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Congress - The Legislative Branch

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1 Congress - The Legislative Branch
Unit 8

2 I. Bicameralism Two Houses Divided

3 A. Key Comparisons House Senate 435 members
2-year terms without limits; members elected together smaller constituency in equal populations less prestige mostly policy specialists more reflective of popular will more rigid bill and debate process less media coverage 100 members 6-year terms without limits; 1/3 elected every 2 years larger constituency in unequal populations more prestige mostly policy generalists less reflective of popular will less rigid bill and debate process greater media coverage

4 B. Bicameralism At Work 1. Both houses have unique and complimentary powers. 2. Members of each house act for partisan (politically motivated) reasons designed to increase the power of their house or themselves. 3. Numerous committees conduct the majority of work in Congress and have become power centers of political and personal interests.

5 B. Congressional Demographics 112th Congress data (2011)
Member Characteristics Senate House Average age 63 56 Youngest 40 years 30 years Oldest 86 years 83 years Women Occupation 15 52 lawyers businessmen 73 148 lawyers businessmen

6 Jewish/Muslim/ Buddhist/Unaffiliated
African American 44 Hispanic 3 27 Asian 2 7 Native American 1 Catholic 24 132 Protestant 61 258 Jewish/Muslim/ Buddhist/Unaffiliated 12/0/0/3 27/2/3/13

7 II. Criticism of Congressional Power
Too meddlesome in states’ affairs and individual rights Often tries to violate delegated powers of president in policy-making areas: Seen as being responsive more to special interests & money than constituents. Bogged down by its partisanship & ego; often act in anti-majoritarian ways.

8 III. Congressional Districts & Elections
A. Congressional leaders of both parties do not often face a tough reelection challenge. Incumbents are usually the winners in both Senate and House elections. 1. Incumbent reelection rates normally over 90% % in House % in Senate % in House % in Senate % in House % in Senate % in House % in Senate

9 B. Representation in the House
The 10-year census data (a population count taken in years that end in 0) will determine House seats for each state. Reapportionment Act of 1929 - Reapportionment starts the year after the census is taken. Next reapportionment is _?_. - Fixed the number of House seats at 435. - Mandated each district to be as equal as possible to the others. Redistricting in 2011 will create 435 districts of about 709,000 constituents.

10 C. Redistricting State legislatures determine Congressional district boundaries. - Boundaries must be contiguous and compact - The party in control of a state legislature has an advantage when redistricting as it may attempt to gerrymander to preserve or expand its power. Redistricting is subject to federal approval.

11 D. Racial & Ethnic Concerns
No guarantee of racial or ethnic minority representation is allowed. Non-contiguous boundary lines or bizarre district shapes cannot be made to purposely guarantee a specific race or group’s win. - Majority-minority voting districts (where one race constitutes a majority of the population) are constitutional so long as they do not deliberately create racial gerrymandering. - Shaw v. Reno (1993) - Miller v. Johnson (1995)

12 E. Population Shifts Population shifts have decreased representation in the Northeast and Great Lakes states (collectively known as the “Rust Belt”). - From 1960 to 2010: NY -14, PA -10, OH -7, IL -6, MI -5 States with the biggest gains during the same time were those in the South and Southwest (collectively called the “Sunbelt”). - From 1960 to 2010: CA +14, FL +15, TX + 13, AZ +6, GA +5 - In 2010: TX +4, AZ +2, FL +2, GA +1 NY -2, PA -2, MI -1, OH -1, NJ -1, MA – 1, CA-0

13 IV. Congressional Powers
A. Expressed powers both houses must share are found in Article I of the Constitution. Examples of complimentary powers: coin/print money levy taxes regulate interstate commerce create courts declare war impeachment override presidential vetoes

14 House of Reps’ Unique Expressed Powers
1. All revenue bills (taxation, budget, and appropriations) must start in the House. 2. Hold impeachment hearings. 3. Select the President if no decision made in the Electoral College.

15 Senate’s Unique Expressed Powers
1. Confirm presidential nominations: - Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices and federal judges, ambassadors, U.S. marshals, and other key positions 2. Ratify treaties 3. Hold impeachment trials 4. Select V.P. if no candidate wins in the Electoral College

16 V. Congressional Functions
A. Lawmaking (its main function, duh…) B. Represent its constituents (casework) C. Watchdog over the federal bureaucracy D. Policy creation and clarification E. Check the other two branches (e.g. veto, appointment confirmation, oversight)

17 VI. The Legislative Process
A. The political agenda becomes the legislative agenda. 1. Public bills (about 10,000 total for each term) - Decide what is in the national or state advantage - Policy is ideologically driven; compromise when politically reasonable 2. A perceived public problem (valence issue) could become part of the political agenda on which politicians would campaign or create “knee-jerk” legislation. Examples: Economic collapse, Social Security reform, energy costs, terrorism, health care reform, environmental disasters, out-of-control borders

18 HOUSE SENATE Bill introduced and referred to appropriate committee.
Subcommittee(s) holds hearings, investigates, marks-up, approves, sends back to… Original committee for approval, then sent to…

19 Rules Committee for scheduling debate and vote.
NO EQUIVALENT IN THE SENATE Debate and vote before the full house; if final bill different from Senate, bill goes to… Debate and vote before the full Senate; if final bill different from House, bill goes to… Conference Committee where a compromise bill is worked out to reconcile differences. If successful… House votes and if passed, it goes to the… The full Senate votes and if passed, it goes to the… President who signs or vetoes; if vetoed, back to the house of origination with President’s veto message. Both houses can override veto with 2/3 vote in both houses.

