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The United States Senate as a Legal Institution

This course will familiarize students with major, and/or emerging legal and constitutional issues concerning the U.S. Senate. In so doing, it will examine: 1) the Senate's nature as a complex legal institution, and 2) the issue of the Senate's legitimacy in the context of the current and largely unprecedented criticism of the Senate from all parts of the political spectrum. This first portion of the course will consider institutional-legitimacy issues facing the Senate, including the appointment of senators to fill vacancies as well as disputes concerning Senate rules and procedures such as the filibuster and holds. The second part of the course will explore how the Senate interfaces with the Constitution and the Supreme Court. It will examine how senators should regard the issue of constitutionality in voting on legislation, be it campaign-finance reform, internet decency, or health care. This part of the course will also consider how senators should approach proposed constitutional amendments. The final portion of the course will review the wide range of issues that have emerged in recent years regarding the constitutional relationship between the Senate and the Executive Branch, including the increasingly acrimonious issue of the standard to apply to executive appointments under the advice and consent power. Particular emphasis on this part of the course will be given to issues that have gained greater prominence since 9/11, including the relationship between enacted, constitutional legislation and the presidential assertion of Article II powers, as well as the Senate's abdication of its Article I war-declaration power.


Instructors for this course