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Congress 2015. How is Congress different from Parliament? Elections –In most parliaments the party determines who the candidate will be –Officials are.

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Presentation on theme: "Congress 2015. How is Congress different from Parliament? Elections –In most parliaments the party determines who the candidate will be –Officials are."— Presentation transcript:

1 Congress 2015


3 How is Congress different from Parliament? Elections –In most parliaments the party determines who the candidate will be –Officials are very loyal to the party because if they upset the party they won’t be on the ballot in the next election –In the USA the candidate is chosen by the people (primaries)

4 How is Congress different from Parliament? In parliaments the executive (Prime Minister) and various cabinet officers are chosen by the majority party. In USA the executive is separate from the Legislative branch

5 How is Congress different from Parliament? Individuals in Congress have much more power (start bills, franking, confirmation) Members of parliament have very little power.

6 How is Congress different from Parliament? Congress is made up of people chosen to represent the state and district. Parliament represents their party Members or Congress are more concerned with their own constituents and their careers than their party.

7 Make sure you read the evolution of Congress

8 Population of USA from Census Bureau (2010 abstract) As of 2009, 82% of HR is male and 18% is female. 83% of Senate is Male 17% is female Male 49% Female 51% Congress 2009

9 Population of USA from Census Bureau (2010 abstract) The Senate is 1% African American and the House is approximately 9.6% African American the Senate is 3% Hispanic and the House is approximately 5% Hispanic White population 66% Black 13% Hispanic 15% Congress 2009




13 House of Representatives (435 seats) Party Divisions (Feb. 8, 2015) 247 Republicans 188 Democrats 0 Independents 0 vacancies

14 Proportional Representation Means… Representation is based on population The more populated states get more members of the House No state can have fewer than 1 A census is taken every 10 years for the purpose of Reapportionment


16 Reapportionment after 2000 census


18 Minnesota House Districts

19 Kansas HR Districts

20 Indiana

21 Nebraska’s Congressional Districts Lee Terry Jeff Fortenberry Adrian Smith

22 Marginal District: Where a winner gets less than 55% of the vote. Safe District: Where the winner gets more than 55% of the vote In the 1960’s 60% of the HR districts were safe in the 1980’s 90% of the House districts are “safe” In 2008, 2/3rd of the Senators won with 60% of the vote.

23 Why have House Districts become safer for incumbents? Free mail, travel at taxpayers expense, get their name in the news more, name recognition Secure funds and programs to help their districts Districts are drawn in a way that benefits a particular party.

24 Senate Today 100 seats Party Divisions (as of September (Feb. 8, 2015) 54 Democrats 44 Republicans 2 Independent (lean left)

25 Representation in the Senate is based on Equal representation Review the “Great Compromise”

26 Theories on how members of Congress Behave Representational –Vote to please their constituents because they want to get re elected –A congressman with a large African American population will likely vote for a civil rights law. –Gun rights (South Dakota Congressman would most likely vote for it. –Generally there isn’t any correlation between voter opinion and Congressional votes on issues that people don’t have a strong opinion (foreign relations) or issues that are split in the district (abortion) –Often time public opinion isn’t strong or is split.

27 Organizational –Based on the assumption that since most constituents do not know how their legislator has voted, it is not essential to please them. –When constituency opinions are not at stake Congress gets their cues from their colleagues. –The principle cue is his or her party –The party a member belongs explains more about his or her voting record more than any other single factor

28 –If the party doesn’t have a clear position on a policy then a Congressperson might look at the committee members from your party who dealt with the particular bill. –May look to other Congress members with similar views as you. –If it is a matter that effects your state then you may take your cue from other members of your states delegation (Senators and Representatives from your state) Ellsworth Air force Base

29 Attitudinal –That there are so many conflicting pressures on members of Congress that they cancel each other out, leaving them virtually free to vote their own beliefs. –Ideology of a member effects how he or she votes. –Many tend to be consistently liberal or conservative on both domestic and foreign policy. –On many issues the average member of the HR has opinions close to the average voter –However, the Senate are less in tune with public opinion. (more liberal or conservative)

30 Ideology in Congress Members of Congress are more sharply divided by political ideology than they once were. Since 1998 Congress is more divided on ideological and partisan lines. Are also more divided than the average voter so it is harder to reach a consensus and less likely to negotiate.

31 Party Unity Party Polarization: When Democrats and Republicans vote opposite on most bills. In Congress The parties seem to take the extreme sides on issues where the public takes more moderate stances –Example: Abortion –Most Americans support but with some important restrictions (health of mother, age, etc) –Congress: Democrats support with no restrictions and Republics oppose for all reasons

32 House voting with Party (2008-10) From These scores represent the percentage of votes on which a lawmaker agrees with the position taken by a majority of his or her party members. The scores do not include missed votes. All lawmakers who served during this congress are included. Party Voting Averages Democratic (236 members) –92.3% Republican(205 members) –85.4% All Members(441 members) –89.1%

33 Senate voting with party (2008-10) These scores represent the percentage of votes on which a lawmaker agrees with the position taken by a majority of his or her party members. The scores do not include missed votes. All lawmakers who served during this congress are included. Party Voting Averages Democratic (49 members) –87.3% Republican(49 members) –81.4% All Members (100 members) –84.4%

34 HR Voting with partyVoting with party Senate Voting with partyVoting with party

35 Some theories why is Congress becoming more partisan Most House districts are not competitive so the only election that matters in that district is the primary. –Primary turnout is lower and usually the more ideological voters participate. Around 10% (?) –This means that those on the extremes will have a better chance of getting elected. Voters have become more partisan and Congress has followed suit.

