It’s all about Congress this week as we review the first month of the 114th Congressional Session. Here are a few links that I’ve enjoyed reading this past month. Enjoy!
- New Congress stumbles through its first month: Interested in learning more about what Congress has been up to this month? Look no further. This article provides a good overview of the first month of the 114th Congressional Session. From broken bones, to the Keystone XL pipeline, to the not so smooth transition of the majority party, the 114th Congress has proved to be, in many ways, the same old Congress. Still, there are reasons to expect that things may turn around and speed up in the coming months. What is your favorite moment of the 114th Congress so far?
- Testing Obama, Senate approves Keystone Bill: After almost a full month of debate, the Senate passed a bill that authorizes the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil pipeline that would go from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill was passed with a vote of 62-36. The bill now heads to the House and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk in February. The White House has threatened to veto the bill in the past, but it remains to be seen what the final action and reasoning will be. This may well be the first real clash between the Republican controlled Congress and the President in 2015. How did an oil pipeline get so political? See the video here.
- The Secret History of Women in the Senate: This article discusses the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism that exists in the United States Senate today while also providing a history of women in the Senate. Believe it or not, only forty-four women have served in the Senate since the first Congressional Session in 1789. The 114th Congress has twenty women – the same as last session. While the current political environment makes collaboration harder, Senate women on both sides of the political aisle have historically tried to collaborate and support one another and still meet for dinner regularly. How do you think women’s representation in Congress might increase?
The ongoing battle to legalize gay marriage in the states illustrates the pros and cons of the United States federal system. Federalism describes the political relationship between federal, or national, governments and state, or local, governments. In the United States, powers not constitutionally delineated to the federal government are given to the states (Amendment X of the Constitution).
The state vs. national government debate has its origins before the founding of the United States. The Articles of Confederation (1781-1788) created a weak central government where most power and authority resided with the states. The failure of the Articles paved the way for the U.S. Constitution. However, the vague language of the Constitution ensures that both the states and national government compete for the limited amount of political power and helps explain the current political environment. In addition to legalizing gay marriage, state and federal governments fight to maintain and/or establish authority over immigration and healthcare, among many other issues. More than any other constitutional principal, federalism remains actively debated today. Continue reading
Created over two centuries ago, the United States Constitution remains open to interpretation by lawmakers and scholars as well as by ordinary individuals such as you and me. The recent debate over the constitutionality of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration illustrates this notion. In November of 2014, the President stated that he will use his executive order power to focus efforts to secure U.S. borders while granting three years of deportation relief to unauthorized immigrants who qualify: mainly, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens who have been in the country at least five years.
“US Constitution” by Kim Davies (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Article II of the U.S. Constitution delineates executive power to the President. The Article also specifies the President as commander-in-chief and requires that the President take care to execute the law to the best of his ability. Of specific interest in the debate over the constitutionality of the President’s immigration order is the executive power of “prosecutorial discretion,” which gives executive officers discretion on when to prosecute crimes. While the President is given executive power, Congress has the constitutional authority to make and pass laws. Are the President’s actions within his constitutional authority? Why or why not? Continue reading
The holiday season is officially over and 2015 is in full swing. Even the United States Congress is back in session! Before we get too far into the New Year, I thought it would be good to look back on ten important American political issues and events that happened in 2014.
- Affordable Care Act: The continued rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) faced many setbacks in 2014. Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, resigned in April after becoming the scapegoat for a slow and buggy healthcare.gov, the website which housed the plan’s open enrollment. Despite the issues, the number of Americans who signed up for health coverage under ACA exceeded expectations.
- ISIS Attacks: ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, rolled across Iraq and Syria in 2014 vying for a unified Islamic state, or caliphate. ISIS is presumed responsible for the death of several American journalist and aid workers as well as for widespread civilian deaths across the Middle East. President Obama authorized additional troops and targeted airstrikes in ISIS held territory. As the recent attack in Paris confirms, ISIS sympathizers are active and extremely dangerous. Continue reading
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