Chapter 5
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Chapter 5. The Organization of Congress. The founders did not intend to make Congress a privileged group, but they did intend that the legislative branch have more power than any other branch. The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature ; it is made up of two houses. Congressional Membership.

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Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

Chapter 5

The Organization of Congress


Congressional membership

  • The founders did not intend to make Congress a privileged group, but they did intend that the legislative branch have more power than any other branch.

  • The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature; it is made up of two houses.

Congressional Membership


Congressional sessions

  • Each term of congress lasts for 2 yrs beginning on January 3rd.

  • Each term divided into two sessions, or meetings.

    • A session lasts one year

    • If congress is adjourned, president may call special session.

Congressional Sessions


Membership of the house

  • 435 members; larger body on congress

  • House seats must be apportioned, or divided, among the states on the basis of population.

  • Reps must be 25 yrs old, US citizen for 7 yrs, legal resident of state who elects them.

  • Two year terms

  • November elections

Membership of the House


Chapter 5

  • Representation & Reapportionment

    • Census bureau takes census, or population count every ten years.

    • The population of each state determines the new number or reps to which each state is entitled; apportionment.


Chapter 5

  • Congressional Redistricting

    • After the states find out their reapportioned representation for the next 10-year period each state sets up congressional districts

    • One rep for each district

    • The process of setting up new district lines after reapportionment has been completed; redistricting.

    • Historically state legislatures have abused their powers to divide the states into congressional districts by gerrymandering; political party controlling the state govt draws a district’s boundaries to gain advantage in elections (packing & Cracking).


Members of the senate

  • Equal representation– 2 members per state

  • Must be 30 yrs old; citizen of US for 9 yrs; legal residents of state they represent

  • All voters of each state elect senators at-large; or statewide.

  • November elections

  • 6 year terms

Members of the Senate


Salary and benefits

  • Senate and House set their own salaries

  • 27th amendment; congressional salary increase will take effect after an intervening election.

  • Stationery, postage, a medical clinic, and gym

  • Large allowances to pay for staff and assistants, trips home, telephones, and newsletters.

  • Income tax deductions

  • 150,000 pension plans

Salary and Benefits


Privileges of members

  • Free from arrests except treason, felony, and breach of peace while attending congress or on their way to and from congress.

  • May not be sued for anything said on senate or house floor.

  • Members guilty of lesser offenses may be censured; a vote for formal disapproval of a member’s actions.(ex. Accepting a bribe)

Privileges of Members


Members of congress

  • 4 delegates– D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands

  • 1 resident commissioner– Puerto Rico

  • Nearly half are lawyers

  • Business, banking, and education backgrounds

  • Incumbents; those members already in office are more successful during elections.

Members of Congress


Chapter 5 section 1 review

In a graphic organizer like the one below, compare the qualifications for representatives and senators.

How does congress reapportion house seats among the states every ten years?

Identify– Elbridge Gerry, Twenty-seventh amendment

Members of congress spend part of their time working for reelections. Which house has a greater percentage of its time remaining for legislative work? Why?

Chapter 5 Section 1 Review


Section 2 the house of representatives

  • Political division and debate is unavoidable in a democratic government.

  • Rules are necessary to help ensure fairness, to enable the legislature to conduct business and to protect the minority.

Section 2: The House of Representatives


Rules for lawmaking

  • The main task of each house of Congress is the same– to make laws.

  • The house and senate each print their rules every two years.

  • The complex rules in the house are geared towards moving legislation quickly once it reaches the floor.

Rules for Lawmaking


Committee work

  • Committees do most of the work in Congress.

  • In committees representatives have more influence, and they have time to study and shape bills.

  • Representatives then do specialize in a few issues that are important to their constituents—the people in the districts they represent.

Committee Work


House leadership

  • The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House and is the most powerful leader.

  • A caucus; or closed meeting, of the majority party chooses the House speaker at the start of each session of Congress.

  • Follows the vice president in line of succession to the presidency.

House Leadership


House floor leaders

  • The speaker’s top assistant is the majority leader.

  • The majority leader has help from the majority whip and deputy whips.

  • Whips; serves as assistant floor leaders in the House.

House Floor Leaders


Lawmaking in the house

  • All laws start as bills; a proposed law, until both houses of Congress pass it and the president signs it.

  • Representatives introduce bills.

  • Speaker of the House sends it to the appropriate committee for study/discussion and review.

  • Bills that survive the committee process are put on the House calendar; list of bills that are up for consideration.

