Course Number: 90-840
Legislative Policy Making
This is an eight-week mini-course on how the U.S. Congress works or,
more aptly, how an idea, a policy proposal, becomes law.
In a short introductory course like this, the task may seem illusory.
Moreover, for many, there is something genuinely mysterious about why some policies
survive the legislative mayhem and others do not. Your instructor spent nearly 14 years
working in the U.S. Congress and still does not pretend to know with certainty the rhyme
and reason of this institution.
But trying to understand legislative policy-making is essential for every
student of public policy and management.
In a democratic society all the great ideas in the world mean nothing if you
cannot persuade those in legislative office not only to accept your proposals but also to
enact them into law. Thousands of bills are introduced in the U.S. Congress every year,
but only a few hundred are ever enacted. What is the key to effective policy-making in
the United States? Why do some ideas become law, and most do not?
The focus of this course is the U.S. Congress and all the components that
dictate whether a particular proposal becomes law. We will examine how the elected
official's desires, both political and otherwise, interact with the goals of his colleagues,
special interest groups, staff members, the media, and the legislative process to create
legislation. And because of the growing power of the presidency, we will examine the
tension between the White House and the Congress when it comes to policy making.
Jonathan W. Delano