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Structure and Organization of Congress

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1 Structure and Organization of Congress

House of Representatives and Senate

3 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH Also called Congress.
Meet in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

4 Congress In addition to its lawmaking powers, Congress plays a critical role in American democracy as a representative institution. The members of Congress—100 senators and 435 representatives—represent the voices of the people across America. Yet some observers worry that Congress does not represent all voices equally.

5 House & Senate: Differences in Representation
Bicameral System: Two Chambers Each state has two senators Representation in the House determined by state population (435 total) Predicated on different models of representation Senate: states, with long terms House: districts, with short terms This is a good time to remind students about why this system was established: the small states wanted equal representation and the large states wanted representation proportional to population. The idea of two equal chambers had never been tried before.

6 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH Bicameral - 2 Houses House of Representatives
Senate Responsibility is to make (create) laws. Dual Role - constituents needs & wants and considering what is good for nation as a whole.

7 Differences between the House and the Senate
TABLE 9.1 Differences between the House and the Senate

8 House & Senate: Differences in Representation
Senate: 100 Senators Originally selected by state legislatures Six year terms House of Representatives: 435 Members Elected by districts Two year terms 5 non-voting delegates: American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, U.W. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

435 Seats Number of seats determined by state population. 19 Committees - 84 sub-committees Referred to as the “lower” house. Leader is called Speaker of the House.

Has sole power to Impeach President. All bills to raise money must come from the House of Representatives. All bills (laws) must pass in the House before going to the President.

11 SENATE 100 seats -2 seats per state - separate vote
16 Committees and 69 sub- committees Referred to as the “upper” house Vice President is President of Senate but NO vote unless a tie. Leader = President pro tempore Nicknamed “Millionaires Club”

12 House & Senate: Differences in Representation
How representatives “represent”: Sociological Representation: Representative shares characteristics, background and interests with constituents Agency Representation: Representative has incentives to act in the constituents’ interests

13 House & Senate: Differences in Representation
Representatives as Agents: Legislators learn about the interests of constituents Parties almost never ask a member of Congress to vote against constituent interests This slide ties into interest groups, as discussed in the previous chapter. Interest groups are expected to reach out to members of Congress, and those members are expected to actively reach out to constituents. However, this is not easy when a Representative can have over 600,000 constituents and a Senator can have millions.

14 SENATE Power to try impeachment - 2/3rd vote
Senate approval needed on bills to raise money. All laws must pass in the Senate before going to the President.

15 The Electoral Connection
Who gets elected? Incumbency advantage Districting and gerrymandering issues

16 The Electoral Connection
Incumbency Advantage Members of Congress have an array of tools to keep them in office Constituency services Name recognition and title (reputation)

17 The Electoral Connection
Redistricting Change of boundary lines b/c of pop change The critical election in these districts is the primary Gerrymandering: Redrawing district boundary lines to provide political advantage or disadvantage Again, a point to strike home is that there are a significant number of congressional seats where the incumbent is not even challenged by the other party because the district has been drawn in such a manner that it is very unlikely that the out party would win. In districts like these where the seat is contested, the opponent is hoping for some unforeseen scandal or accident to happen, is hoping to run well and draw attention for another race down the line, or has unrealistic expectations.

18 The Organization of Congress
Majority party controls leadership and shapes agenda Speaker of the House is the leader of majority party Both parties also elect a majority leader, a minority leader, and a whip Parties determine which of their members sit on various committees Actually, both parties have numerous deputy whips who often specialize in various policy areas, but each party has one person with the title of whip.

19 Party Leadership in the Senate
In 2006, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who handed her the gavel that year, took over as Speaker in 2011 after Republicans won a majority in the House in the 2010 elections.

20 The Organization of Congress
Committee System Standing committees Select committees Joint committees Conference committees

21 The Organization of Congress
Standing committees are permanent and are where the majority of legislation is written A point to make is that members try to get on committees that have jurisdiction over key elements of their districts. Members representing Connecticut and New York may want to get on Financial Services, for example, while a member from Kansas may want to obtain a seat on Agriculture.

22 The Organization of Congress

23 The Organization of Congress
Select Committees Formed temporarily to focus on a specific issue Cannot present bills to the chamber Bring attention to a specific subject The issues for which Select committees are formed are often those that span many committees or that are so rare or novel that the standing committees cannot easily address them.

