The Columns

Battle of the Branches—Washington Term Symposium at D.C. Press Club

— by on May 5th, 2009

Washington and Lee University’s Second Annual Washington Term Symposium will be held Friday, May 15, from noon to 3 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where a panel of political scientists and political journalists will tackle the subject, “President vs. Congress: An Imbalance of Powers?”

The symposium will be held in the Holeman Lounge of the National Press Club. Lunch is included. The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP by May 6 to John Muncie, Reynolds Program Coordinator with Washington and Lee’s Journalism Department, at munciej@wlu.edu or call 540-458-8240.

A congressional leader decries the president’s deficit-stretching budget, then opposes his deficit-cutting measures. Other members of Congress attack the president’s strategy for passing a greenhouse gas emissions bill and a health care reform measure.

In each case the contrary congressmen came from the president’s own party. It’s politics as usual on Capitol Hill and more proof that the United States Congress is the most independent and powerful legislative branch in the world.

However, conventional wisdom suggests that politics may be changing and that, in recent years, the executive has tipped the balance of power. Is this simply part of the two branches’ 200-year-old tug-of-war, or are we entering an age of the imperial presidency? And will Barack Obama accept or reject the precedent established by George W. Bush?

This struggle is the topic of the Washington Term Symposium which is made possible by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and features another distinguished line-up of political observers:

* Terry Eastland – Publisher of the opinion magazine The Weekly Standard; he is author of numerous books on politics and law, including “Energy in the Executive” and “Freedom of Expression in the Supreme Court.”

* Shailagh Murray – Currently congressional correspondent for The Washington Post; she has also covered the White House and Congress for The Wall Street Journal and written extensively about congressional and presidential elections.

*Chip Reid – Chief White House correspondent for CBS News; he has also covered Capitol Hill for both CBS and NBC and anchored political coverage for MSNBC. He was an embedded reporter in the first Iraq war and has filed stories on the war on terror worldwide.

* Don Wolfensberger — Director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington; he is a well-known Congress scholar, author of “Congress and the People,” and a former chief of staff of the House Rules Committee.

The symposium will be led by William F. Connelly Jr., professor of politics at W&L and Director of the University’s Washington Term Program, which for more than 20 years has introduced students to the workings of Washington politics. He’ll moderate as the panelists handicap the current contest of wills between the branches and how it fits into the historic debate over the separation of powers.

The symposium is being conducted with special funding from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., it is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

Seating is very limited — you must reserve a place to attend. The National Press Club is located at 529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20045.