20 B. The Committee System Committees are where most daily work in Congress takes place. Committees form a division of labor in which bills are first sent to committees with the appropriate jurisdiction. - Examples: defense bills to the Armed Services Com’tee farming bills to the Agricultural Committee tax bills to the Ways and Means Committee

21 COMMITTEES (cont’d) 1. Committees perform many roles:
- performs initial screening of bills - holds hearings and investigations, gathers testimony and evidence - oversees government actions - conducts confirmations of appointees - creates budgets - make rules for its particular house

22 Committees (cont’d) 2. Certain committees are seen as “plum” assignments because they allow members of congress to perform constituent service, or get high media visibility. - All chairmanships, as well as the majority of committee seats, are held by the majority party. This is a rule created by the houses, not a constitutional requirement.

23 Committees (cont’d) 3. Subcommittee: a small part of a larger committee. They hold hearings, gather information, and work on details of bills particular to its specific area. Over 150 in Congress. - First changes to bills are made here. - Its vote can affect the vote of the full committee’s members.

24 Committees (cont’d) 4. House Rules Committee (VERY powerful!)
Sets the date and time for debate and vote on a bill in the House of Reps (no such comittee in he Senate). Determines if amendments to bills will be allowed: a. Open rule: amendments to bills allowed; liberal debate time allowed b. Closed rule: amendments to bills not allowed; debate time severely restricted.

25 Committee Seniority Senate: Usually, the longest-serving member of a committee from the majority party will serve as its chair. Limited to a 6-year term. Senators cannot chair more than one major committee. House: Committee chairmen are selected by the majority party via secret ballot and can serve for 3 terms (6 years), but can chair only one major committee; usually the senior most member of majority party wins the chair; the Speaker of the House limited to serving 8 years. Seniority system rules were changed in 1970s to allow the longest-serving member of the minority party to be the ranking member (second most senior member).

26 C. Committee Types The House has more committees than the Senate because it has more members who must organize themselves into smaller groups in order to accomplish its larger amount of work more efficiently. Members of both houses serve on multiple committees. - House committee members are considered experts - Senators are considered generalists

27 Committee Types (cont’d)
1. Standing committees - Specialized, permanent committees in both houses that conduct the majority of work in Congress. - Each has at least 4 subcommittees. - Standing committees in one house usually can be found in the other house although they may not be called by the same title.

28 Committee Types (cont’d)
2. Joint Committees (temporary) Made up of both Senators and Representatives. Purpose: Investigation of major policy issues critical to government operations - Ex: Joint Economic Committee Joint Intelligence Committee. Cannot report bills to the floor of either house for debate or vote.

29 Committee Types (cont’d)
3. Select Committees (temporary, 1 term of Congress but can be extended) - Created for a limited purpose to investigate or research an issue that falls outside the expertise/authority of standing committees. Senate Watergate Committee Senate Unfair Campaign Practices Committee House Un-American Activities Committee

30 Committee Types (cont’d)
4. Conference committees (temporary) - Created to work out compromises on bills passed earlier by both houses separately. Task is to come up with a compromise bill. - Compromise bills cannot be amended by either house, only debated and voted on.

31 D. Senate Lawmaking Differences
1. Legislative agenda is set by the Majority Leader; no separate Rules Committee as in the House. 2. Filibuster: Used only in the Senate to keep a vote on a bill from occurring thus causing it to be defeated. Also known as “talking a bill to death.” - A vote of cloture can stop a filibuster but requires a concurring vote of at least 60 senators. 3. A “hold” is used to intentionally delay action on a bill because a senator finds it objectionable in some way.

32 Senate Law-making (cont’d)
4. A “rider” is an add-on to a bill which is not germane to the bill’s topic. - This allows an unpopular idea to ride on the back of a popular bill and avoid the entire legislative process where it would probably be killed if it had to stand on its own merits. - Riders can also be used to kill bills.

33 E. “Pork Barrel” Legislation
“Pork” (a.k.a. “earmarks”) is the wasteful spending of money by Congress which is usually stuck into bills to benefit a Congressman’s district or senator’s home state at the taxpayer’s expense. It is usually done to help their reelection chances. Examples: - Money to go to a state university to fund a study about butterfly migration. - Federal funds given for construction projects in someone’s district (creates jobs). - The “Bridge-to-Nowhere” (look it up)

34 F. The Veto Veto: A refusal to sign a bill into law. The reason for a President’s veto is made in writing and sent to the bill’s house of origin. 1. Veto-proof bills are those originally passed by more than 2/3 of the members of both houses. 2. A bill unsigned for more than 10 days (Sundays excluded) automatically becomes a law. 3. If Congress adjourns within 10 days of submitting a bill it can be signed, or can be pocket vetoed. - Pocket vetoes require no action on the President’s part and no veto message.

