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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "Is Congress still a powerful body?"

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note looks at the key terms and examples you could use if you were assessing whether Congress remains a powerful body today.

Start by making sure you can explain each of these key terms:

  • US Congress
  • Legislative Power
  • Veto Override
  • Impeachment
  • Checks and Balances
  • Advice and Consent powers
  • Executive Order
  • War Clause
  • War Powers Act
  • Article I of the Constitution
  • Power of the Purse
  • Separation of Powers
  • Ratification of Treaties
  • Senate
  • House of Representatives
  • Limited Government

Contemporary Examples

Congress is still powerful

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. In 2008, George W Bush vetoed the Medicare Improvement Bill .This veto was overridden by Congress with significant majorities

Congress is not powerful

  1. The Presidential veto could be too powerful as in the entire Obama Administration he has not had a single veto overridden by Congress.
  2. If Congress won’t pass legislation for a President, then President’s can use Executive Orders. Obama in 2014 introduced an Executive Order which gave temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
  3. George W Bush committed American military forces after 9/11 to both Iraq and Afghanistan without Congressional authorisation under the Constitution War Clause

Historical Examples

Congress is still powerful

  1. In 1987, Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to be a Supreme Court judge but his nomination failed in the Senate
  2. 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.

Congress is not powerful

  1. President Roosevelt during his terms in office vetoed 635 bills from Congress, and only managed to have 9 successfully overridden
  2. It took Congress just short of 100 years to first use the veto override power, even though it is a significant power.

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