Topic: Branches of Government

Current Event May 15, 2020

Debate: Should the Federal Government Manage the Pandemic Response?

Health Branches of Government

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how federal and state governments balance power and responsibility during a crisis. While the Constitution says that states have the authority to manage a health crisis, some people would like the federal government to step in and coordinate responses between the states, as it would during wartime. Listen to learn more about the powers of the president during a crisis and then debate: Should the federal government manage the pandemic response?

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Current Event March 9, 2020

War Powers Act and Iran

Politics War Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

The House of Representatives voted to require the President to get permission from Congress for any further military action against Iran. The move is a response to the Trump administration’s recent killing of a top Iranian general and other aggressive acts. Lawmakers who support the resolution say the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war against a foreign power. The President, however, believes that laws passed after 9/11 give him the authority to act alone when the U.S. is threatened. Listen to learn more about the struggle between Congress and the President over war powers.

Note: After the publication of this story, the Senate approved a measure to block President Trump from further attacks on Iran without consulting Congress.

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Current Event February 10, 2020

President Donald Trump Is Acquitted in Impeachment Trial

Politics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

The Senate voted to acquit President Trump of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives had impeached the president on these violations in December, but the Senate’s decision means he will not be removed from office. Senators cast votes along party lines, with the exception of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the first senator to vote to convict a president in his own party. Listen to hear how Romney came to his decision and how Congress plans to move forward after an exhausting and divisive impeachment trial.

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Current Event January 27, 2020

High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Impeachment

Politics Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump has focused the nation’s attention on a short section of the U.S. Constitution. Along with treason and bribery, the Constitution says presidents may be removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but what exactly the phrase means is open for discussion. Listen to hear an expert explain where the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” came from, why the framers decided to include it, and how it has sparked exactly the kind of debate the framers anticipated.

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Current Event December 26, 2019

President Donald Trump is Impeached by the House

Politics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 for high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article of impeachment charges the president with abuse of power, and the second with obstruction of Congress. Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. In a deeply divided Congress, the voting was split along party lines, with almost all Democrats voting to impeach and all Republicans voting against impeachment. The articles of impeachment now go to the Senate, where a trial will be held to determine whether or not to remove President Trump from office. Listen to learn about the historic impeachment.

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Current Event December 9, 2019

Drafting Articles of Impeachment

Politics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Judiciary Committee will write articles of impeachment against President Trump. The announcement follows weeks of hearings where witnesses testified about the president’s actions in Ukraine, which Pelosi says showed that the president abused his power. If the House of Representatives votes to approve the articles, President Trump will be impeached, and then the Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear Speaker Pelosi explain why she believes impeachment is necessary and learn what charges may be included in the articles of impeachment.

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Current Event November 18, 2019

How Impeachment Works

Politics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

Congress has launched an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment involves an investigation by the House of Representatives into potential wrongdoing by the president and, if they find it, a vote on whether to impeach. If a majority of House members vote yes, the president is impeached. His case then goes before the Senate for a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear a reporter clarify the steps in the impeachment process and explain what to expect as the impeachment of President Trump proceeds.

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Current Event October 14, 2019

History of Impeachment

Politics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach a president considered unfit for office. First, the House of Representatives investigates whether the president has committed a crime and votes on articles of impeachment, and then the Senate holds a trial and votes on whether to remove the president from office. The current impeachment inquiry investigating President Trump is taking place in a strongly divided country. Listen to an expert explain what today’s Congress can learn from the past, and why no president facing impeachment has ever been removed from office.

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Current Event August 13, 2019

Remembering Justice John Paul Stevens

Politics Law Ethics Democracy Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

Retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens recently died at the age of 99. Appointed in 1975, he served on the Supreme Court for decades. He authored numerous important majority opinions for the court and helped to decide many significant cases, even through difficult times and political changes. Listen to learn more about the judicial legacy of Supreme Court Justice Stevens.

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Current Event August 12, 2019

U.S. Census Goes Forward

Politics Law immigration Branches of Government U.S. Constitution

“Are you a U.S. citizen?” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot include that question on the 2020 census, even though the Trump administration wanted to add it. However, the administration is still trying to get as much citizenship data as possible, and the controversy over whether to add this question could still affect the way undocumented immigrants answer the census. Listen to hear about the controversy over adding a citizenship question to the census and where it stands.

