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 governmentCongress: the center of policymakingEnumerated powersElastic or necessary and proper clauseImplied powersPowers divided between the two chambers
6 Structural Foundations of Congress Constraints on CongressRepublicanismBicameralismProhibitions againstBills of attainderEx post facto lawsSuspension of writs of habeas corpusGranting titles of nobility
7 Structural Foundations of Congress Competing centers of powerSeparation of powersChecks and balancesDo you remember the difference between the two?
10 Structural Foundations of Congress Bicameralism & RepresentationApportionmentGreat CompromiseRepresentation in the House is based on populationRepresentation in the Senate is based on equalityFixed termsHouse = 2 years and up for election every two yearsSenate = 6 years and one-third of the body is up for reelection every two yearsElectionHouse = direct popular electionSenate = state legislators until the 17th Amendment (1913)
11 Structural Foundations of Congress FederalismPowers granted to the national government onlyPowers granted to the states onlyPowers shared by the states and the national governmentPowers denied to both entities
12 Representation & Democracy In terms of demographics, who are the members of Congress?Race: women and racial minorities are significantly underrepresentedSocial 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 stylesDelegate: representative who tries to reflect the views of his/her constituencyTrustee: representative who acts independently and uses his/her best judgmentCritical Thinking Question: Which style is more likely to be used in which chamber? Why?
17 Representation & Democracy Equal RepresentationHouseRepresentation based on population; reapportionment is based on the national census, which is done every ten yearsState legislatures draw the district linesThe dominant party will draw the lines in a way that retains powerGerrymanderingVoting Rights Act of 1965Majority-Minority districts
19 Representation & Democracy Electoral ConnectionEqual representation in the SenateGives great power to the small statesCan distort popular sentimentDiminishes equalitySenate 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 electionsIt is expensive to run for office and is getting more expensiveThe amount of money spent is related to the probability of winning, but it does not guarantee winningIncumbents usually raise and spend more money than challengers
23 Representation & Democracy Incumbency: some signs of changeHigh turnover if we look at the percentage of incumbents who actually return after an election as opposed to the incumbent reelection rateTurnoverMembers retiredDefeated 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 moneyCan use congressional resourcesCaseworkFrankingPork
26 Representation & Democracy So how representative is Congress?To a degree, they vote and pass laws based on public opinionIt is also true thatThey do not always follow public opinion. The public often has no opinions or preferences on certain subjects, which meansCongress is influenced by money and interest groupsDemocracy is impaired because these influences distort popular sovereignty and also undermine political equality
27 How Congress Works Congress is an institution Rule boundHierarchicalPower flows from the top downCongress is decentralizedMembers are independent; elections are candidate drivenLeadership is weakMembers see themselves as equals, not in a pecking order
28 How Congress Works Political parties in Congress Legislative business is organized along party linesParty votingParty identification serves as a cueNot clear if party voting differences are caused by party identification or by constituentsParty discipline is weak
30 How Congress Works Congressional Leadership House Speaker Third in line of succession to the presidencyNo clear cut rules for the jobMajority floor leader: helps Speaker plan strategyMinority floor leader: chief spokesperson for the oppositionParty 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 PresidentPresident pro tempore: most senior member of the SenateMajority leaderInfluences/controls committee assignments, scheduling business, and office spaceWeaker than the Speaker of the HouseMinority leader: leads the opposition
32 How Congress Works Committees Why does Congress use committees? Screening devicesSpecializationEnhances chances for reelection
33 How Congress Works Types of committees Standing: permanent and organized by subject matterSelect: temporary and created to conduct studies or investigationsJoint: organized to expedite business and facilitate the flow of legislationConference: joint committees formed to reconcile differences in bills
34 How Congress WorksCongress is guided by formal rules and informal normsRules: specify how things should be done and what is and is not allowedHouseMore rule-bound, organized, and hierarchicalLeaders are more powerful; procedures are more structuredRestricted floor debate; limited amendments; members are restricted to one major committeeMore specialized than the Senate
35 How Congress WorksCongress is guided by formal rules and informal normsRules: specify how things should be done and what is and is not allowedSenateMore relaxed and informal than the HouseSenators are more independentLess specializationUnrestricted floor debateUnanimous consentFilibustercloture
36 How Congress WorksCongress is guided by formal rules and informal normsNorms: generally accepted expectations about behaviorReciprocityCourtesyRespect forReelection motivesFrequent visits back homeMembers’ advertisement, taking credit, etc.
39 Congress, Public Policy and American Public Congress as a policymakerCriticisms: fragmented, will not take responsibility; too cozy with interest groups, unethical, etc.Assessment of Criticisms:Mixed – sometimes Congress does well, and sometimes it does notCongress seems to do better under the direction of strong presidential leadership
40 Congress, Public Policy and American Public The American peopleLike their own representatives and senators, but they dislike Congress as an institutionApproval ratings are related to good economic times and confidence about the futureAmericansHave unrealistic expectations of CongressDo not like the messiness of the democratic process