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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "In Congress, legislative gridlock is inevitable. Discuss "

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note outlines the key terms and examples you might want to use when discussing whether gridlock in Congress is inevitable.

Make sure you can explain the following key terms:

  • Article I of the Constitution
  • House of Representatives
  • US Senate
  • Congressional Elections
  • Equal Legislative Power
  • Balanced Bicameralism
  • Republicans
  • Democrats
  • Divided Government
  • Party Polarization
  • Ideological disparity
  • Joint Passage of Legislation
  • Congressional leadership
  • Legislative process
  • Electoral mandate
  • Bipartisanship

Contemporary Examples

Legislative gridlock is inevitable:

  1. The Senate’s filibuster power to derail legislation can be a sticking point for gridlock. In the 113th Congress 36 bills have been filibustered.
  2. The Committee structures in Congress can mean bills can be pigeonholed or effectively killed off, such as Bill Clinton’s healthcare reforms during the early part of his administration
  3. Throughout almost the entire Obama administration the Republicans have controlled the House and the Democrats the Senate from 2011-2014, resulting in two terms of divided government. The Federal Government Shutdown was a great example of complete gridlock.

Legislative gridlock is not inevitable:

  1. In 1996, Congress, despite being bitterly divided, managed to pass the Welfare Reform measures which placed enforcement measures and increased education spending.
  2. No Child Left Behind as a measure was authored by both Democrats and Republicans despite it being a Bush President stalwart programme, and brought in a number of opponents to ensure success
  3. The McCain-Feingold Act or Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act 2002, is the most recent bi partisan effort on campaign finance reform.

Historical Examples

Legislative gridlock is inevitable:

  1. Ronald Reagan faced a divided Congress across his entire Presidency, as did George H W Bush. Throughout the time Congress was either divided or controlled entirely by Democrats, at odds with a Republican
  2. The Constitution ensures gridlock through the establishment of separate term limits and the equal legislative power afforded to both chambers.

Legislative gridlock is not inevitable:

  1. The Civil Rights Act 1964 was subject to Democratic filibuster so required Republican support and ended the filibuster, passing the Act nine days later
  2. The 1973 Endangered Species Act was a good example of bipartisanship in which a Democratic bill was drawn up and had wide support from the Republican party.

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