Politics A2 Revision Notes

edexcel a2 US politics revision notes on congress, presidency, supreme court & the consitution 

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US Government and politics
Supreme Court
The role of the judiciary
Responsibility of judges to adjudicate ­ to do this, they resolve disputes that can't
be settled without legal action
They reach conclusions according to a set of rules, such as referring to previous
Philosophy of the justices
Strict constructionists
A justice who interprets the constitution in a strict literal or conservative
Tends to stress the retention of as much powers as possible by the
governments of the individual states.
They look at the original intent of the Founding Fathers ­ referred to as
Favor state rights over the power of the fed. Gov. & tend to be appointed by
Republican presidents ­ Chief Justice Roberts and associate Justices Scalia,
Thomas & Alito fall in this category
Focus on the text of the constitution job of the court is to derive and apply
rules from the words chosen by those who framed the constitution
Loose constructionists
A justice of the Supreme Court who interprets the Constitution in a loose or
liberal fashion, 7 who tends to stress the broad grants of power to the
federal government
Currently Justices Ginsburg 7 Breyer fall into this category, as do Justices
Stevens and Souter ­ although both appointed by Rep. Presidents
Judicial activism
An activist court is one which sees itself as leading the way in the reform of
American society
Court of Warl Warren ­ Activist in the 50s & 60s in decisions such as Brown V.
Board of education Topeka (1954) and Miranda V. Arizona (1966) trying to
move society along in the areas of black civil rights and the rights of arrested
Warren Burger court ­ activist in its Roe V. Wade (1973) ­ rights of a woman
to have an abortion was a constitutionally protected one
Sees the court as an equal partner with the legislative and executive branches
of government

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Activist judges are not inclined to be deferential to the other branches of
Judicial restraint
The court when it is more inclined to accept what has gone before ­ leave
things as they are ­ more associated with justices who are strict
Importance on what is called stare decisis ­ to stand by what is decided
Once a matter has been decided in a case ­ forms a precedent that should
not be overturned except under pressing and changed circumstances
E.g.…read more

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The defeat of Robert Bork, one of the most outstanding jurists and scholar
of his generation ­ Dem.…read more

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It also decides what the first amendment `freedom of speech' applies to the
The supreme court has involved itself in a host of political issues ­ acting as
grantor of fundamental civil rights and liberties ­ S.C has made landmark
decisions on issues such as rights of racial minorities, capital minorities, gun
control & freedom of speech
The political importance of the court is demonstrated in the case of George
W. Bush V. Albert Gore Jr (2000)- S.C.…read more

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Due Process
The term more fully is due process of law and although no precise legal
definition of the term has been made, it is understood to refer to the
principle of limited government.
There are 2 types of due process referred to by the courts.…read more

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Lee v. Weisman 1992 ­ Declared prayer at state school graduation
unconstitutional (Separation of religion and education).
Freedom of speech:
Citizen United v. Election Commission 2010 ­ Declared corporations to
have the same rights as individuals (financial contributions to
campaigns) over turning key elements in the Bipartisan Campaign
Reform act.
Right to bear arms:
United state v. Lopez 1995 ­ Unconstitutional 1990 Gun-free school
zones act, Congress had exceeded its power ­ implications for scope
of federal power over state juristictions.
Racial rights:
Brown v.…read more

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Nomination of justices.
Can either throw weight behind court or openly criticise it.
Power to pardon.
Other checks:
No enforcement powers (Brown v Board ­ only implemented by
Eisenhower sending in troops to Little Rock in 1957).
Has to wait for a case to come before it ­ cannot review legislation on
a hypothetical basis.
Some parts of the constitution are unambiguous.
Can check itself by reviewing old decisions (However precedence limits
this).…read more

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The structure of congress
Bicameral ­ two houses, House of Representative & Senate
Membership of Congress
House Membership
In the House of Representatives there are 435 members.
Each state has a certain number of members proportional to the population of
the state.
Each member represents a district. By the time of 2002 elections, Californa had
53 representatives, while Wyoming had just one.…read more

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Following his election as President, the Illinois state governor appointed another
African American, Rolan Burris to fill the vacancy.
Just under half of the current senate are former members of the house of
representatives. This indicates the perceived power and prestige of the senate
compared to the house.
Powers of Congress
Laid down in Article 1 of the Constitution
Exclusive powers of the House - 3 exclusive powers
1. The power to initiate money bills ­ only the House was directly elected so the
F.F.…read more

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Both houses must vote by 2/3rds majorities to override the presidents veto of a bill
­ 2007 congress overrode President Bush's veto of the Water Resources
Development bill
3. Initiating constitutional amendments ­ approved by two-thirds majority in both
houses before it is sent to states to be ratified
4. Concur in a declaration of war ­ 5 occasions when this has occurred
5.…read more


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