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Legislative Decision Making: US Congress

Course Number: 84-693

This course analyzes decision-making by the United States Congress. The course examines legislative behavior by focusing on the way Congress is organized (institutional and constitutional structure) and the ways legislators, voters, and various other parties interact (strategic constraints). Students will both learn the legislative process and explore the influence of norms, rules, expectations, incentives and, perhaps most important of all, the power of the electorate in influencing legislative outcomes and policy. Elections, voting decisions, committee assignments, political party power, and intra-branch relations across the Federal government are some of the topics into which we will delve. This course does not require any prior knowledge of the US Congress, and there are no prerequisites for the course.

Academic Year: 2023-2024
Semester(s): Spring
Units: 12
Location(s): Pittsburgh

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Identify rules and procedures of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate;
  • Understand the history and development of the internal rules and institutions, and understand how these rules and institutions shape the behavior of members of each chamber;
  • Evaluate the different types of behavior exhibited by members of Congress, both at home (with their constituents) and "on the Hill;"
  • Identify and articulate the ways the legislative system provides opportunities for strategic behavior, and articulate what strategic behavior means for public policy;
  • Draw connections between electoral incentives, politics, constitutional requirements, and democratic theory;
  • Read, critically assess, and articulate complex methodological approaches to the study of Congress.

Spring 2024
Tuesday and Thursday
3:30-4:50 PM