Congress’s Place in Our Constitutional System Bicameralism – The system of having two chambers within one legislative body, like the House and the Senate in the U.S. Congress. Two-year terms in the House Six-year terms in the Senate
Congressional Behavior and Voter Behavior Voters are typically not informed enough to monitor their representatives. However, members of Congress behave as if voters were fully informed, because any issue might become salient in the next election.
Understanding Congressional (In)action Gridlock – An inability to enact legislation because of partisan conflict within Congress or between Congress and the President. Electoral Connection – The idea that congressional behavior is centrally motivated by members’ desire for reelection.
Origins of the Incumbency Advantage Gerrymandering – Attempting to use the process of redrawing district boundaries to benefit a political party, protect incumbents, or change the proportion of minority voters in a district.
Elections and Member Behavior Home style: A Congressperson’s way of relating to their district Many Congresspeople are called the “Tuesday-to-Thursday club” because they spend so little time in Washington. Do these Congresspeople spend too much time at home? Should they spend more time in Washington?
Casework (“Constituency Service”) Franking privilege – Congresspeople’s privilege of sending mail to constituents at no cost –Acting as a go-between for citizens and a large federal bureaucracy is a mainstay of a Congressperson’s “constituency service.” –Do you think this work is more important or less important than debates on the floor of the House or Senate?
Constituency Service Casework – Assistance provided by members of Congress to their constituents in solving problems with the federal bureaucracy or addressing specific concerns
Representative Tammy Baldwin at Edgewood High School
Explaining Incumbency Advantage How can members promote reelection chances within the institution of Congress? –Advertising – Actions that are unrelated to government issues but have the primary goal of making a positive impression on the public, like sending holiday cards to constituents and appearing in parades. –Credit Claiming – When a member of Congress takes credit for legislation that specifically benefits his constituents –Position Taking – Any public statement in which a member of Congress makes her views on an issue known to her constituents.
Informal Norms Universalism: As many districts as possible should reap rewards or legislative benefits Reciprocity (logrolling): “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”
Informal Norms (continued) Specialization: Members become experts on specific issues; this helps members claim credit Seniority: Maintains order and helps incumbents win reelection
The Structure of Congress The Speaker, Majority Leaders, and Whips are decided by straight party-line vote.
The Committee System Standing Committee - Committees that are a permanent party of the House or Senate structure, holding more importance and authority than other committees. Select Committee – Committees in the House or Senate created to address a specific issue for one or two terms. Joint Committee - Committees that contain members of both the House and Senate but have limited authority. Conference Committee - Temporary committees created to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions of a piece of legislation that has passed through both chambers.
Congressional Rules Open Rules – Conditions placed on a legislative debate by the house Rules Committee allowing the addition of relevant amendments to a bill. Closed Rules – Conditions placed on a legislative debate by the House Rules Committee prohibiting the addition of amendments to a bill Modified rules – Conditions placed on a legislative debate by the House Rules Committee allowing certain amendments to a bill while barring others.
Why does Congress look the way it does? The House Floor is frequently empty during debate Members rush in from other parts of the building—where they are doing legislative and campaign work—when it is time to vote
Reforming Congress Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (AKA “McCain- Feingold law”) – A 2002 act that banned “soft money” (contributions to political parties’ campaign committees), raised the donation limit on “hard money” (donations directly to candidates), limited independent issue ads before an election, and increased disclosure requirements. Opponents of BCRA argued that it was unconstitutional while many supporters said it didn’t go far enough (they prefer publicly financed campaigns). Most of it was upheld but part was struck down by the Supreme Court.
Public Opinion Poll Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? a)Strongly approve b)Approve c)Disapprove d)Strongly disapprove
Public Opinion Poll Do you approve or disapprove of the way your member of Congress is handling his or her job? a)Strongly approve b)Approve c)Disapprove d)Strongly disapprove
Public Opinion Poll Do you believe we should have term limits for members of Congress? a)Yes b)No
Public Opinion Poll Do you believe state legislatures should consider the racial makeup of a district when redistricting? a)Yes b)No
Public Opinion Poll Do you think it is important that the demographics of Congress represent the social, racial, and economic demographics of the country? a)Yes b)No
Public Opinion Poll When members of Congress cast a vote, which of the following factors should typically most influence their decision? a)The interests of the country as a whole b)The interests of their district or state
Public Opinion Poll Which of the following do you believe should be the most influential factor in the voting decisions of members of Congress? a)The preferences of their constituents b)The preferences of the president c)The preferences of the members’ party leadership d)The members’ own ideology
Chapter 10: Congress Practice quizzes Flashcards Outlines wwnorton.com/studyspace