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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "Congress is the most powerful branch of Government. Discuss"

Level:
A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note contains key terms and examples that you could use when discussing whether Congress is the most powerful of the three branches of government in the US.

Make sure you understand what is meant by the following key terms in the first instance:

  • Article I of the Constitution
  • Democrats
  • Republicans
  • Legislative Branch
  • Executive Branch
  • Judicial Branch
  • Impeachment
  • Power of the Purse
  • Executive Orders
  • The Supreme Court
  • Presidential Veto
  • Veto Override
  • Recess appointments
  • Judicial Review
  • Constitutional Amendment
  • Executive agreements

Contemporary Examples

Congress is the most powerful branch of Government:

  1. In 1998 President Clinton was subject to an impeachment vote in the House of Representatives and then the impeachment trial in the Senate. This is the ultimate power of Congress over the executive
  2. In 2008, George W Bush vetoed the Medicare Improvement Bill. This veto was overridden by Congress with significant majorities
  3. In 2014 the Senate failed to confirm Debo Adegbile to be the head of the Civil Rights Division within the Justice Department

Congress is not the most powerful branch of Government:

  1. George W Bush committed American military forces after 9/11 to both Iraq and Afghanistan without Congressional authorisation under the Constitution War Clause
  2. The President can issue recess appointments should the Senate not be willing to confirm candidates for roles. Obama did this with appointees to the NLRB.
  3. Presidents can veto legislation from Congress as Obama did the with Keystone XL Pipeline bill.

Historical Examples

Congress is the most powerful branch of Government:

  1. Congress has used its power to defund programmes of the President, including in 1973 when it used legislation to defund Nixon’s War in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
  2. During the Bush administration of 2001-2009, he had a total of 36% of his vetoes overridden by Congress, one of the highest rates for modern presidents, showing the power of Congress

Congress is not the most powerful branch of Government:

  1. President Roosevelt during his terms in office vetoed 635 bills from Congress, and only managed to have 9 successfully overridden
  2. In 1934 the Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Act was in clear violation of First Amendment.

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