Congress, the Constitution, and Contemporary Politics

April 10-12, 2015


Application deadline: February 13, 2015
Early decision: January 30, 2015

Article One of the Constitution, constituting almost half the body of the Constitution, delineates the structure and powers of our First Branch, Congress.  This course will focus on how the Founders intended Congress to function, how our legislature has evolved, and whether it functions effectively today.  Is Congress fulfilling its key responsibilities to represent, deliberate, legislate, and exercise oversight?  The course will examine congressional elections, bicameralism, and the legislative process, along with the role of party and committee leadership.  The course will also consider where Congress fits in our constitutional separation of powers in relation to the presidency and the Courts.  Throughout the course, we will examine Congress then and now.  For example, is Congress today the “broken branch” due to polarization, partisanship, and gridlock?  Is the Senate filibuster constitutional?  Do we need to reform Congress?

Seminar Scholar

William F. Connelly, Jr. is the John K. Boardman Politics Professor at Washington and Lee University.  He has a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and an M.A. from Boston College.  Before beginning his academic career, Professor Connelly worked for the Connecticut General Assembly.  In 1985-86 he worked on Capitol Hill as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.  In 1991-92 Professor Connelly was a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution.  His research interests focus on Congress, including his most recent book titled James Madison Rules America: The Constitutional Origins of Congressional Partisanship.  Professor Connelly directs W&L’s Washington Term Program.  In 2007 Prof. Connelly received the Virginia Council of Higher Education Outstanding Faculty Award.