Congress Structured Academic Controversy

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Curriculet Details
16 Questions
21 Annotations
1 Quiz

For this activity students are asked to look at the choices members of Congress made around the government shutdown. They will focus on the powers that Congress is granted by the Constitution to determine whether or not they believe the shutdown was an abuse of these powers. It would be helpful to stop periodically and allow students to discuss each document source in a group or as a class. There are also practice AP questions (both multiple choice and FRQ). It is suggested that they have discussed or read about the structure of Congress before completing this activity.

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Congress Activity

This link provides an overview of the checks and balances established amongst the three branches of the US Government. (Helpful Reminder: Remember that the AP uses the terms legislative branch interchangeably with Congress.) (This annotation contains a link)
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Sample AP QuestionWhich of the following is a difference between the House and Senate? 
This chart offers a visual description of the Virginia and New Jersey plans, as well as which parts were taken from each to form the Great Compromise.  (This annotation contains an image)
This video from Teacher Tube has students explain why each state favored the plan it favored. If you are confused about the historical context for the Great Compromise, this video is worth watching.  (This annotation contains a video)
In this short video, the Two AP Teachers review everything the AP exam will expect you to know about Congress. It is a good preview to assist you with the rest of the activity. It is recommended that you add new information to any of your existing notes. (This annotation contains a video)
This is a great chart to copy into your notes, as it clearly indicates all of the enumerated powers. (Helpful Hint: The AP often will ask about these powers in the multiple-choice section of the exam.) (This annotation contains an image)
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Sample AP QuestionThe congressional power that has been contested most frequently in the federal courts is the power to 
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Sample AP Question:Which legislative tactic is most effectively used only in the Senate? 
This is often referred to as logrolling. See this link for a definition of the term. (This annotation contains a link)
This link from the Annenberg Foundation provides a video that explains the legislative process from start to finish.  (This annotation contains a link)
Although satire, this 2011 clip from the Daily Show clearly explains some of the challenges law makers face when trying to pass legislation.  (This annotation contains a video)
This info graphic shows the path bills should follow to become laws. (This annotation contains an image)
This link provides further information about the three types of leadership, and if you watch the video interview with a Louisiana Congressman he will clearly explain why he chooses to act as a Delegate and defy his party. (This annotation contains a link)
Here are two sources related to the government shutdown, particularly about shutdown architect Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that show clear bias. Review them briefly, as it is important that you always consider the motivations of a source, and the evidence presented before forming your own opinion. It will help you prepare to fully analyze the documents. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/09/23/diary-of-a-legislative-terrorist-ted-cruz-goes-nuclear-against-his-own-party-to-save-his-own-skin/ http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20131022-ted-cruz-gets-hero-s-welcome-from-tea-party-faithful-in-houston.ece?nclick_check=1  (This annotation contains a link)
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Think Like An HistorianWhat do you know about this source? From the title, what bias can you assume is present in this blog post? 
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Think Like An HistorianWhat evidence does the author present for this point? Does it seem credible, or more like his personal opinion? Explain. 
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Think Like An HistorianDoes this argument seem logical to you? Explain why or why not. 
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Think Like An HistorianDoes this point serve to bolster or hinder the author's overall argument? Explain why or why not. 
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Think Like An HistorianWhat do you know about this source? From the title, what bias can you assume is present in this blog post? 
Take a look at this Wikipedia page for more history on the term and the Republican party. (This annotation contains a link)
Divided Government is a term that often comes up on the AP exam. You should be familiar with what it is and how it impacts the functioning of the federal government. The link provides a clear definition and example. (This annotation contains a link)
This is the official website of the Tea Party Patriots. Visit the link if you're curious to know how they distinguish themselves from the rank-and-file members of the Republican Party.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Think Like An HistorianDoes this seem like a credible point? Explain why or why not. 
This link provides a clear and in depth explanation of the SCOTUS ruling.  (This annotation contains a link)
President Obama meeting with Congressional leaders from both parties at the White House to discuss key budget issues. Seen here from left to right: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). (This annotation contains an image)
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Think Like An HistorianDoes this paragraph make a compelling argument about abuse of Constitutional power, or does it seem like partisan bias, or a simple observation of fact? Explain. 
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Think Like An HistorianIs this source recognizable to you? Does it seem credible? What might you infer about the blog post from its title?    
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Think Like An HistorianWhat effect does the author have on the reader by citing historical examples and the Constitution? Explain. 
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Think Like An HistorianDoes the author effectively argue his point that the shutdown is an unconstitutional seizure of power? Explain why or why not.  
In this political cartoon a family seeking to visit the shuttered Smithsonian Castle is redirected to observe Congress. It is particularly harsh on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), who received much criticism for refusing to put any spending bills up for a vote without concessions from President Obama.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Think Like An HistorianWhat do you know about this source? From the title, what bias can you assume is present in this blog post? 
Although this link does not explore whether the shutdown was an abuse of Constitutional power, it does provide a concise explanation of how the shutdown impacted people across the nation.  (This annotation contains a video)
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada departs with an aide and his security detail after a late-night legislative session at the Capitol Oct. 1. Op-ed contributor Chris Jacobs writes: '[I]f Mr. Obama and Sen. Reid didn’t shut down the government to insist on funding Obamacare, they likely would have shut down the government to essentially insist on spending more.' Jonathan Ernst/Reuters" (Christian Science Monitor)  (This annotation contains an image)
One of the numerous political cartoons to appear during the shutdown. (This annotation contains an image)
This website explains how Medicaid works. If you're unsure about the difference between Medicaid, regular insurance and the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare it is a worthwhile read. (This annotation contains a link)
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After considering all of the provided sources, do you believe Congress today abusing their power, or protecting the people? Please support your argument with evidence from your readings. 
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From the 2001 AP exam:Explain how both of the political factors listed below make it difficult for the federal government to enact public policy. Provide one example for each explanation. a. Divided government b. Weak party discipline 
Sample AP Questions-Congress