The President and Congressional Persuasion

How the President and Congress work together can be difficult for students to give examples for as it is so often sometime that takes place behind closed doors. The recent Supreme Court vacancy therefore has given us some excellent examples of this. In this one, Obama invited Mitch McConnell (Republican Majority Leader in the Senate) to the White House. This could be explained as trying to use the ‘trappings’ of the White House to try and influence McConnell. ‘Trappings’ means trying to use the power behind the building and the people within it to persuade him.

In this sense, it allows McConnell to be seen as important – important enough to be invited to the White House for a personal meeting with the President in the Oval Office. This can be useful as it lends power to his position within the Senate but can also be used for the ‘folks back home’ to show just how important he is.

In this instance however, these powers were clearly not successful!

“So if the Supreme Court talk didn’t go anywhere, what did they discuss? “We killed a lot of time talking about basketball,” Reid said.”

This could be used for students to suggest a number of things. Firstly, the timing during Obama’s presidency is important. Usually, a President loses popularity over the course of a presidency and therefore the powers of persuasion become less useful and he has to instead rely on more blunt constitutional tools (like the veto…or recess appointments??). It could also be used to demonstrate the impact of checks and balances and how they work (or do not, if you prefer, depending on your essay) and therefore could be used in an essay on the Constitution.

Finally, it continues to support the importance of parties within the US political system, as gridlocked events like this are more likely to occur in times of divided government (linking to the point above about a decrease in popularity). Therefore it could be used to support an essay looking at the importance of parties in Unit 3 or Unit 4.