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Congress: Powers, Leadership, and Structure
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General Information Article 1, Section 1 establishes a Bicameral (Two Chamber) Legislature made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate Why? Designed to slow down the process. The Senate (originally elected by state legislatures and more deliberate would check the “passions” of the democratically elected Senate. It enhances the “Checks and Balances” of the system but also can lead to gridlock.
Fiscal Powers of Congress Collecting and Levying Taxes (A1, S8, P1) – National Taxes must be levied at same rates Borrowing Money (A1, S8, P2) – Federal Government borrows money by issuing bonds or credits Coining Money (A1, S8, P5) – Currency regulated by Federal Government Punish Counterfeiters (A1, S8, P6) – Federal Crime
Trade Regulation Regulate Interstate Commerce (A1, S8, P3) – Original power was to regulate trade between states as well as foreign trade. Distinction between interstate (between states) and intrastate (within a state) have been wiped out
Military Powers Declare War (A1, S8, P11) – While Congress has sole authority to declare war they can pass resolutions ceding that power to the President. Organizing Army and Navy (A1, S8, P12-13) Rules for Military Law/Discipline (A1, S8, P14) Regulating Militias (A1, S8, P15) – Now known as National Guard Rules for Militias (A1, S8, P16) – Rules for National Guard Law/Discipline
“Other” Powers Naturalization (A1, S8, P4) – Congress establishes all rules for citizenship Bankruptcy Laws (A1, S8, P4) Establish Post Offices and Roads (A1, S8, P7) – At first they were “Post Roads” now include interstate highways Copyrights and Patents (A1, S8, P8) Establishing Federal Courts (A1, S8, P9) Deal with Piracy (A1, S8, P10) Make laws in Washington D.C. (A1, S8, P17)
“The Elastic Clause” Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 18 “Congress shall make all laws necessary and proper.” In theory the laws they do pass should relate in some way to the previous 17 paragraphs.
Differences Between House and Senate House of RepresentativesAreaSenate 435 membersSize100 members 2 year termsTerm Length6 year terms Debate is limited Amendments are limited RulesUnlimited Debate Open Amendment Process Narrow (District) Constituency (Who They Represent) Broad (Whole State) High LevelPartisanship (Party Unity and Loyalty) More Independent Low Unless controversial Media AttentionGreater Generate Revenue Bills Impeach Officials PowersAppointment Confirmation Try Impeachment Hearings
Rules Differences Unlimited Debate in Senate Leads to a process known as the “Filibuster” A Filibuster is when an individual or a group of Senators attempt to keep debate alive on a bill they know they will lose.
How to Stop a Filibuster “Cloture” must be established. “Cloture” brings all debate to a close and forces a vote to take place Problem? It takes 60 votes to bring about cloture. Impact of this is….. Even though a group holds a minority in the Senate it can still block the passage of a bill
Organization of Senate Vice President of the United States Symbolic “President” of the Senate. Only votes in case of tie. Vice President of the United States President Pro Tempore Called the President Pro Temp. Really only starts and ends meetings. No real power. Most senior member of the majority party President Pro Tempore Senate Majority Leader Elected by their fellow party members. Is the leader of the party and keeps them focused on the agenda set by the party. Takes blame for defeats in the Senate Senate Minority Leader Elected by their fellow party members. Is the leader of the party and keeps them focused on the agenda set by the party. Takes blame for defeats in the Senate Senate Majority LeaderSenate Minority Leader Senate Majority Whip Elected by their fellow party members. Charged with keeping count of votes and influencing members. Senate Minority Whip Elected by their fellow party members. Charged with keeping count of votes and influencing members. Senate Majority WhipSenate Minority Whip
Current Senate Leadership
Organization of the House of Representatives Speaker of the House Elected by the majority party. Has much more control over the House than the Senate leadership has. 1)Decides who gets a chance to speak on the floor 2)Rules on motions made from the floor 3)Influences which Committee a bill is referred to 4)Influences the calendar and which bills are voted upon 5)Appoints members of special and select committees Speaker of the House House Majority Leader Elected by their fellow party members. Has less power than the same position in the Senate due to Speaker’s role House Minority Leader Elected by their fellow party members. Is the leader of the party and keeps them focused on the agenda set by the party. Takes blame for defeats in the House House Majority LeaderHouse Minority Leader House Majority Whip Elected by their fellow party members. Charged with keeping count of votes and influencing members. House Minority Whip Elected by their fellow party members. Charged with keeping count of votes and influencing members. House Majority Whip House Minority Whip Republican Committee on Committees
Current House Leadership
The Committee System Take into account all the areas the Legislative Branch must act on….. Would it be possible for a person to have the depth of knowledge to make reasonable, intelligent decisions on all of these areas? Due to this the Legislative Branch has organized itself into Committees that specialize in different areas of policy Committees are mixed between both parties, with the majority party in the Legislative body having more members per committee
Types of Committees 1)Standing Committees: Committees that are permanent parts of Congress. 2)Select Committees: Committees assembled for a specific period of time to accomplish a specific task (Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming) 3)Joint Committees: Committees put together that consist of members of both the House and Senate * Conference Committee: A special joint committee put together to hammer out differences between bills passed by the House and the Senate
HOUSE COMMITTEESSENATE COMMITTEES AgricultureAgriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Appropriations Armed Services Banking and Financial ServiceBanking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Budget CommerceCommerce, Science, and Transportation Education and the WorkforceEnergy and Natural Resources Government ReformEnvironment and Public Works House AdministrationFinance International RelationsForeign Relations JudiciaryGovernmental Affairs ResourcesHealth, Education, Labor, and Pensions RulesIndian Affairs ScienceJudiciary Small BusinessRules and Administration Standards of Official ConductSmall Business Transportation and InfrastructureVeterans Affairs Ways and Means
Roles of Committees Consider Bills/Legislative Proposals – Before bills are debated by the full body, they are studied and “marked up” in committee. The committee “reports” it out to the full House or Senate for a vote. – 94% of all bills DIE in committee Conduct Investigations – They look into areas of “concern” that fall under their area of expertise (MLB Steroid Hearings) Oversight of Executive Branch – They investigate the operations and actions of Executive Branch Agencies (“Fast and Furious”, “9/11 commission”)