This shutdown is a godsend for civics teachers

Ok, so the title is a bit of a joke, since it’s getting increasingly difficult to try to teach how the government is supposed to work when it so clearly isn’t working. But on the positive side, the current conflict between the executive and legislative branches (or, if you prefer the media shorthand, between the President and House Republicans) is providing many, MANY articles about some of the more arcane aspects of congressional procedure.

For example, in most years I would gloss over the whole notion of a discharge petition. But luckily, thanks to the reluctance of the Speaker to bring a continuing resolution to a vote, we have multiple articles on this rather obscure procedural maneuver.

Here’s one from the New Republic that goes really inside baseball both in describing what a discharge petition is and why we can’t have one right away. It’s particularly helpful in reminding us about the role that the Speaker plays in bringing bills to the floor of the house and explains why so much of the focus is on John Boehner.  And here is the Washington Post explaining why we’re not likely to see one, even though they think it would be a good idea. The National Review agrees.

So, read these articles and you should have greater insight into both the power of the Speaker and the discharge petition.

BONUS: The Debt Ceiling!

Now moving on from the shutdown to the debt ceiling, (which I’ve pointed out in class is probably going to be a disaster if there is no movement from Congress to raise it). Apparently there’s a growing feeling, at least among some Republicans, that breaching the debt ceiling might not be so bad. This article points out why people who take this sanguine view are wrong.  This piece, by a law professor from the University of Chicago (which is not known for its liberal politics) explains what the president could do to avoid a debt default if Congress does not act to raise the debt ceiling. I strongly urge you to read it as it provides a useful introduction to the way that the President can interact with Congress in an emergency situation. You should read it.

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