24 The Organization of Congress
Joint Committees Formed from members of both Chambers Gather information Cover issues internal to Congress

25 The Organization of Congress
Conference Committees Temporary joint committees For a bill to become a law, the same wording of the bill must be passed by both chambers Conference committees are formed to write the final wording when both chambers pass similar bills that need to be reconciled

26 The Organization of Congress
The number of seats the minority party has on a committee is roughly proportionate to the seats it has in the House, but at an unfavorable rate. Seniority determines committee assignments Chairs can be removed by the party caucus Chairs are term-limited The Republican changes in 1995 were truly revolutionary. Quite a number of senior members were skipped over for chair assignments because their political leanings were not close enough to those of the new leadership.

27 The Organization of Congress
Congressional Staffers Members of Congress need staff who are experts in specific fields and also staff to help constituents Over 11,500 staff in DC and district offices Another 2,000 staff for committees Each Representative is allocated a staffing budget, which they can spend as they wish. Senators are allocated budgets according to the population of their state. Staffing is typically allocated on a lifecycle pattern, in which newer members typically focus more heavily on constituent services, with a large percentage of their staff back working in their districts. As they rise in seniority and feel safer in their seats, they typically pull more staff into DC to focus on policy work.

28 How Congress Decides There are a number of influences on members of Congress. Constituents Legislators take constituents seriously if they believe it will affect their support at the next election.

29 How Congress Decides Members of Congress often spend a great deal of time in their electoral districts meeting with constituents. Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland is shown here greeting constituents at an event in Baltimore.

30 How Congress Decides Interest Groups
Can supply legislators with information about pending bills Can make donations Do they represent the interests of constituents?

31 How Congress Decides Party leaders have some tools at their disposal:
Leadership PACs Committee assignments Access to the floor The whip system Logrolling Presidency There are two other points you might want to discuss. The first is that members want to rise in their chamber, and they do so not only through seniority but also by supporting powerful members of their party who can do them favors in return. This means that lead junior members are often influenced by more senior members. On the other hand, there are times when members really do believe in certain policy goals and may not be willing to sacrifice them. There are times when party leaders simply have to accept this.

32 Beyond Legislation Oversight
Congress is expected to oversee the activities of the Executive Branch in order to ensure funding is spent properly and laws are enforced. It is also the case, sadly, that just as Congress often abuses its oversight powers for partisan purposes, many witnesses simply refuse to cooperate, either by pleading they have forgotten or simply evading the questions.

33 Beyond Legislation Advice and Consent
Senate must confirm top-level executive appointments, ambassadors, and federal judges Must also approve all treaties You may also want to note that if the Senate is not in session, the president can appoint people into positions as “recess appointments” who can hold office until the end of the next session. This is usually done to avoid the need for Senate approval and is not usually taken kindly.

34 Beyond Legislation Impeachment
If high officials are thought to have committed “Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” they can be impeached. The House acts as a grand jury. The Senate conducts the actual trial. If the Senate conducts a trial, the Chief Justice conducts it.

35 LEGISLATIVE BRACH Powers of Congress Oversee elections
Set rules within the legislative branch To tax, to borrow money, to coin money Set rules of naturalization regulate commerce Establish Post Offices

36 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH Powers continued…. To declare war
To raise and support armies To make all laws that are necessary and proper

37 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH Powers that Congress DOES NOT have..
Can not suspend Habeas Corpus Can not tax inter-state commerce Can not take money from treasury unless a law is passed to do so Can not give a title of nobility

38 Public Opinion Poll Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? Strongly approve Approve Disapprove Strongly disapprove 38

39 Public Opinion Poll Do you approve or disapprove of the way your member of Congress is handling his or her job? Strongly approve Approve Disapprove Strongly disapprove 39

40 Public Opinion Poll Do you believe we should have term limits for Members of Congress? Yes No 40

41 Public Opinion Poll Do you think it is important that the demographics of Congress represent the social, racial and economic demographics of the country? Yes No 41

42 Public Opinion Poll When members of Congress cast a vote, which of the following factors should typically most influence their decision? The interests of the country as a whole The interests of their district or state 42

43 Public Opinion Poll Which of the following do you believe should be the most influential factor in the voting decisions of members of congress? The preferences of their constituents The preferences of the President The preferences of the Members’ Party Leadership The members’ own ideology 43

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