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The organization and power of Congress

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1 The organization and power of Congress
Chapter 8 Pages

2 Requirement for election to congress:
All members of the House who seek reelection must return to their home districts to face the voters in November of each even-numbered year A senator serves a six-year term Only 1/3 of the Senate membership stands for election (or reelection) at any one time 2 reasons senators stay in office: Give stability Long-term direction to the law-making process

3 Qualifications for election to congress:
Requirement House of Representatives Senate Age Twenty-five years or older Thirty years or older. Citizenship Must have been a United States Citizen for at least seven years Must have been a United States citizen for at least nine years. Residence Must be a resident of the state in which he or she is elected. By custom, a representative is, also expected to live in the district represented. Must be a resident of the state he or she represents.

4 Nomination and Election
Congress: selected by their political parties Membership in a party is not required However, very few candidates can afford to run without their party’s financial support State to state – Republicans and Democrats nominate their candidates in a variety of ways – here are 3: Party nominating committees meet in each congressional district to pick the candidates Party officials select the candidates at state conventions Allow voters to choose their own candidates in primary elections Senators: for 125 years were elected by the legislatures of their home states This ended when the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913 TODAY = BOTH senators and representatives are elected by the voters in their home states and districts Governor has the power to appoint a replacement when an incumbent senator resigns or dies The new senator serves until the next senator serves until the next regular election Special elections are usually called to fill vacancies in the House.

5 Why do we have two houses of Congress?
Unicameral, or one-house, legislatures under the Continental Congresses and the Articles of Confederation had not worked well Several of the framers believed that a two-house lawmaking body was essential to the system of check and balance they were building into the government. The dispute over representation between the large and small states was solved by the Connecticut Compromise The small states were protected in the senate, where every state was given two seats That decision allowed the Framers to recognize the greater economic and political weight of the large state by allocating House seats on the basis of population.

6 A bicameral Congress: 1. Serves as a brake: a bill must be approved by both houses meeting separately 2. Prevents sectional legislation: a bill passed by the House that favors a single, heavily populated region of the country can be killed in the Senate. This prevents the passage of laws that might work against the best interests of other sections of the country 3. Provides differing viewpoints: the members of the house must run for reelection every 2 years – are forced to respond to the immediate wishes of the people Senators who have the security of six-year terms, can examine legislation from a longer range view 4. Provides time for review: new bills take a long time to go through both houses This slow progress gives everyone – the public, the media, pressure groups, and Congress itself – time to study and criticize a bill before it become a law

7 What is the term of Congress?
Term of congress = the period of during which a Congress remains in session between elections Each congress is numbered in sequence and has a life span of two years. The first Congress convened in 1789, the 111th in January

8 How are congressional seats apportioned (allocated)?
Congress – contains 535 members 100 senators and 435 representatives Congress passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929 Law fixed the membership of the House at its present size Each representative speakers to an average of 700,000 citizens # of representatives (out of 435) that each state sends to the House is SET by the ratio of the state’s population to the national population Example: California sends 53 compared to South Dakota or Montana which send 1

9 Reapportionment Greatest migration today is from cold weather states to the jobs and warm weather of the “sunbelt” National census (taken every ten years in years ending in 0) measures this mobile population Census figures matter because the size of their delegations to the House can be affected Bureau of Census prepares the reapportionment plan for the President – forwards it to Congress for action Unless Congress changes it, the plan becomes LAW after 60 DAYS

10 “One man, one vote” Case of Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) – Court ruled that “as nearly as is practicable, one man’s vote in congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s” Court demanded: Congressional districts be of a reasonably compact shape That each district in a state contain roughly the same number of people

11 How does Congress organize itself? Conduct the “people’s business”-
Speaker of the house: House of Representatives is led by a presiding office known as the Speaker The leader of the majority party holds this powerful post Speaker conducts House business according to rules called parliamentary procedure: 1. Power to recognize members: House members can not take the floor to speak unless they are recognized by the Speaker The Speaker has the power to control a debate on a particular bill, the Speaker can influence its passage or defeat 2. Power to interpret House rules: Refer bills to favorable committees Appoint special and conference committee members Delay or speed up the passage of legislation

12 Speaker of the House continued…
Majority party elects the Speaker at a special party conference or caucus This caucus is held at the beginning of a new term Once elected, Speaker serves two years and MUST stand for reelection when the next Congress convenes Speaker can join in debates (after appointing a temporary presiding officer to fill the chair) Speaker may also vote on any issue but seldom does so except to break a tie If both the President and Vice President die at the same time, the Speaker is next in line for the Presidency John Boehner

13 President of the Senate
Vice President of the United States serves as the President of the Senate The Constitution specifies this as a specific task for the Vice President Seldom preside over the Senate unless a close vote on an important bill is expected Does not participate in debates but casts the deciding vote in case of ties Senate elects one of its members to the post of President pro tempore This senator presides over the Senate when the vice Presidency is vacant or when the Vice President is absent

14 Party Leaders Each house has a majority and minority party leader
Floor leaders head steering committees that supervise the legislative business in each house Work with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate: 1. to manage debate on all business before the House and the Senate 2. coordinate the work of congressional committees 3. choose the speakers who are going to debate a particular bill 4. work with the Rules Committee to move bills onto the floor 5. organize party members so that the party is unified on important votes

15 Party Leaders continued…
Party Whips: assist the floor leaders in each house Whips selected by the party leader, line up votes for or against a given bill Must be accurate judges of how each party member is going to vote Must be capable of delivering the votes of party members when a vote is taken Methods = polite debate to political arm-twisting Each house is served by a staff of nonelected officials: Sergeant-at-arms – maintains order and organizes security Legislative counsel – helps write and review new bills

16 How is the Committee system organized?
Committee hearings take the form of investigations – Information gathered during the sessions: Aid in the writing of new laws Spotlight a social problem, such as healthcare for the poor Provide insight into the activities of the executive and judicial branches 3 types of committees: (Table page 182) Standing Committees: legislative work of Congress 40 standing committees House has 24 and Senate has 16 Divides itself in subcommittees that handle specialized committee business

17 Committees continued…
Special committees: “select” committees – disband after their particular tasks are finished Last less than a year Appointed by the speaker of the House or by the President of the Senate Conference committees: House and Senate versions of the same bill often differ Leadership appoints a temporary conference committee Meet and settle their differences through compromises and write a conference report BOTH houses must accept or reject the report without amendment This committee plays a key role in deciding a bill’s final form

18 Committee Membership:
If there were 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the Senate, the Republicans would be entitled to three-fifths of the seats on each committee If Democrats were in control of the House, they would reserve a majority of the lower chamber’s committee seats for themselves. Committee assignments reflect: 1. legislator’s personal interests 2. the seniority (length of service) the legislator holds in Congress 3. leadership’s opinion of the legislator’s abilities

19 Baseball – Steroids

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