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The Struggle For Democracy

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Presentation on theme: "The Struggle For Democracy"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Struggle For Democracy
Chapter 11: Congress


3 Critical Thinking Questions
Survey data show that Americans have a low level of respect for Congress as an institution, yet we continue to reelect members at very high rates. Why? Do voters make their decisions based on the well-being of the nation or on localized needs and priorities?

4 Structural Foundations of Congress
The Framers were worried about democracy, concerned about tyranny, and wanted an energetic, capable government Congress: the center of policymaking Enumerated powers Elastic or necessary and proper clause Implied powers Powers divided between the two chambers


6 Structural Foundations of Congress
Constraints on Congress Republicanism Bicameralism Prohibitions against Bills of attainder Ex post facto laws Suspension of writs of habeas corpus Granting titles of nobility

7 Structural Foundations of Congress
Competing centers of power Separation of powers Checks and balances Do you remember the difference between the two?



10 Structural Foundations of Congress
Bicameralism & Representation Apportionment Great Compromise Representation in the House is based on population Representation in the Senate is based on equality Fixed terms House = 2 years and up for election every two years Senate = 6 years and one-third of the body is up for reelection every two years Election House = direct popular election Senate = state legislators until the 17th Amendment (1913)

11 Structural Foundations of Congress
Federalism Powers granted to the national government only Powers granted to the states only Powers shared by the states and the national government Powers denied to both entities

12 Representation & Democracy
In terms of demographics, who are the members of Congress? Race: women and racial minorities are significantly underrepresented Social class: family wealth, great education, mostly lawyers and business people



15 Representation & Democracy
The average congressional person is a white male in his mid to late 50’s who is a lawyer, or has some other type of post-baccalaureate degree, and is a member of the upper middle class. Is this a problem? Why? Why not?

16 Representation & Democracy
Edmund Burke described two styles Delegate: representative who tries to reflect the views of his/her constituency Trustee: representative who acts independently and uses his/her best judgment Critical Thinking Question: Which style is more likely to be used in which chamber? Why?

17 Representation & Democracy
Equal Representation House Representation based on population; reapportionment is based on the national census, which is done every ten years State legislatures draw the district lines The dominant party will draw the lines in a way that retains power Gerrymandering Voting Rights Act of 1965 Majority-Minority districts


19 Representation & Democracy
Electoral Connection Equal representation in the Senate Gives great power to the small states Can distort popular sentiment Diminishes equality Senate is unrepresentative: more than half of the senators in the 104th Congress come from states that together make up only one-fifth of the population


21 Representation & Democracy
Money and congressional elections It is expensive to run for office and is getting more expensive The amount of money spent is related to the probability of winning, but it does not guarantee winning Incumbents usually raise and spend more money than challengers


23 Representation & Democracy
Incumbency: some signs of change High turnover if we look at the percentage of incumbents who actually return after an election as opposed to the incumbent reelection rate Turnover Members retired Defeated at the nomination stage by members of their own parties


25 Representation & Democracy
Yes, but it is still great to be an incumbent! Attract more money Can use congressional resources Casework Franking Pork

26 Representation & Democracy
So how representative is Congress? To a degree, they vote and pass laws based on public opinion It is also true that They do not always follow public opinion. The public often has no opinions or preferences on certain subjects, which means Congress is influenced by money and interest groups Democracy is impaired because these influences distort popular sovereignty and also undermine political equality

27 How Congress Works Congress is an institution
Rule bound Hierarchical Power flows from the top down Congress is decentralized Members are independent; elections are candidate driven Leadership is weak Members see themselves as equals, not in a pecking order

28 How Congress Works Political parties in Congress
Legislative business is organized along party lines Party voting Party identification serves as a cue Not clear if party voting differences are caused by party identification or by constituents Party discipline is weak


30 How Congress Works Congressional Leadership House Speaker
Third in line of succession to the presidency No clear cut rules for the job Majority floor leader: helps Speaker plan strategy Minority floor leader: chief spokesperson for the opposition Party whips: act as liaisons between leaders and the “rank and file”; keep track of voting

31 How Congress Works Congressional Leadership Senate
President of the Senate is the Vice President President pro tempore: most senior member of the Senate Majority leader Influences/controls committee assignments, scheduling business, and office space Weaker than the Speaker of the House Minority leader: leads the opposition

32 How Congress Works Committees Why does Congress use committees?
Screening devices Specialization Enhances chances for reelection

33 How Congress Works Types of committees
Standing: permanent and organized by subject matter Select: temporary and created to conduct studies or investigations Joint: organized to expedite business and facilitate the flow of legislation Conference: joint committees formed to reconcile differences in bills

34 How Congress Works Congress is guided by formal rules and informal norms Rules: specify how things should be done and what is and is not allowed House More rule-bound, organized, and hierarchical Leaders are more powerful; procedures are more structured Restricted floor debate; limited amendments; members are restricted to one major committee More specialized than the Senate

35 How Congress Works Congress is guided by formal rules and informal norms Rules: specify how things should be done and what is and is not allowed Senate More relaxed and informal than the House Senators are more independent Less specialization Unrestricted floor debate Unanimous consent Filibuster cloture

36 How Congress Works Congress is guided by formal rules and informal norms Norms: generally accepted expectations about behavior Reciprocity Courtesy Respect for Reelection motives Frequent visits back home Members’ advertisement, taking credit, etc.



39 Congress, Public Policy and American Public
Congress as a policymaker Criticisms: fragmented, will not take responsibility; too cozy with interest groups, unethical, etc. Assessment of Criticisms: Mixed – sometimes Congress does well, and sometimes it does not Congress seems to do better under the direction of strong presidential leadership

40 Congress, Public Policy and American Public
The American people Like their own representatives and senators, but they dislike Congress as an institution Approval ratings are related to good economic times and confidence about the future Americans Have unrealistic expectations of Congress Do not like the messiness of the democratic process

41 The End Chapter 11: Congress

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