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Congress. Who they are. Occupation (111 th Congress ‘09-’10) 269 members (227 Representatives, two Delegates, and 40 Senators) served in state or territorial legislatures 214 members (182 Representatives and 33 Senators) list their occupation as public service/politics

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Who they are

Who they are

  • Occupation (111th Congress ‘09-’10)

    • 269 members (227 Representatives, two Delegates, and 40 Senators) served in state or territorial legislatures

    • 214 members (182 Representatives and 33 Senators) list their occupation as public service/politics

    • 225 (168 Representatives and 57 Senators) list law

    • 201 (175 Representatives and 27 Senators) list business

    • 94 (78 Representatives and 16 Senators) list education

  • Party Breakdown (113th Congress ’13-’14)

    • Senate: Republicans – 45; Democrats – 53; Independent – 2 (vote with Democrats)

    • House: Republicans – 233; Democrats – 200


More on the 113th


Congress will have 43 African American members (all but 1 in the House of Representatives), a record high number of female (100) and LGBT (7) members

Do members represent their voters

Do Members Represent Their Voters?

  • Representational view–members vote to please their constituents

  • Organizational View–members vote to please fellow members of Congress

  • Attitudinal View–members vote on the basis of their own beliefs

Keith Ellison (D., MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress

Ohio s senators

Ohio’s Senators

Senator Rob Portman (R)

- Elected in 2010

Senator Sherrod Brown (D)

- Elected in 2006

Single member district

Single member district

Census: determines number of districts in a state

Drawn by state legislatures

Our district: 12th

Our representative: Pat Tiberi



Reapportionment: allocation of seats in the House of Representatives to each state after each census

Redistricting: redrawing of the boundaries of the congressional districts within each state

Gerrymandering: practice of drawing lines to favor one party over the other

Percentage of incumbents reelected to congress

Percentage of Incumbents Reelected to Congress

Source: Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 1999–2000 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2000), table 1-18; 2004 update by Marc Siegal.

A polarized congress

A Polarized Congress

  • A more ideological perspective has been brought to Congress.

  • Congress’ most liberal members are Democrats.

  • Congress’ most conservative members are Republicans.

  • Voters are closer to the center of political spectrum.

Functions of congress

Functions of Congress

  • The Lawmaking Function.

    • deciding the legal rules that govern our society.

    • Establish broad national policies by building majority coalitions through political tactics like logrolling, debate, and compromise.

  • The Representation Function.

    • The Trustee.

    • The Instructed-Delegate.

    • The “Politico”

  • Service to Constituents.

    • Casework: includes assisting constituents in getting governmental services denied to the constituent

Functions of congress1

Functions of Congress

  • The Oversight Function.

    • following up to ensure laws and actions are enforced as intended

    • inquiries to determine effectiveness of the bureaucracy and whether the bureaucracy is fulfilling the needs of the public.

    • investigations into alleged wrongdoing.

  • The Public-Education Function.

    • holds public hearings, exercises oversight, and engages in debate on major issues.

  • The Conflict-Resolution Function.

    • brokering disputes between opposing viewpoints or resource demands.

Differences between the house and senate

Differences Between the House and Senate

Pay and perks of office

Pay and Perks of Office

  • Until the last century, membership was not considered a career

    • First members of Congress = $6 a day

  • Modern members of Congress are well compensated

    • Personal benefits include:

Benefits that help reelection chances

Benefits that Help Reelection Chances

  • House members may hire staff members out of their allowance

    • $1.5 million (on average) per year

      • 2/3 taken up for salary of staff

      • Rest used for mailing, travel, and office expenses

    • Senator’s annual allowances vary with the population of their state.

      • $3 to 5 million on average per year

  • Committee chairs & leadership positions are allowed additional staff and more for expenses.

  • Mailing privileges

    • 112th Congress = half billion dollars for office and franking privileges (mailing costs)


The Non-legislative powers of Congress

Electoral powers


Appointments (Sen)

Ratify treaties (Sen)


Powers denied

suspend the writ of habeas corpus

pass bills of attainder pass ex post facto laws

tax exports

Deny fundamental rights

Speaker of the house

Speaker of the House

1.Leader of majority party and presides over House.

a)Decides who to recognize to speak on the floor

b)Rules on germaneness of motions

c)Assigns bills to committees, subject to some rules

d)Influences which bills are brought up for a vote

e)Appoints members of special and select committees

Types of congressional committees

Types of Congressional Committees

  • Standing Committees

    • Where all bills are referred

  • Select Committees

    • accomplish a particular task

  • Joint Committees

    • members of each chamber

  • Conference Committees

    • Settles differences between versions of bills

  • House Rules Committee

    • makes rules that will govern what happens to the bill on the floor of the House

Committee structure

Committee Structure

  • Legislative committees are most important organizational feature of Congress.

