A lively, comprehensive account that demonstrates how contemporary controversies are grounded in law, history, and politics
President and Congress
Executive Hegemony at the Crossroads of American Government
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Robert J. Spitzer
Examining trends that have led to the rise of the modern strong presidency and the apparent decline of Congress, Robert Spitzer discusses the evolving relationship between the executive and legislative branches and its implications for the constitutional separation of powers. He focuses on historical, legal, and political perspectives that shape the interaction of the two branches and challenges much of the recent criticism directed at that relationship.
As the best hope for effective national governance, Spitzer argues for the acceptance of presidential dominance, a renewed commitment to the separation of powers, and an active and vigorous role for Congress. Unlike other books on the subject, this book focuses attention on foreign policy issues, such as war powers, treaty-making and executive agreements, foreign aid, arms sales, and intelligence. The author examines U.S. military actions since the enactment of the controversial War Powers Resolution of 1973, including the recent Iraqi crisis.
Spitzer cites current timely examples to illustrate broader trends, such as post-Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget reforms, Iran-Contra as an example of unilateral executive decision-making, and the ascendance of politics over law in the continued use of the legislative veto in the face of the Supreme Court ruling striking it down. This lively, comprehensive account of the current state of presidential-congressional relations illuminates the dynamics of the balance of power and demonstrates how contemporary controversies are grounded in law, history, and politics.
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Read the Introduction and an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).
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1. Foundations of the Presidential-Congressional Relationship
The Founders' Fears
Fear of a Strong Executive
Fear of a Strong Legislature
Fear of Concentrated Power
Fear of Governmental Paralysis
The Constitutional Framework
2. The Evolving Relationship
Case I: The First Congress, 1789-1791
Politics as Usual
What's in a Name?
The Government Seat
Debt Funding and Assumption
The Evolving Relationship
The Jacksonian Era
Case II: The Twenty-Seventh Congress, 1841-1843
The Road to a Stronger Presidency
The Civil War-Reconstruction Era
The Ascendancy of the Modern Strong Presidency
Conclusion: Explaining the Changing Relationship
3. The Domestic Realm I: The Legislative Presidency
Why a Legislative President?
An Administrative Congress?
Setting the Agenda
Lobbying from the White House
The President's Full-Court Press
Rallying Public Support
Controlling the Endgame: The Veto
Presidential Success: Measuring the President's Batting Average
4. The Domestic Realm II: Explaining Presidential-Congressional Interactions
Political Explanation: Presidential Leadership
Leadership and Presidential Power
Leadership Qualities and Congress
Historical Explanation: Budgeting
From Legislative to Executive Budget
Legal Explanation: The Legislative Veto
Congress Gets a Veto
Arguments Pro and Con
The Court Rules...
...But the Veto Remains
Policy Explanation: Policy Types
The Arenas of Power
The Four Presidencies
5. Foreign Affairs I: Who Steers the Ship of State?
The Executive-Legislative Balance and the Constitution
Are There "Two Presidencies"?
Why Presidential Ascendancy?
War Powers and Military Force
The Founders and War
The Evolution of the War Power
The War Powers Resolution
The War Powers Resolution in Operation...
...or, "Oh, What a Lovely War"
Presidential War Making
Conclusion: Pacificus Prevails
6. Foreign Affairs II: Ah, Diplomacy!
Treaties and Executive Agreements
Treaty-Making Success: The Panama Canal Treaties
Treaty-Making Failure: The SALT II Treaty
Assessment: Treaties, the President, and Congress
Arms Sales and the Changing Role of the United States in the World
The Saudi Arms Deal
The President, Congress, and Intelligence
7. Conclusion: Is the Separation of Powers Obsolete?
The Presidential-Congressional Relationship: Marginal or Hegemonic?
The Ineffectual Congress/Ascendant President Argument
Terms and Parties
The End of Congressional Lawmaking
Is Change Desirable?
The Imperial Congress/Weak President Argument
The "Legalism" Critique
The "Imperial " Congress
Were the Founders Wrong?
Separation of Powers and Alternatives
Retaining and Executive-Hegemonic Separation of Powers
The Rules and Outcomes
The Presidency and Democracy
Appendix A: The Politics of the Modern Presidency
Appendix B: The Politics of the Modern Congress
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About the Author(s)
Robert J. Spitzer is Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York, College at Cortland.
Political Science and Public Policy
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