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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

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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).


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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; work for the many house and senate committees.

    • Largely responsible for the work involved in making laws.

Committee Staff


  • 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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