Politics class: Democrats expand Senate majority after winning Georgia run-off
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AQA Component 184.108.40.206: Relationship of Congress to the executive branch of government and the Supreme Court
Edexcel Component 3A: 2.2.3: Factors that influence the relationship between Congress and the presidency
Background: what you need to know
The article discusses the result of the run-off vote for the Senate in Georgia, which was held because neither candidate received 50 per cent of the vote in the November midterm elections. The Democrat candidate’s victory in the state gave President Biden a narrow majority (51-49) in the Senate. This makes his position slightly stronger than in his first two years, when the chamber was evenly split.
In a highly polarised political environment, this forced the executive to rely on the Vice-President’s casting vote to pass legislation. However, there is still a situation of ‘divided government’ since the Republicans have won control of the House of Representatives.
Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:
Four days after the Georgia result came the announcement that Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) decided to register as an independent. This does not mean that the Democrats lose their control of the Senate or of key committees, but it does make the situation more complicated since Sinema has opposed some of Biden’s policies.
Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2
Explain and analyse three factors that may influence the relationship between Congress and the executive. [9 marks]
Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3
Evaluate the view that midterm elections are the most important constraint on the power of the presidency.
You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]
TIP: The outcome of midterm elections can significantly affect the president’s ability to pass a legislative programme. Think of other factors that may affect the relationship with Congress, such as the checks and balances that the constitution imposes. For example, the president can veto legislation — but this can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses. Another factor is the ability of presidents to use informal powers, such as the power of persuasion, to achieve their legislative goals.
Graham Goodlad, Portsmouth High School