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Chapter 6. Congress. American Government: Continuity and Change 2008 Edition to accompany Essentials and Texas Essentials Editions O’Connor and Sabato. Pearson Education, Inc. © 2008. The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government. Article I describes structure of Congress

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Chapter 6 l.jpg

Chapter 6


American Government: Continuity and Change

2008 Edition

to accompany Essentials and Texas Essentials Editions

O’Connor and Sabato

Pearson Education, Inc. © 2008

The constitution and the legislative branch of the government l.jpg
The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government

  • Article I describes structure of Congress

    • Bicameral legislature

      • Divided into two houses

      • Each state sends two Senators regardless of population

      • Number of representatives each state sends to the House is determined by state population

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The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government

  • Constitution sets out requirements for membership in the House and Senate

    • House – 25 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 7 years; serve 2 year terms

      • Directly elected, thus more responsible to the people

    • Senate – 30 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 9 years; serve 6 year terms

    • Congressional members must be legal residents of their states

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Apportionment and Redistricting Government

  • Apportionment

    • Proportional process of allotting congressional seats to each state following the ten year census

  • Redistricting

    • Redrawing of congressional districts to reflect increases or decreases in seats allotted to the states, as well as population shifts within a state

  • 1929: House size fixed at 435

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    The authority to make laws is Governmentshared by both chambers of Congress


    A proposed law

    No bill can become a law without the consent of both houses

    Each chamber also has special, exclusive powers as well.

    Other shared powers

    Declare war

    Raise an army and navy

    Coin money

    Regulate commerce

    Establish the federal courts and their jurisdiction

    Establish rules of immigration and naturalization

    Make laws necessary and proper to carrying out the powers previously listed

    Special powers

    House – origination of revenue bills

    Mandate has blurred over time

    Impeachment authority (but Senate tries; 2/3 vote)

    Senate – treaties, presidential appointments

    Constitutional Powers of Congress

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    How Congress is Organized Government

    • New Congress is seated every two years

      • Elect new leaders

        • Each house has a hierarchical leadership structure

    • Political Parties

      • Organization of both houses of Congress closely tied to political parties and their strength in each chamber.

      • Majority Party

      • Minority Party

      • Role in the committee system

        • Controlled by the majority party

      • Party caucus or conference

        • Variety of roles and specialized committees

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    The House Government

    • Always the larger of the two chambers

      • Organized more tightly; increased role for party leadership

    • Speaker

      • Presides over House

      • Official spokesperson for the House

      • Second in line of presidential succession

      • House liaison with president

      • Great political influence within the chamber

        • Henry Clay, first powerful speaker (1810)

        • Joe Cannon (1903-1910), was so powerful, that a revolt emerged to reduce powers of the speakership.

        • Newt Gingrich (1995)

        • Dennis Hastert – replaced Gingrich; wrestling coach and social studies teacher; largely unknown Republican

        • With Democrats taking control of the House, Nancy Pelosi (CA), became the first woman Speaker of the House.

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    Other House Leaders Government

    • Majority Leader

      • Elected leader of the party controlling the most seats in the House or the Senate

      • Second in authority to the Speaker—in the Senate, is the most powerful member

    • Minority Leader

      • Elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in the House of Representatives or the Senate

    • Whips

      • Keep close contact with all members and take nose counts on key votes, prepare summaries of bills, etc.

    • Party caucus or conference

      • A formal gathering of all party members

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    The Senate Government

    • The Constitution specifies the vice president as the presiding officer of the Senate.

      • He votes only in case of a tie.

    • Official chair of the Senate is the president pro tempore (pro tem).

      • Primarily honorific

      • Generally goes to the most senior senator of the majority party

      • Actual presiding duties rotate among junior members of the chamber

      • True leader is the majority leader, but not as powerful as Speaker is in the House

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    The Senate Government

    • Senate rules give tremendous power to individual senators

      • Offering any kind of amendment

      • filibuster

    • Because Senate is smaller in size organization and formal rules have not played the same role as in the House

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    Committee System Government

    • Organization and specialization of committees is very important in the House due to size

      • Subcommittees allow for even greater specialization

    • Institutionalized system created in 1816

      • More committees added over time

    • 1995 Republican committee system reform

      • Result may have weakened the committee system

        • How chairs are appointed

        • Devaluation of seniority

        • Shift of power from chairs to party leaders

        • Reduction in resources to subcommittee chairs

        • Imposition of term limits on committee chairs

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    Committee System Government

    • Standing Committees

      • Continue from one Congress to the next—bills referred here for consideration

      • Powerful

      • Discharge petitions

    • Joint Committees

      • Includes members from both houses of Congress, conducts investigations or special studies

    • Conference Committees

      • Joint committee created to iron out differences between Senate and House versions of a specific piece of legislation

    • Select (or special) Committees

      • Temporary committee appointed for specific purpose, such as conducting a special investigation or study

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    Committee Membership Government

    • Members often seek assignments to committees based on

      • Their own interests or expertise

      • A committee’s ability to help their prospects for reelection

        • Pork/earmarks: legislation that allows representatives to bring home the “bacon” to their districts in the form of public works programs, military bases, or other programs designed to benefit their districts directly

        • Access to large campaign contributors

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    Committee Chairs Government

    • These individuals have tremendous power and prestige.

