21 Module Introduction

Congress: To the Republic

Module Introduction

Topic Covered

  • The constitutional foundations of Congress
  • The organization of Congress
  • The legislative process

While nearly, if not all of the issues presented at the 1787 Constitutional Convention were of great importance, the form of the legislative branch proved to be the most crucial topic of the day. So critical was this debate that it was settled with what became known as the Great Compromise. The Connecticut Compromise, as it is likewise known by, produced a two-chamber, bicameral legislative body with proportional representation in the House and equal representation in the Senate. This arrangement not only solved the large state-small state divide, but more importantly it served as a tremendous step towards establishing a strong, central government; an element that was noticeably absent from the nation’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.

The strength and importance of Congress can also be viewed through its expansive list of constitutional powers. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists 17, detailed powers delegated to the national government. This is in stark contrast to the powers granted to the executive and judicial branches of government wherein vagueness, in terms of the allocation of power, abounds. Such detail on behalf of the Framers points to Congress as the most important organ of the national government. However, with time, this design has oft been challenged by political elements such as judicial review — as exercised in Marbury v. Madison (1803) and thereafter — and the modern presidency.

A final test of Congress’s power can be found in the legislative process itself. Lawmaking, no doubt the most important function of Congress, has been stalled in recent years. The onslaught of presidential executive orders, coupled with partisan gridlock, have constrained this very important work of Congress. The gross negative effect of this is its counter-productivity to democracy itself. Democracy dictates that government policy reflect the will of the people. How can the will of the people prevail when the policy process is stalled? (1)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to articulate an understanding of the individual in society.
  2. Students will be able to think critically about institutions, cultures, and behaviors in their local and/or national environment.
  3. Students will develop a historical context for understanding current issues and events


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the constitutional foundations of Congress.
  • Describe the structure and function of Congress.
  • Evaluate the legislative process of Congress. (1)

Readings & Resources:

Supplemental Material/Resources

(Note: These materials including the media form of online videos are considered supplemental and thus is not used for assessment purposes.)

Assignments & Learning Activities

  • Review Readings & Resources
  • Review Module 4 Learning Unit
  • Participate in Greetings & Introductions
  • Take Quiz 4


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