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PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University.

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Presentation on theme: "PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University."— Presentation transcript:

1 PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS The Basics: What can Congress do? Congressional Elections How a Bill Becomes a Law, the long version What do Members Want? The House versus the Senate The Filibuster

3 WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO?  Congressional Authority:  To make laws  To regulate interstate and international trade  To declare war  To organize and maintain standing armies  To tax citizens  To borrow money

4 WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO?  Bicameralism; different term lengths diminished the power of factional interests  Each chamber can make its own rules, with a few exceptions:  Quorums (majority)  Roll call votes in the full chamber

5 ELECTIONS  Proportional versus plurality (first-past-the- post) representation  Proportional systems dominated by party; plurality systems by individuals  Two major parties in America: why?  What would happen if a third party candidate got elected to Congress?

6 HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW  Bill introduced; referred to committee  Committee hearings; markup  Then:  House: Rules Committee  full chamber  Senate: Full chamber  Approval by both Houses  Conference Committee  (Re) approval by both Houses  Signed by the president

7 WHAT DO MEMBERS WANT?  Re-election (possibly above all)  Power within the institution (good committee assignments; committee chairmanships; party leadership positions)  Good public policy; accurate representation of constituents’ interests  To run for higher office (maybe)  Social prestige (access to the party leaders; the president)

8 HOW DO THEY GET IT?  MONEY (for their districts; for their re- election campaigns)  Taking positions on and “owning” certain issues  Advertising their positions (press releases; speeches; spending time back home)  Socialize; curry favor  Play Ball: Don’t make waves; join forces with prominent colleagues

9 THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES  435 members  Populist chamber; majority rule  100 years of permitted minority obstruction  Delay tactics  “Disappearing quorums”  Rules change in 1890; majority-rule since

10 THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES : The Era of Committee Power:  One party rule in the South  Committee chairmen selected based on seniority  Southern committee chairs could kill bills easily, esp. civil-rights legislation

11 THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 1970-present: The Era of Party Power:  Committee membership/chairs now selected by party  Less independence for members  TARP (2008); Medicare Part D (2003)

12 THE SENATE  100 members  The deliberative, philosophical, “lofty” chamber  Operates by unanimous consent  Comity, tradition, respect very highly prized  Senate rules (from 1806) allow for unlimited debate on any issue/bill

13 OBSTRUCTION IN THE SENATE  The Filibuster: Taking advantage of unlimited debate (talking as long as you possibly can in order to delay a bill)  Cloture (rule instituted in 1917) now able to limit debate if 3/5 of senators agree  Filibusters now mostly happen behind the scenes

14 OBSTRUCTION IN THE SENATE  The Hold:  Anonymously delays debate on a bill  Not an official rule, but a tradition!  Why does this happen?  Filibuster reform: Pros and Cons


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