Congressional Organization: Speaker of the House Held by the leader of the majority party Elected at a special party conference or caucus; Serves for two years; Second in line, if President dies Responsible for conducting House business according to specific rules or procedures Holds the power to recognize members to speak = Controls debate > Influences the passage of a bill Holds power to interpret House rules = refer bills to committees; appoint committee members; delay or speed up the passage of laws
Current Speaker of the House: John Boehner (Rep.)
President of the Senate Held by Vice President of the United States (currently Joe Biden) One of the few responsibilities given to the VP by the Constitution Only present if close vote on a specific bill (President Pro Tempore presides in his absence) Not involved in debates Casts deciding vote in case of a tie
Congressional Committees Standing committees and their subcommittees do most of the legislative work. Members of Congress are assigned to these committees according to their party’s strength in each house. Chairmen are usually selected on the basis of their seniority. Standing committees hold hearings on new legislation and also hold investigative hearings.
Congressional Committees (con’t) Special committees are appointed to study unusual problems (e.g. ageing, hunger, Indian affairs, government intelligence agencies) Conference committees meet to iron out differences when the two houses pass different versions of the same bill.
Who originates bills? Only a member of Congress can formally introduce a bill (proposed law). Bills may be suggested by the executive branch or special-interest groups. Bills must be written in proper legal language. Most bills take months to move from introduction to passage.
What is the role of the lobbyist? Special-interest groups or lobbies (e.g. farming and business organizations; gun-control & medicinal marijuana advocates) send lobbyists to Washington to influence House/Senate members on legislation affecting their clients. Lobbyists provide help in drafting bills and giving expert testimony on specific legislation.
Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995: Lobbyists must file reports with Congress every 6 months Reports disclose the names of clients, fees, and the issues they lobby for or against
Lobbying Techniques 1.Communications. Convincing lawmakers of public support for a bill through campaign of letters, e-mails, telephone calls, etc. 2.Contributions. Providing money and volunteers for re-election campaigns. 3.Social Contacts. Entertaining politicians at parties, dinners, and other events. 4.Sanctions. “Punishing” members of Congress who refuse to cooperate.
Lobbying Techniques (cont.) 5. Demonstrations. Organizing protest marches and picket lines. 6. Formation of alliances. Joining forces with other lobby groups to multiply influence and pressure. Overall, the success of a pressure group depends on its size, prestige, leadership skills and financial resources.
Pro & Con: Should Lobbying Be Illegal? Pro: Get Rid of Lobbyists! Congress has enough staff & public information Danger of lobbyist influence is greater than any service they provide. Lobbyists care only for their special-interests, not the public at-large. Congress has staff experts to draft legislation. Lobbyists “buy” votes. Con: Lobbyists Are Useful! Lobbyists help Congress to stay informed. Lobbyists give a voice to public concerns & provide personal contact with reps. Lobbyists help lawmakers to kill bad laws. Lobbyists provide technical help in drafting bills. Lobbyists do a good job presenting their views.
What Happens When a Bill is Introduced? Bill is given a number (H.R. 1776 or S. 85) and referred to a standing committee in the House (24 committees) and Senate (16 committees) Committee hearings are held on the bill; if approved, it is passed to the Rules Committee (House only), which places it on one of four calendars to await its turn for debate Rules Committee awards special rules to some bills and denies others…those denied rarely go to the floor for debate.
Debate in the Two Houses Debate in the House Limited to one hour Time divided equally between minority and majority parties If bill controversial, members vote to extend the debate (2/3rds majority) After debate, the bill receives a second reading and amendments may be permitted Debate in the Senate Unlimited debate Senator or group of senators may filibuster to keep the Senate from voting on a billhttp://youtu.be/gZA77x- b8vEhttp://youtu.be/gZA77x- b8vE During a filibuster, senators must remain standing and speak continuously Delaying tactic of a filibuster can last indefinitely (longest: 24 hrs., 18 mins.) Can be ended by closure rule
Passing a Bill in Congress Since both houses have opportunities to amend a bill, it might be passed in different versions. When this happens, it goes to the Conference Committee, where it must be reconciled by a conference of both House representatives and Senators to work out the differences. If the conference is able to agree on the bill, both houses vote again. If the conference cannot agree, it might return to committee or die.
Passing a Bill in Congress Once a bill has been approved by majority votes in both houses, it is sent to the President, who can sign it into law or veto it. A vetoed bill then returns to Congress and gets voted on again. This time, if both houses approve the bill by a 2/3rds majority, then it becomes law without the President’s signature. Pocket-veto: