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Specification:

  • AQA Component 3.2.1.2: The legislative branch of government: Congress

  • Edexcel Component 3A: 2.1: Congress: legislative function

Background: what you need to know 

The article discusses the problems facing the Biden administration in passing its ambitious ‘Build Back Better Bill’ to extend welfare provision and combat climate change. The bill has passed the House of Representatives but now faces an uphill battle to get through the Senate. The amount to be spent has already been reduced due to opposition from two centre-right Democratic Party senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. In a Senate where the party balance is 50/50, they exercise disproportionate influence.

The bill is at the mercy of internal Democrat tensions between moderates and progressives, as well as facing steadfast Republican opposition. The article illustrates the complexity of the US legislative process, where lengthy wheeling and dealing is essential to pass measures of this kind. It notes that if negotiations lead to a compromise in the Senate, the bill would then have to return to the House for approval.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Biden’s landmark spending bill faces next battle in Senate

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • ‘Congress is ineffective in performing its legislative function.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3a

  • Evaluate the view that Congress is ineffective in carrying out its legislative function.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. (30)

    TIP: The article highlights the impact of the USA’s highly polarised politics on the legislative process. However, it also notes that a bill to spend a smaller amount on infrastructure has recently been passed with bipartisan support: Biden signs $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill into law

    Reference to both bills should enable you to introduce some balance into your answer.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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