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Presentation on theme: "CHAPTER 11 CONGRESS."— Presentation transcript:


2 "If con is the opposite of pro, is congress the opposite of progress?

3 THEME A ‑ The Power of Congress in the American System
See Powers of Congress ‑ Article I, Section 8, US Constitution

4 Congress: the "first branch"
This branch has considerable power Many consider this branch to be the one most badly in need of repair The puzzles, processes and actions of this branch say a great deal about America's representative democracy

5 Congress versus Parliament
Parliamentary candidates are selected by party Members of Parliament select prime minister and other leaders Party members vote together on most issues Renomination depends on loyalty to party Principal work is debating national issues Very little power, very little pay Congressional candidates run in a primary election, with little party control Vote is for the man or woman, not the party Result is a body of independent representatives Members do not choose the president Principal work is representation and action Great deal of power, high pay; parties cannot discipline members

6 The Evolution of Congress
Intent of the Framers To oppose concentration of power in a single institution To balance large and small states: bicameralism Traditional criticism: Congress is too slow Centralization needed for quick and decisive action Decentralization needed if congressional constituency interests are to be dominant

7 Development of the House
Always powerful but varied in organization and leadership Powerful Speakers Powerful committee chairmen Powerful individual members Ongoing dilemmas Increases in size have lead to the need for centralization and less individual influence Desire for individual influence has led to institutional weakness

8 Development of the Senate
Structural advantages over the House Small enough to be run without giving authority to small group of leaders Interests more carefully balanced No time limits on speakers or committee control of debate Senators not elected by voters until this century Chosen by state legislators Often leaders of local party organizations Major changes Demand for direct popular election Intense political maneuvering and the Millionaire's Club Senate opposition and the threat of a constitutional convention 17th Amendment approved in 1913 Filibuster restricted by Rule 22 - though tradition of unlimited debate remains

9 Reassertion of Congressional Power in 1970s
Reaction to Vietnam and Watergate War Powers Act of 1973 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974 Increased requirement for legislative veto

10 THEME B ‑ Who Gets to Congress
WHO IS IN CONGRESS? Sex and Race Years of Service

11 Who is in Congress The beliefs and interests of members of Congress can affect policy Sex and race House has become less male and less white Senate has been slower to change, but several blacks and Hispanics hold powerful positions Incumbency Low turnover rates and safe districts common in Congress before 1980s Incumbents increasingly viewed as professional politicians and out of touch with the people by the 1980s Call for term limits; however, natural forces were doing what term limits were designed to do by the mid-1990s Influx of new members should not distort incumbents' advantage

12 Who is in Congress Party Democrats are beneficiaries of incumbency
Gap between votes and seats: Republican vote higher than number of seats won One explanation: Democratic legislatures redraw district lines to favor Democratic candidates But research does not support; Republicans run best in high turnout districts, Democrats in low turnout ones Another explanation: incumbent advantage increasing But not the reason; Democrats field better candidates whose positions are closer to those of voters

13 Who is in Congress Advantages of incumbency for Democrats turn into disadvantages by the 1990s Republicans win control of Congress in 1994 Republicans replace conservative Democrats in the South during the 1990s More party unity, especially in the House, since the 1990s


Determining Fair Representation – House Member Represents Approximately 670, 000 people Gerrymander and Malaportionment

16 Malapportionment Drawing the boundaries of political districts so that districts are unequal in population.

17 Gerrymander Drawing the boundaries of political districts in bizarre or unusual shapes to make it easier for candidates of a particular party/ethnic group to win

18 THEME C ‑ Congressional Organization and Procedures
1. Party Organization - Senate A. President pro tempore presides, member with most seniority in majority party. B. Leaders are the majority leader and minority leader — elected by party. C. Party whips — keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses.

19 2. Party Organization - House. House rules give leadership more power.
A. Speaker of the House is leader of the majority party- presides over house. Decides whom to recognize to speak on floor. Rules on germaneness of motions Decides to which committee bill goes. Appoints members of special and select committees. B. Majority leader (floor leader) and minority leader C. Party Whip

20 3. Opinion and interest groupings
4. Committees - Standing, Select, Conference, Staff, Staff Agencies



CAUCUSES Democratic Study Group (DSG) Conservative Democratic Forums Wednesday Group Congressional Black Caucus State Delegations Specialized Caucuses

Tasks of Staff Members Staff Agencies 1. Congressional Research Service (CRS) 2. General Accounting Office (GAO) 3. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) 4. Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

25 HOW A BILL BECOMES LAW Introducing a Bill Study by Committee - most bills die in committee Floor Debate ‑ The House — Amendments must be germane. Closed rule sets time limit on debate. Floor Debate ‑ The Senate - Amendments need not be germane. Time limit only established by cloture to stop filibuster. 3/5 vote to end debate.

