'Congress has become the least powerful branch of government' Discuss

Article 1 of the Constitution - the longest article- evidence that Congress was seen as the most important and powerful branch but is it still?

Evidence that Congress does not retain its political power includes:

• ability of the president to set the domestic agenda and circumvent Congress through-

  • executive orders,-e.g Obama's statement that he would use his 'pen'-

  • Trump Mexico City Rule

  • signing statements e.g McCain Amendment/release of Bowe Bergdahl’

  • Executive Agreements- Iran deal

  • and recess appointments.- Obama made over 40- but had this power limited by NLRB v Noel Canning

• ability of the president to set the tone and direction of foreign policy, and to deploy armed forces without congressional approval- Obama drones/Bin Laden/ after 9/11

• ability of the Supreme Court to strike down congressional legislation.-Citizens United v FEC stuck down Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

• complicated legislative process means far more laws are rejected than passed. Only 4%.

• parochialism makes Congress often incapable of acting in a coordinated way- failure to deal with Fiscal Cliff/2012 Grid lock and government shut down

• Congress has the lowest public approval ratings of the three branches of government- currently 12% - seen as the 'Broken branch' Ornstein and Mann

Evidence that Congress remains a powerful body includes:

  • • continued dependence of the president on Congress for all legislation and money-'Power of the Purse'- used to block closure of Guantanamo

  • • continued dependence of the president on Congress for all appointment confirmation (Merrick Garland) and treaty ratification- block on Paris Accords, Comprehensive Test Ban,

  • • continued ability of Congress to override presidential vetoes

  • • sometime willingness of Congress to set the policy agenda, e.g. the ‘Contract with America’ or Pelosi Six for 06

    • Periods when the President is a lame duck or seen as Imperilled

    • Greater polarisation and political unity- Hastert Rule

  • In the history of the United States, 168 presidential nominees have been filibustered, 82 blocked under President Obama, 86 blocked under all the other presidents" -Harry Reid