Lawmaking in the House


The house rules committee

  • Serves as the “traffic officer” in the House.

  • Can move bills ahead quickly, hold them back, or stop them completely.

  • Sends bills to floor for debate

  • Set time limit for debates on bills

  • A quorum is the minimum number of members who must be present to permit a legislative body to take official action. ( majority of house = 218)

The House Rules Committee


Section 3 the senate

  • The senate is a deliberative body.

  • Handles issues of specific interest to them.

  • Are expected to know something about and deal w/ many issues from national defense to social issues and farming.

SECTION 3: The Senate


The senate at work

  • Rules are more flexible in the senate

    • Unlimited debate on proposed legislation

    • More informal atmosphere than the House

  • Leadership in the Senate closely parallels leadership in the house.

    • Vice President presides over the Senate

    • Party leaders in the Senate may not have as much influence over the other senators as their counterparts in the House.

The Senate at Work


The vice president

  • The Constitution names the vice president as president of the Senate.

  • May not take part in debates

  • Votes in event of a tie

  • In the absence of the vice president , the president pro tempore ( or president pro term) presides.

    • Pro tempore = “for the time being”

    • Elected by senators

    • From the majority party

Patrick Leahy

The Vice President


Majority and minority floor leaders

  • Most important officers in the Senate

  • Elected by members of their political parties

  • Main job of majority leader is to steer the party’s bills through the Senate

  • The minority leader develops criticisms of the majority party’s bills and tries to keep senators in the minority party working together.

Majority and Minority Floor Leaders


How senate bills are scheduled

  • Any member of the Senate my introduce a bill.

  • Senate leaders control to flow of bills to committees and to the floor for debate and vote.

  • The Calendar of General Orders lists all the bills the Senate will consider./ Executive calendar schedules treaties and nominations.

  • Brings bills to the floor by unanimous consent.

How Senate Bills are Scheduled.


The filibuster

  • One way for Senators to defeat a bill they propose is to filibuster against it.

  • Filibuster; to stall the legislative process and prevent a vote.

  • A filibuster can be stopped when three-fifths of the senate (60 members) votes for cloture—procedure which allows each senator to speak for only 1 hour on a bill under debate.

The Filibuster


Section 4 congressional committees

  • Both the House and the Senate depend upon committees to effectively consider the thousands of bills that are proposed each session.

  • Help to ease workload

  • Key power centers in congress

Section 4: Congressional Committees


Purposes of committees

  • Allows members of congress to divide work

  • Select bills that are to receive further consideration

  • Help the public to learn about key problems and issues facing the nation.

Purposes of Committees


Kinds of committees

  • Standing committees

    • Controlled by majority party

    • Continue from one congress to the next

    • Subcommittee; specialize in subcategory of it’s standing committee.

  • Select committees

    • Study one specific issue

  • Joint committees

    • Study group for house an senate

Kinds of Committees


Choosing committee members

  • In both the House and the Senate, the political parties assign members to the standing committees

  • Members may request assignment to a committee.

  • Chair members of committees w/ party leaders among most powerful of Congress.

  • The seniority system gave the member of the majority party with the longest uninterrupted service on a particular committee the leadership of that committee.

Choosing Committee Members


Section 5 staff and support agencies

  • The work of Congress is so massive and complicated that lawmakers need trained staff to help them do their work effectively.

  • In addition, a number of supporting agencies perform important functions for members.

Section 5: Staff and Support Agencies


Congressional staff role

  • Help with workload

  • Communicate with voters

  • Help run committee hearings and floor sessions

  • Draft new bills

  • Write committee reports

  • Attend committee meetings

  • Help lawmakers get reelected

    (**Some lawmakers believe congressional

    staffers have too much power.**)

Congressional Staff Role


Personal staff

  • Congress includes two types of staff

  • Personal staff; work directly for individual senators and representatives.

    • Administrative assistant (AA); runs the lawmaker’s office, supervise schedule, and gives advice.

    • Legislative assistant (LA); makes certain the lawmakers are well informed about the many bills he or she must deal with.

    • Caseworker; handle the many requests for help from constituents.

Personal Staff


Committee staff

  • Committee staff; work for the many house and senate committees.

    • Largely responsible for the work involved in making laws.

Committee Staff


Support agencies

  • Several agencies that are part of the legislative branch provide services that help Congress carry out its powers.

    • Library of Congress

    • Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

    • General Accounting Office (GAO)

    • Government Printing Office (GPO)

      • Records of all congressional bills

Support Agencies


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