26 How a bill becomes a law Bills travel through Congress at different speeds Bills to spend money or to tax or regulate business move slowly Bills with a clear, appealing idea move fast Examples: "Stop drugs," "End scandal" Introducing a bill Introduced by a member of Congress: hopper in House, recognized in Senate Most legislation has been initiated in Congress Presidentially-drafted legislation is shaped by Congress Resolutions Simple--passed by one house affecting that house Concurrent--passed by both houses affecting both Joint--passed by both houses, signed by president (except for constitutional amendments)

27 How a bill becomes a law Study by committees
Bill is referred to a committee for consideration by either Speaker or presiding officer Revenue bills must originate in the House Most bills die in committee Hearings are often conducted by several subcommittees: multiple referrals (replaced by sequential referral system in 1995) Markup of bills--bills are revised by committees

28 How a bill becomes a law Committee reports a bill out to the House or Senate If bill is not reported out, the House can use the discharge petition If bill is not reported out, the Senate can pass a discharge motion House Rules Committee sets the rules for consideration Closed rule: sets time limit on debate and restricts amendments Open rule: permits amendments from the floor Restrictive rule: permits only some amendments Use of closed and restrictive rules growing Rules can be bypassed by the House No direct equivalent in Senate

29 How a bill becomes a law Floor debate, House Floor debate, Senate
Committee of the Whole--procedural device for expediting House consideration of bills but cannot pass bills Committee sponsor of bill organizes the discussion Floor debate, Senate No rule limiting debate or germaneness Entire committee hearing process can be bypassed by a senator Cloture--sets time limit on debate--three-fifths of Senate must vote for a cloture petition Both filibusters and cloture votes becoming more common Easier now to stage filibuster Roll calls are replacing long speeches But can be curtailed by "double tracking"--disputed bill is shelved temporarily--making filibuster less costly

30 Methods of Voting Voice Vote Division Vote Teller Vote (House Only) Roll Call

31 Bill, in final form, goes to the president
President may sign it If president vetoes it, it returns to the house of origin Either house may override the president by a vote of two-thirds of those present If both override, the bill becomes law without the president's signature

32 How a Bill Becomes a Law


34 THEME D Does Congress Represent Constituents' Opinion? 1. Representative 2. Organizational 3. Attitudinal

35 Representational view
Assumes that members vote to please their constituents Constituents must have a clear opinion of the issue Very strong correlation on civil rights and social welfare bills Very weak correlation on foreign policy May be conflict between legislator and constituency on certain measures: gun control, Panama Canal treaty, abortion Constituency influence more important in Senate votes Members in marginal districts as independent as those in safe districts Weakness of representational explanation: no clear opinion in the constituency

36 Organizational view Assumes members of Congress vote to please colleagues Organizational cues Party Ideology Problem is that party and other organizations do not have a clear position on all issues On minor votes most members influenced by party members on sponsoring committees

37 Attitudinal view Assumes that ideology affects a legislator's vote
House members tend more than senators to have opinions similar to those of the public. 1970s: senators more liberal 1980s: senators more conservative Prior to 1990s, southern Democrats often aligned with Republicans to form a conservative coalition. Conservative coalition no longer as important since most southerners are Republicans

38 Ideology and Civility in Congress
Members of Congress more sharply divided ideologically than they once were New members of Congress are more ideological Members of Congress more polarized than voters Democrats more liberal/Republicans more conservative Voters closer to center of political spectrum Members of Congress (especially the House) do not get along as well as they once did

39 Reducing Power and Perks
Many proposals made to "reform" and "improve" Congress Common perception it is overstaffed and self-indulgent Quick to regulate others, but not itself Quick to pass pork barrel legislation but slow to address controversial questions of national policy Use of franking privilege to subsidize personal campaigns Proposals to abolish it Proposals for restrictions on timing of mailings and a taxpayer "notice" Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 For years Congress routinely exempted itself from many of the laws it passed Concern for enforcement (by Executive branch) and separation of powers 1995 Act Obliged Congress to obey eleven major laws Created the Office of Compliance Established an employee grievance procedure

40 THEME E ‑ Ethics and Congress
1977 Code of Ethics 1. Financial‑Disclosure Statement 2. Honoraria prohibited by House. Senate must be donated to a charity. 3. House and Senate ‑ maximum of 15% of salary in outside earned income not including stocks and bonds.

41 Problem of defining unethical conduct
Violation of criminal law is obviously unethical Since 1941, over one hundred charges of misconduct Most led to convictions, resignations, or retirements Ethics codes and related reforms enacted in 1978, 1989, and 1995 have placed members of Congress under tight rules Other issues are more difficult. A substantial outside income from speaking and writing does not necessarily lead to vote corruption. Personal friendships and alliances can have an undue influence on votes. Bargaining among members of Congress may involve exchange of favors and votes.

42 Summary: The old and the new Congress – Since Second World War
House has evolved thru three stages Mid-1940s to early 1960s Powerful committee chairs, mostly from the South Long apprenticeships for new members Small congressional staffs Early 1970s to early 1980s Growth in size of staffs Committees became more democratic More independence for members Focus on reelection Early 1980s to present Strengthening and centralizing party leadership Senate meanwhile has remained decentralized throughout this period

43 Self Test

44 For more information about this topic, link to the Metropolitan Community College Political Science Web Site

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