    • Consider bills or legislative proposals, Maintain oversight of executive agencies, Conduct investigations

  • Committee practices

    • Majority party has majority of seats on the committees and names the chair.

  • Assignments

    • House members : two standing committees or one exclusive committee.

    • Senators : two “major” AND one “minor” committee.

  • Chairs are elected -- Usually the most senior majority party member of the committee

Committee reform

Committee Reform

  • Subcommittee “bill of rights” of 1970s changed several traditions.

    • House committee chairs are elected by secret ballot in party caucus.

    • No House member or Senator may chair more than one committee.

    • All House committees over 20 members to have at least four subcommittees.

    • larger staffs; House members gained more personal staffers.

    • committee meetings open to the public

  • Decentralizing reforms made the House more inefficient, committee chairs utilized controversial practices to gain control

  • In 1995, House Republicans gave chairmen ability to select staff members, imposed term limits on leadership

  • In 1995, Senate Republicans imposed term limits on all committee chairmen; required members select chairmen by secret ballot.

  • Certain committees tend to attract particular types of legislators.

    • Policy-oriented members to finance or foreign policy .

    • Constituency-oriented members to small business or veterans’ affairs.

Law making

Law Making

  • A bill may begin in either house

    • BUT... Revenue bills must begin in the House of Representatives.

  • Only a member of the House or Senate may introduce a bill but anyone can write a bill.

  • Over 9,000 bills are proposed and fewer than 5 to 10% are enacted.

  • A bill must survive three stages to become a law: committees, the floor, and the conference committee. 

  • A bill can die at any stage.

Law making process

Law making process

Types of Bills

Public Bill

Private Bill

Types of Resolutions

Simple resolution

Joint resolution

Concurrent resolution



Crafting the Bill



Riders (Xmas tree bills)


Voice vote

Division (standing) vote

Teller and Roll call votes

Making the vote

Making the Vote

House of representatives

House of Representatives



Conference committee

Conference Committee

President veto


The filibuster

The Filibuster

  • The Senate’s use of unlimited debate as a blocking tactic

    • Used during committee or on the floor

    • Cloture: way to stop a filibuster, requiring vote of 60 senators

    • Reconciliation: budget procedure, cannot be filibustered

    • Double Tracking: keeps business moving

Investigation oversight

Investigation & Oversight

  • Investigations may lead to new legislation to deal with a problem, changes in a government program, or removal of officials from office

    • Hearings held in committee; often special or select committees

    • Power to subpoena witnesses, hold them in contempt

    • Subject of investigation retains same right as in criminal proceeding

  • Oversight is the continuing review of how effectively the executive branch carries out the laws Congress passes

    • requiring executive agencies to report on their activities to Congress.

    • to ask a congressional support agency, such as the General Accounting Office, to study an executive agency’s work.

    • The power to appropriate money

    • independent counsel law

Support agencies

Support agencies

  • Congressional Research office

    • Part of Library of Congress, by request it answers questions and provides research

  • General Accountability office

    • Investigates and monitors federal spending by the executive agencies

  • Congressional budget office

    • “scores bills” – second opinion on budget matters; examines the cost and economic impact of legislation

Strict vs loose constructionist view

Strict vs. Loose constructionist view

  • Those who believe in the “strict construction,” interpretation believed that Congress does not have implied powers outside of their expressed powers

    • U.S. v. Lopez & U.S. v. Morrison

  • “loose constructionists” are those who argue that the necessary and proper clause gave Congress implied powers in addition to their expressed powers

    • McCulloch v. Maryland & Gibbons v. Ogden

  • Congress and the president

    Congress and the President

    Cooperation and Conflict

    • Constituents

    • Checks and Balances

    • Organization

    • Politics

      Separation of Powers

    • Emergency powers

    • Impoundment

    • Legislative veto

    • Line-item veto

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