36 Party does make a difference in Congress. Not nearly as much as it does in parliament but party affiliation is the most important thing to know about a member. Knowing the party of a member will not tell you all you need to know, but it will tell you more than any other single factor.

37 Organization of the Senate Vice President –Presiding officer –Can only vote in a tie breaker –Can’t introduce legislation President Pro Tempore (Pres Pro Tem) –Largely honorary position –Required by Constitution –Presiding officer when VP isn’t present –Given to majority party member with most seniority

38 Senate Majority Leader Whip –Senator that helps the party stay informed about what party members in the Senate are thinking. –Helps to round up votes.

39 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Rep) Kentucky

40 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Dem) Nevada

41 Vice President Joe Biden (D) Tie breaking votes

42 President Pro Tempore.. Orrin Hatch(R- UT),

43 Richard Durbin Minority Whip From Illinois Assumed office January 7, 1997

44 Majority Whip John Cornyn, TX

45 South Dakota Senators John Thune (Rep) Mike Rounds (Rep)

46 Organization of the House of Representatives Speaker of the House –Chosen form majority party –Principle leader of the majority party –Presiding office of the entire House Majority Leader –Floor leader from the majority party –Typically becomes the speaker when the person in that position dies or retires Minority Leader Whip

47 John Boehner Republican Ohio Speaker of the House

48 House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Virginia)

49 Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California

50 Nancy Pelosi (Dem) California Minority Leader

51 House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Maryland)

52 South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem (Republican)

53 Congressional Committees Standing Committees –More or less permanent bodies with specific legislative responsibilities –These are the most important type –They can propose legislation by reporting it to the full HR or Senate –Usually each HR member is on 2 and each Senator is on 2 “major” committee and 1 “minor” committee. Select Committee –groups appointed for a limited purpose and only last for a few congresses

54 Joint Committee –Have both members of the HR and Senate –Most important one is the “Conference Committee” Committee Chairpersons always come from the majority party There will always be more majority party members in each committee.

55 Senate Committees House Committees

56 Most work of Congress gets done at the committee level.

57 Congressional Caucuses An association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional or economic interest. List of caucuses Personal interest Caucus –Common interest like environment, the arts, etc. Constituency caucuses –Established to represent certain groups (Vietnam Vets, African Americans etc) Intraparty Caucuses –Coalition and are often moderate (Blue Dog Democrats)

58 Staff Agencies Congressional Research Service (CRS) –Provides information to members on Congress –It is politically neutral –It provides facts and doesn’t recommend policy –Also keeps track of every major bill and produces summaries for each bill introduced

59 General Accounting Office (GAO) –Produced financial audits of money spent –It also investigates agencies and policies and makes recommendations on almost every aspect of government Defense contracts, Drug enforcement policy, FBI, etc. Congressional Budget Office (CBA) –Advises Congress on the likely economic effect of different spending programs and provides information on the cost of proposed policies. –Provides an analyses of the President’s budget and economic projections (These economic projections are often different from the Presidents)

60 Bill to law Vote-smart explanation



63 Introducing a Bill Only by members of Congress Public Bill –Pertaining to public affairs) Private Bill –Pertaining to a particular individual –Example: seeking special permission to become an American citizen

64 Simple Resolution –Passed by either HR or Senate –Used to establish rules that each body will operate Concurrent resolution –Settles housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both houses Joint Resolution –Requires the approval of both houses and signature of the President –Is essentially the same as a law. –Constitutional Amendment proposals are joint but don’t require the President to sign them.


66 After the bill is introduced it is referred to committee Sequential Referral –The speaker refers a bill, or parts of a bill, to different committees. Committees are where most of the work of Congress gets done Committees do the following –Hold Hearings –Change the bill (majority vote) known as “mark up” –Pass or kill the bill (majority vote) Discharge Petition: Signed by 218 members of the HR that will move a bill to floor debate and vote even if the committee is opposed to the bill Very rarely ever happens (only a couple of dozen times in the last century) Easier to do this in the Senate but still rarely ever happens

67 House Rules Committee After a bill makes it past the HR committee but before it goes to the floor Closed rule –A strict time limit on debate and forbids amendments being added on the floor Open rule –Allows amendments on the floor Restrictive Rule –Permits some amendments but not others.

68 Bill then goes to the floor of Congress One the floor the following can happen: –Debate the bill –Change the bill (majority vote to change) –Pass or kill the bill (majority to pass)

69 House of Representatives “Committee of the Whole” (HR) –Whoever is present –Can debate and change the bill Quorum –Majority of members (218 in HR) –Needed to pass the bill

70 Senate Debate

71 Filibusters Traditional Double Track Legislation Cloture Rule

72 Famous Filibusters During the 1930s, Senator Huey P. Long effectively used the filibuster against bills that he thought favored the rich over the poor. The Louisiana senator frustrated his colleagues while entertaining spectators with his recitations of Shakespeare and his reading of recipes for "pot-likkers." Long once held the Senate floor for fifteen hoursHuey P. Long

73 Famous Filibusters South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.J. Strom Thurmond He read recipes and names out of a phone book for part of the time.




77 After a bill passes both houses Conference committee Floor votes President –Sign –Veto Overriding a veto 96% of vetoes don’t get overridden –Do nothing Becomes law after 10 days Pocket veto: If congress adjourns before those ten days are up

78 Congressional Spending

79 Congressional Fiscal Powers Congress has all monetary powers Tax, Borrow, Spend “Power of the Purse”

80 Mandatory spending Discretionary Spending

81 Government Spending

82 National debt As of today today

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