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Author: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D.

1. Sausage Factory Mechanics

  • How does a bill become a law?
  • How does a law become a rule?
  • Describe the (select from below) and how it may be used
    • U.S.C.
    • C.F.R.
    • Federal Register
    • Congressional Record
    • Thomas (Library of Congress Search Engine)
  • What is an “omnibus” bill?
  • What is the Administrative Procedures Act and why is it important?
  • What goes on in a Congressional hearing and to what purpose?
  • What is meant by committee “jurisdiction”?
  • What is the distinction between an “authorizing committee” and an “appropriations committee” (similarly, authorizing legislation and appropriations)?
  • What is the distinction between mandatory and discretionary spending? If you are an advocate of a program, which kind of spending would you prefer?
  • To understand many legislative proposals, you have to look at the underlying statute. What do I mean by this?
  • What is a bill cosponsor?
  • In predicting the fate of proposed legislation, what would you look for as general indicators of its potential success?
  • What is a farm bill?
  • Who is the Senate Majority Leader? The Senate Minority Leader? The President of the Senate? The Speaker of the House? House Minority Leader? Chairman and Ranking Committee Members? (not by name, but what are these positions)

2. Cafeteria Trays, Wife Beating, and Hot Potatoes: Problem Definition and Issue Framing

  • What is meant by the “agrarian myth” and why has this frame been particularly effective for those who seek to maintain financial support and limited regulatory burden for American farmers?

3. Deconstructing the Rationality Project

  • What does Stone refer to as the “rationality project” and what critique does she offer? Describe Kingdon’s policy soup. Is his model supportive of the rationality project?
  • Stone discusses the policy goal of equity, stressing that every policy issue involves the distribution of something. She gives the yummy example of chocolate cake distribution to tease out the complexities of equity. What is fair and how do you decide?
  • Economists argue that markets lead to efficiency. Do you agree? Is the poverty line a good measure of need and why?
  • What is an example of a story line in policymaking? An example of a policy metaphor? Why is it important to uncover metaphors, storylines, analogies and the like?
  • What role does ambiguity play in policymaking?

4. Soup’s On! – Kingdon’s Alternative Model

  • How, according to Kingdon, does something get on the policy agenda?
  • What is a policy window?
  • You hear people say that’s a solution in search of a problem. What is meant by this? Can you relate this to Kingdon’s model of policymaking (policy primeval soup)?
  • What is meant by incrementalism?

5. America in Receivership – Lowi’s Depiction of Lawless Policymaking

  • What is pluralism?
  • Lowi argues that we must expand and extend the rule of law. Why? How does he describe the current state of policymaking and what does he dislike about it?

6. Browne’s Depiction of Policymaking

  • Browne writes: “Merging home and Washington is far from an impossible dream.” What does he mean by this?
  • What is the so-called “iron triangle”?

7. When the Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts – Stone, Piore, and community dialogue

  • What is an identity group?
  • Why do Piore and Stone both contemplate policymaking situations where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts?

8. Budgets & Appropriations

  • Wildavsky says that the budget lies at the heart of the political process. Why?
  • About how much $ is our federal budget?
  • What’s the definition of a fiscal year for the federal government?
  • What is meant by pork-barrel spending?
  • What’s the budget resolution and is it important? Why?
  • What’s the difference between what the budget committees do and the appropriations committees?
  • What is the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending?
  • What is reconciliation?
  • What is an emergency supplemental appropriations bill?
  • What do I mean when a say the bill is scored at $1 billion?
  • What is CBO and what does it do?
  • What is a Continuing Resolution?
  • What is an appropriations “rider”?
  • Does the President have line-item veto power?

9. Rulemaking 101

  • How does a law become a rule?
  • What is the Administrative Procedures Act and why is it important?
  • What’s the Federal Register?
  • What’s the Code of Federal Regulations?
  • What’s the Freedom of Information Act?
  • What’s the Paperwork Reduction Act?
  • What’s the Federal Advisory Committee Act?
  • What is OIRA? OMB? What is their role in rulemaking?
  • What do I mean by public comment? Why might I accuse an agency of acting in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner based on some final rule?

10. Theory of Regulation

  • What do I mean by “tragedy of the commons” and can you provide me a regulatory dilemma that might be raised in this light?
  • What are the traditional justifications for regulation (see Breyer)?

11. Regulatory Agencies

(you’ll have a choice of answering an FDA or EPA question if any)

  • Where in Government is FDA located? Provide some history as to how it was established. What lessons does this history suggest (Quirk presents several)?
  • What’s the difference between premarket and postmarket testing? Who’s required to do the testing? How do you feel about that?
  • Typically a drug will be used on no more than a few thousand people before approval. Why? Do you think this is okay?
  • What are some of the regulatory hurdles FDA faces?
  • Tell the history of the establishment of EPA. What lessons does this history suggest?
  • Marcus’s thesis is that EPA’s explicit legal authority is too narrow and didn’t require taking into consideration questions of economic, technological or administrative feasibility. What do you think of his reasoning?
  • What is the so-called revolving door phenomenon?
  • What is the difference between point and non-point pollution and what are the regulatory implications?
  • Should there be a single food agency?

12. The Courts

  • What’s the difference between common law and public law?
  • What do critics of public law argue (see Vig & Kraft)? What do proponents argue? Where do you fall on the spectrum?
  • How many members are there on the Supreme Court?
  • What is meant by judicial activism?

13. Negotiation

  • What is your BATNA, how do you determine it, and why is it important?
  • What do I mean by “invent options for mutual gains” in the negotiation context?
  • Provide an example of when you might want to call in a professional mediator.

14. Media

  • How, if at all, does television alter the behavior of politicians?
  • To what extent does the media cover important public policy issues?
  • How would you best place a story in the media on an issue you cared about?