Legislatures make rules for government
- Article I,
legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a
Congress of the United States, which shall consist of
a Senate and a House of Representatives.
8: 18 clauses that enumerate Congress' powers
- Some very
different institutions have been called
definition can embrace all these types?
legislative body can be defined by its
function of a legislature is to make laws for
a nation's laws may be made elsewhere -- e.g., in
the bureaucracy - and the legislature merely
legislative body can also be defined by its
is a MULTIMEMBERED political organ,
of ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES and is formally
accountable to the electorate,
DELIBERATES FORMALLY formally before COLLECTIVELY
VOTING to decide issues
then become NATIONAL POLICY.
every country has a body known as a "legislature"
according to a structural definition of a
- But the
legislatures in different countries often fulfill
quite different functions in the political
- We can
gain insight into the nature of congress as a
rule-making body by examining LEGISLATURES in
comparative perspective: http://www.assnat.qc.ca/eng/autres_parl.html
legislatures in the U.K., U.S., and former USSR are so
different that we must adopt a broader view of the
functions served by legislatures in a political
-- emphasizing coherent decisions that support general
interests in the society (that is, rule-making in a
-- promoting the acceptability of policy decisions,
wherever they are actually made
-- defending particular interests in making decisions
on matters of national policy
architectual imperative, "form follows function," can be
applied to legislatures
of opposing parties
of conflicting interests:
legislatures--illustrated by the British House of
Commons--are primarily POLICY MAKING bodies.
is public and centers over broad issues of policy,
with the participants knowing that the electorate will
hold the governing party responsible for national
policies at the next election.
national policies are debated in the House of Commons,
the chamber itself becomes a conflict arena.
on the House of Commons
14, 1996 from 60 Minutes
from C-Span of Question Time
design of the House of Commons illustrates that form
chamber is designed to pit one party against the
other-- in this case on the issue of the
government's policy of dropping economic sanctions
against South Africa.
made by members of the Government and the Loyal
Opposition- who sit on benches near the front, next
to the Speaker--are vociferously supported by their
party members sitting behind them--called
the treatment given to Margaret Thatcher, who is
the Prime Minister and Head of Government, which is
quite different from the deference shown to a
also that a Prime Minister must have terrific
debating skills, which would seem to eliminate
Ronald Reagan from that type of office.
note the class differences that appear among the
members speaking for the Conservative and Labour
legislatures--illustrated by the old Supreme Soviet in
the USSR--fulfill the role of LEGIMATING decisions made
don't meet often enough or long enough to actually
make legislative policy.
don't take many votes, and virtually all measures
introduced in the chambers pass.
to the architectual principle, form follows function,
these legitimating legislatures look like
theaters--with major players on the stage and ordinary
legislatures in the role of an applauding
- A few
other legislatures--like the U.S. Congress--fulfill the
role of REPRESENTING interests.
defend particular interests in making decisions on
matters of national policy
may be why individual members of Congress are
evaluated very highly, but why Congress itself rates
rather low for voters overall.
ability of a legislative body to make national policy
depends on constitutional limitations on the
Britain, there are no constitutional limitations on the
policy making capabilities of Parliament.
is no written constitution required extraordinary
majorities to decide certain issues.
assent to laws is always given since 1707.
Parliament has two chambers, the House of Lords
essentially checks the Commons temporarily in
courts, including the Lords as the highest appeals
court, cannot declare an act of parliament
"government" within the Commons enacts more than 95
percent of the bills it introduces, being strongly
supported by nearly all the members of its party and
opposed by nearly all of the opposition
- In the
United States, Congress operates under severe
constitutional limits of its legislative powers.
- Some of
these are not very consequential today.
Constitution cannot suspend writ of habeas corpus,
not enact ex post facto laws.
cannot tax articles for export.
many years, the 10th Amendment, which reserved to
the States powers not delegated to the U.S. by the
Constitution, was used to curb the attempts of
Congress to control interstate commerce in
in general, the current mind of the court is quite
permissive in granting the powers of Congress to
constitutional checks on Congress are quite
veto of legislation
review of legislation by federal courts
co-equal status of the House and Senate in the
Constitution also checks the power of Congress.
thought that the House would represent popular
opinion -- would be the more "liberal"
would represent quality, wealth, and virtue -- thus
being the more conservative chamber.
observers see an inversion of this role: that the
Senate has been the more liberal body.
clearly the houses tend to differ in opinion on
legislative issues, thus limiting the legislature's
capacity to make definitive policy decisions.
with the British Parliament, the U.S Congress is far less
likely to pass legislation requested by the head of
government--i.e., the Prime Minister and the
done over a 20 year period (from 1954 to 1974),
Congress passed only 44% of legislation that the
1956 to 1969, Parliament approved 96% of all
legislation passed by Parliament was far more likely to be
in its original form.