans? Relate how an examination of the “sociological representation” and “agency representation” of members of Congress can give us very different answers to this question. Be sure to relate the details of the current membership of Congress. What is your view? Do they really care about our views?
3.Explain how (a) incumbency, (b) apportionment and redistricting, and (c) direct patronage help to keep most of the same people in Congress, election after election. Does it hurt our democracy to have mostly the same people in office after every election? Explain your reasoning.
4.Identify the people who lead both the Senate and the House and explain what powers they have. Then, relate how the committee system is set up, who leads these committees, and how they operate. Is it acceptable that all of these powerful leadership positions are chosen by fellow members of Congress? Or, would it enhance our democracy if these offices were directly elected by the people? Explain your reasoning.
5.Review what happens at each step of the process whereby a bill becomes a law: (a) committee deliberation, (b) debate, (c) conference committee, and (d) presidential action. With all of these steps, it takes a long time before any bill is adopted, and most do not make it through. Is this convoluted process a positive or a negative feature for our democracy? Explain.
6.Identify and discuss what individual members of Congress consider when deciding which bills to support and which to oppose. Which of these factors tend to be most and least influential? What are the consequences when Congress can’t decide?
The authors make the point that “when Congress is ineffective, American democracy suffers” (p. 498). The many dysfunctions of Congress in recent years have led to calls for reform. Consult this CNN article from 2012, and consider each of the three reforms. Are you in favor of any of these, or should Congress be left the way it is? Be sure to comment on each reform, relating what you have learned about Congress in this chapter.