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Current Event June 12, 2019

Students Protest Climate Change

Politics Economics Education Environment Climate Change Protest Human Impacts Trade Industry Branches of Government Conservation

Students around the world have been skipping school to protest their governments’ lack of action on climate change. Now, this movement has come to the United States. American students are gathering together to demand that Congress take action to protect them from the effects of climate change. Listen to find out more about what students are asking of their government leaders and why.

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Current Event May 15, 2019

4th Grader Proposes Free Park Entry

Politics Education Culture Law Democracy Branches of Government

A fourth-grader in Texas had an idea to help kids put down their digital devices and have some fun outdoors. She partnered with a state representative to write a bill that would make state parks free to fifth-graders and their families. Listen to find out more about the case the student made to state legislators and next steps in making her idea a reality.

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Current Event January 7, 2019

Government Shutdown Continues into 2019

Civics/Government Branches of Government

The government has been partially shut down since before the new year, leaving more than 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck. The government is partially closed because Congress has not passed a bill to fully fund its operations, having reached an impasse over funding a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. As a result, roughly a quarter of the government is closed, including all functions that are considered “non-essential.” Listen to this story to learn about the political standoff that is behind the shutdown and prospects for ending it.

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Current Event December 31, 2018

Jimmy Carter's Legacy Stretches Beyond the Presidency

Politics War Branches of Government

Jimmy Carter, a soft-spoken peanut farmer from Georgia was the 39th President of the United States and served only one term. His accomplishments included brokering important peace agreements between Middle Eastern adversaries and nuclear superpowers. But Carter, a Democrat, lost reelection in 1980 following a bad economy and a hostage crisis in Iran. Carter has been very influential in his long post-presidential life primarily through the Carter Center, which works in conflict zones, monitoring elections and eradicating disease. Listen to this story to learn about Carter receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work with the Carter Center.

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Current Event December 28, 2018

The Myth and Reality of President Ronald Reagan

Politics Civics/Government Branches of Government

Ronald Reagan was an actor, governor of California, and the 40th President of the United States. He served two terms and died in 2004 of Alzheimer's disease, ten years after leaving office. He was a Republican known for his conservative stance on reducing taxes, who instituted supply-side economic policies known as “Reaganomics,” which many credit with helping the economy prosper. Reagan helped to facilitate the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, his administration was tied up in the Iran-Contra affair, in which senior officials secretly broke an arms embargo and sold weapons to Iran. As a former actor, Reagan brought glamor to the presidency, and he is ranked as one of the more popular presidents. Listen to this conversation with an historian about how Reagan’s time in office is remembered, including some myths about his presidency.

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Current Event December 27, 2018

The Dynamics of the Clinton Presidency

Politics Civics/Government Branches of Government

After serving many years as governor of Arkansas, Democrat Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States in 1992. He is remembered for signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passing welfare reform, and balancing the budget, among other achievements. As he ended his second term, he noted the fast economic growth, low rates of unemployment and poverty, and other indicators of economic prosperity during his presidency. Democrats and Republicans disagree, however, about what led to the economic boom during his presidency. Listen to hear competing theories about causes of economic growth in the Clinton years.

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Current Event December 26, 2018

How 9/11 Helped Define George W. Bush's Presidency

Politics Civics/Government Branches of Government

President George W. Bush was the governor of Texas before he became the 43rd President of the United States. Bush, who is the son of President George H.W. Bush, was elected in 2000 in a close, controversial race involving a recount in Florida and was reelected in 2004. His presidency was defined by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, eight months into his presidency. Listen to learn how this event shaped Bush’s legacy.

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Current Event December 24, 2018

President Obama’s Economic Legacy

Politics Civics/Government Branches of Government

President Barack Obama served as an Illinois Senator before he was elected President of the United States in 2008 and again in 2012. Born in Hawaii, he worked as a community organizer, civil rights attorney, and law professor before entering politics. Obama, a Democrat, was the first African American elected president, entering office at the beginning of a global financial crisis. He is widely credited with saving the U.S. economy from the brink of recession, and his other accomplishments include passing a major health care bill known as the Affordable Care Act. Listen to hear an economist discuss his thoughts on Obama’s legacy.

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Current Event December 10, 2018

The Legacy of President George H.W. Bush

Politics Civics/Government Branches of Government

President George H.W. Bush died recently at the age of 94. Bush served as president of the United States from 1989–1992. The former president is remembered as a Republican moderate who presided over the end of the Cold War, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, led military interventions in Latin America and Iraq, and signed legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Listen to President Bush’s biographer talk about his legacy as the 41st president of the United States of America.

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