      • Authorized to select all subcommittee chairs

      • Call meetings

      • Recommend majority members to sit on conference committees

      • Can kill a bill by not scheduling hearings on it

      • Have staff at their disposal

    • Seniority still important in the Senate

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    The Members of Congress Government

    • Find the job exciting

    • Relish the work

    • Recent impact of partisanship

      • Makes work more stressful, intense

    • Can make more money in private sector

    • Must work to appease two constituencies

      • Home

      • Washington

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    Running for Office and Staying in Office Government

    • Incumbency

      • The fact that being in office helps a person stay in office because of a variety of benefits that go with the position

        • Name recognition

        • Access to free media

        • Inside track on fund-raising

        • District drawn to favor incumbent

      • 1980 to 1990, an average of 95 percent of incumbents who sought reelection won their primary and general election races.

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    Congressional Demographics Government

    • Members tend to be:

      • Better educated than the population in general

        • All but three are college graduates; over 2/3’s have advanced degrees.

      • Richer

        • Nearly 200 are millionaires; 21 Senators are worth at least 3.1 million. 29 House members worth that much as well.

      • Male

      • White

      • Average age is 60 for Senators; 54 for House members.

      • Adam Putnam (R-FL) elected in 2000 at age of 25. Still the youngest member of Congress.

      • John Sununu (R-NH) is the youngest Senator (41)

      • Minorities in the House and Senate

      • Occupations

        • No longer overwhelmingly lawyers

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    Theories of Representation Government

    • Trustee

      • Role played by elected representatives who listen to constituent’s opinions and then use their best judgment to make final decisions

    • Delegate

      • Role played by elected representatives who vote the way their constituents would want them to, regardless of their own opinions

    • Politico

      • Role played by elected representatives who act as trustees or as delegates, depending on the issue

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    How Members Make Decisions Government

    • Party

      • Divided government

    • Constituents

    • Colleagues and Caucuses

      • Logrolling (vote trading)

    • Interest Groups, Lobbyists, and PACS

    • Staff and Support Agencies

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    How a Bill Becomes A Law Government

    • Only members of the House or Senate can submit a bill.

    • Once a bill is introduced: usually a dead end

      • Of about 9,000 or so bills introduced during a session of Congress, fewer than 10 percent make it into law.

      • System of multiple vetoes; power is dispersed as the Framers intended.

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    How a Bill Becomes a Law: The Textbook Version Government

    • Introduction (sponsorship)

    • Sent to clerk of chamber

      • Bill printed, distributed, and sent to appropriate committee or committees (referred by Speaker in House)

    • Committee refers bill to one of its subcommittees

    • Subcommittee researches bill and decides on hearings

      • Hearings provide opportunity for both sides of issue to voice their opinions

    • Bill then revised in subcommittee and vote is taken

    • If vote is positive, the bill is returned to full committee

      • Markup

    • Full committee either rejects bill or sends it to House or Senate floor with a recommendation

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    How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version Government

    • Next stage of action takes place on the floor

    • In House, goes to Rules Committee, given a rule, placed on calendar (but not budget bills)

      • Rules limit debate and determine what kind, if any, amendments are allowed

    • House may choose to form a Committee of the Whole

      • Allows for deliberation with only 100 members present

    • On the floor, bill debated, amendments offered, and a vote taken

    • If bill survives, it is sent to the Senate for consideration—if it was not considered there simultaneously.

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    How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version Government

    • In the Senate, bill may be held up by:

      • A hold – a tactic by which a senator asks to be informed before a particular bill is brought to the floor

      • A filibuster – a formal way of halting action on a bill by means of long speeches or unlimited debate on the Senate

        • Cloture: Mechanism requiring sixty senators to vote to cut off debate

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    How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version Government

    • Third state of action takes place when the two chambers of Congress approve different versions of the SAME bill

    • Conference committee

    • Returns to each chamber for final vote. If it does not pass in each chamber it dies

    • If the bill passes, it is sent to the president.

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    How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version Government

    • President can either sign it or veto it.

    • The president has 10 days to consider a bill.

    • Four options:

      • Can sign the bill, at which point it becomes law

      • Can veto the bill; congress can override the veto with a 2/3 vote in each chamber

      • Can wait the full ten days, at the end of which time the bill becomes law without his signature IF Congress is still in session

      • If Congress adjourns before the ten days are up, the president can choose not to sign the bill. The bill is then pocket-vetoed.

        • Bill would have to be reintroduced and go through the entire process again in order to become a law

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    Congress and the President Government

    • Constitution envisioned that Congress and the president would have:

      • Discrete powers

      • One branch would be able to hold the other in check

      • Since the 1930s, the president has had the upper hand

        • But Congress still has ultimate legislative authority to question executive actions and

        • Congress can impeach and even remove him from office

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    Shifting Balance of Power Government

    • Congressional Oversight

      • Congressional review of the activities of an agency, department, or office

    • Foreign Policy and National Security

      • War Powers Act

        • Passed by Congress in 1973: Limits the president in the deployment of troops overseas to a sixty day period in peacetime unless Congress explicitly gives its approval for a longer period

    • Confirmation of Presidential Appointments

    • The Impeachment Process

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    Congress and the Judiciary Government

    • Congress exercises its control over the judiciary in several ways.

      • Can establish the size of the Supreme Court, its appellate jurisdiction, and the structure of the federal court system

      • Senate also has the authority to accept or reject presidential nominees for the federal courts

        • Senatorial courtesy: process by which presidents, when selecting district court judges, defer to the senator in whose state the vacancy occurs