What are some good questions to ask about Congress, in political science?

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There are a number of questions that could be asked about Congress.  I assume that you are wanting questions that ask something more interesting than things like “how many members are there in each house of Congress.”  Therefore, I will provide some questions that ask questions that are more interesting to political scientists.

  • Why are the Senate and the House set up differently?  This question could get us to think about things like separation of powers.  It would also encourage us to think about how the Senate was supposed to be a more deliberative body and how the Framers were worried about excessive democracy.
  • Should members of Congress act as delegates or as trustees?  This asks us to think about the proper role of representatives and about how democracies should follow the will of the people.
  • Should Congress have more power over foreign policy?  This gets us to think about the constitutional roles of the Congress in comparison to those of the presidency.
  • Is Congress excessively partisan?  This asks us to think about whether Congress should be trying to achieve consensus or whether it should be more interested in sticking to idealistic positions.
  • Is it important for Congress to look like America?  This gets at the idea of descriptive representation.  Can people who do not “look like” us actually represent us?  Do women have to be represented by women or Hispanics by Hispanics?

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