35 Line Item Veto (1996) Passed by Congress to allow the President to veto any part of a bill it sent to him - Seen as a compromise measure by which the President could take out questionable or wasteful items in a bill without vetoing it entirely.

36 Line Item Veto (cont’d)
Reasons for a line item veto: - Congress can’t check its pork-barrel spending and can therefore shift responsibility for making difficult budget decisions (cuts) to the executive branch. - Allows the President to curb a “spendthrift” Congress’s desire for earmarks, a primary reason for incumbents’ reelection. - Declared unconstitutional in 1998 in: Clinton v. City of New York

37 G. Pigeonholing kills a bill in committee by ignoring it
G. Pigeonholing kills a bill in committee by ignoring it. The committee chairman can use this power in partisan ways. - Bills are pigeonholed especially if they are constituent related or excessively loaded with “pork” H. Discharge petition forces a bill in danger of “dying” from committee inaction back onto the House/Senate floors for debate and vote.

38 Congressional Leaders- 112th Congress
Senate Majority Leader Senate Majority Whip Senate Minority Leader Senate Minority Whip Speaker of the House House Majority Leader House Minority Leader House Minority Whip

39 VII. Congressional Leadership
A. Congress is less party-centered today and more committee oriented. Day to day leadership is exhibited more through committee and subcommittee chairmanships. - Floor leaders have less power than they did 50 years ago and certainly prior to 1910. - There has been a growth of professional staffers (an army of them!) to complete legislative tasks and casework duties.

40 Congressional Leadership
B. House of Representatives Speaker of the House A Constitutional position! - Second in line to assume the Presidency - Elected by the majority party (renewable 8 year term) - Most powerful legislative position - Directs the House legislative agenda Has influence over all committees and can influence appointments of members to committees. Current incumbent is ___________________ .

41 House of Reps Leadership (cont’d)
Majority Leader – Second highest ranking member of the House and the Speaker’s top assistant. - Responsible for planning the party’s legislative agenda, steering important bills through the House, and coordinating the actions of committee chairs. - Current incumbent: ___________________

42 House of Reps Leadership (cont’d)
Minority leader- Leads his party in trying to move the minority party’s agenda. - Main role is to act as the head of the “loyal opposition.” No scheduling power! - May become the Speaker if his/her party regains the majority status. - Incumbent: _______________

43 Whips Whips (majority whip and minority whip) exist in both houses and execute the same duties: - Help the leaders maintain party loyalty of their members. - Count votes and rally party members (plead, praise, deal, threaten) to vote the party line regarding bills on the floor.

44 C. The Senate President of the Senate
Vice President performs this role as per the Constitution Can cast a vote only to break a tie Cannot debate legislation or serve on committees President Pro Tempore - A Constitutional position but with little power - Usually the most senior senator of the majority party - Acts as Senate president in the absence of the V.P. - Current incumbent: ______________________

45 Senate Leadership (cont’d)
Majority leader (Current incumbent: __________) - Leads his party day to day. - Constructs the majority party’s legislative agenda. - Schedules the Senate legislative calendar. - Steers important bills through committees. Minority leader (Current incumbent: ____________) - Performs the same duties as their House counterpart.

46 VIII. Why do they vote that way?
A. Pressure from various sources: President political party constituents interest groups/PACs media pressure --- AND---

47 Peer Pressure LOG-ROLLING
- When one member of Congress supports another legislator’s bill in return for support on his/her own bill or actions. You scratch my back….

48 B. Legislative Caucuses
Definition: Informal organizations formed among congressional members who share similar points of view. Goal: Shape the congressional agenda by raising their interests within the daily workings of Congress. Tactics: Act as a bloc to organize votes on legislation they favor and also pressure government agencies to act favorably towards the interests of the caucus. (A congressional interest group?) Over 100 caucuses exist in Congress Examples: Congressional Black Caucus, Blue Dog Coalition, Sunbelt Caucus, Republican Caucus, Women’s Caucus

49 IX. The other side of the coin…
Congress is allowed to discipline its own members: - Censure: The least “punitive” measure. A formal letter of disapproval of a member’s actions that warrant condemnation before the member’s full house. Could damage reelection chances - Exclusion: An elected member is not allowed to take their seat for reasons that have caused his membership in a house to be questioned.

50 Other side of the coin (cont’d)
The ultimate punishment: - Expulsion: A member is kicked out of Congress usually for criminal conviction or highly disreputable conduct that brings disgrace upon the house. The member may also face criminal charges. B. All punishments could result in a loss of committee chairmanship or party support.

51 Congress – The Legislative Branch
END OF UNIT 8 Congress – The Legislative Branch

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