Vocabulary Congress Chapter 12 • Baker v. Carr-Joint Committee • Cloture -Logrolling • Congressional oversight -Majority leader • Constituent -Pork barrel • Earmarks -Reapportionment • Filibuster -Regulatory policy • Gerrymandering -Standing committees • Gridlock-Whips
Congress • Viewed as the citizens’ direct link to the branch of government that is responsible for forming public policy. • Functions include: representing the interests of constituents, lawmaking through consensus building, oversight of governmental agencies, policy clarification, and ratification of public policies.
Congress • Congress has come under public criticism • Polls have reflected deep voter concern regarding the issues of congressional gridlock, term limits for representatives and senators, and the influence of lobbyists and PACs on representatives. • Many newly elected representatives have committed themselves to reforming congressional structure, procedures, and practices.
Review of Congress according to constitution • Basis of constitutional authority is found in Article I • A House member must be at least 25 years old, an American citizen for seven years, and an inhabitant of the state the representative represents. Representatives serve two-year terms • A senator must be 30 years old, an American citizen for nine years, and a resident of the state the senator represents. Senators serve six-year terms.
Review of Congress according to constitution • Common powers delegated to Congress, listed in Article I Section 8 include the power to tax, coin money, declare war, and regulate foreign and interstate commerce. • Implied congressional comes from the “necessary and proper” clause, which has been referred to as the elastic clause.
Review of Congress according to constitution • House of Representatives has the power to begin all revenue bills, to select president if there is no electoral college majority, and to initiate impeachment proceedings. • Senate has the power to approve presidential appointments and treaties and to try impeachment proceedings. • Congress may overrule a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote of each house.
Reelection • In first ten years of Congress, over 1/3 of the senators resigned before the end of their terms. • In the House a large number of representatives served only one or two terms. • As political parties developed, congressional reelection rate increased. • Influential senators and representatives could use their office as an entrée to the presidency.
Reapportionment • Reapportionment Act of 1929 still standing law. • Provides for a permanent size of the House and provides for the number of seats, based on the census, of each state. • Each seat represents around 650,000 people • Left up to each state to determine makeup of each congressional district=charges of political gerrymandering.
Reapportionment • Look up and add to notes: • Wesberry v Sanders (1964) • Baker v Carr (1962) • In 1995 Court ruled that a district in Georgia, which was apportioned to create representation for African-Americans, was unconstitutional.
Election of Incumbents • Once elected a sitting representative has a distinct advantage (unless there is a scandal, 1992 many incumbents decided not to seek reelection or were defeated). • Statistics of incumbency are staggering: only 2 members of Congress lost in 1986, only 1 in 1988; on average fewer than 2% are defeated in primaries and less than 7% defeated in general election.
Election of Incumbents • Senate reelection rate is slightly lower; House members who represent smaller districts, senators represent the interests of an entire state. • Why do incumbents have this advantage? Incumbents are highly visible. • Representatives are quick to take credit for obtaining funds through legislation that favors their home districts called earmarks (called pork barrel legislation).
Structure • Bicameral (two-house) structure of the Congress made it a necessity to develop an organization that would allow both houses to conduct business and accomplish main function of passing legislation. • Each house has presiding officer. • Speaker is selected by the majority party.
Structure • 1994 mid term elections Republican chose controversial and conservative Newt Gingrich. Earned reputation as most powerful speaker, but power declined in 1996. • After loosing seats in 1998 mid term election, Gingrich resigned. • Dennis Hastert was elected and became longest serving Speaker until 2006, when Democrats elected first woman speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Now John Boehner
Structure • The speaker presides over the House meetings, expected to be impartial (even if member of majority party). • Very powerful: recognizes speakers, referring bills to committees, answering procedural questions, declaring the outcome of votes • Speaker Names members to all select (special) committees and conference committees.
Structure • Speaker usually votes only to break a tie, has power to appoint temporary speakers (pro tempore) to run meetings • Third in line after vice president to succeed the president • President of the Senate is the vice president of U.S. • Only specific power he has is to break ties.
Structure • Unlike the House, real power in the Senate lies with the Senate Majority Leader. • TN Senator was Senate Majority Leader for 10 years
The Committee System • Committee chairs, representatives who chair the standing committees of the House and Senate, wield a lot of power • Committee chairs selected as a result of the seniority system. • Four types of committees exist in both houses • Standing committees deal with proposed bills and are permanent, existing from one Congress to the next.
The Committee System • Examples of standing committees are Banking, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Governmental Affairs, and Appropriations • Select committees are specially created and conduct special investigations. Ex: Watergate Committee, Whitewater affair • Joint committees are made up of both houses for the purpose of coordinating investigations/special studies and to expedite business between both houses.
The Committee System • Conference committees resolve legislative differences between the House and Senate. • Ex: Crime Bill of 1994 and Welfare Reform Act of 1996 had to go through a conference committee. • Many bills must be resolved in this manner. • Committee makeup is determined by the percentage of party representation in each house.
The Committee System • Each house has a party system that organizes and influences the members of Congress regarding policymaking decisions. • Majority and minority leaders of both houses organize their members using whips (assistant floor leaders). • Whips are responsible for keeping party members in line and having an accurate count of who will be voting for/against a bill.
Policymaking • The avenues taken by Congress to achieve policymaking go beyond the mere passage of legislation. • Congress has legislative and nonlegislative responsibilities. • Constitutional amendments, election of a president and vice president if there is no electoral college majority, impeachment, approval of executive appointments, and congressional oversight are used by Congress to influence and determine public policy.
Policymaking • The most important function of Congress is the legislative responsibility. • Understanding how a bill becomes a law (see next slide) • If the president vetoes the bill, Congress must vote separately to determine whether each house has a two-thirds majority to override it.
Policymaking • 3 kinds of legislative actions taken by Congress: -Distributive: results in the distribution of goods and/or services to the general population (highways, health research) -Redistributive legislation: involves taking money from one segment of the population from taxes and giving it back to another through entitlements such as welfare. -Regulatory legislation- sets limits on groups and individuals, through acts such as Clean Air and Water Act
Lobbyists and Interest Groups • Lobbyists and interest groups have grown in importance as a major influence in the passage of legislation. • If Congress is supposed to be the people’s representative, then the extent of the influence of special interests is a very important question.
Constituency • Constituency relationships provide essential information and services and are the foundation for reelection. • Members of Congress must represent their districts, taking into account individual constituents (the people of an area or district who vote for their congressman and are represented by him/her for the congressional period), organized interests, and the district as a whole.
Reform • The public gives Congress the lowest approval rating, yet every election they send a majority of incumbents back to Congress. • Gridlock is problem- Congress is seen as inefficient • Congress does not reflect the views of its constituents • Representatives take advantage of their perks • Representatives are so busy running for office, that they become beholden to special interest groups and PACS • Congress either delegates too much power to the executive or has tried to take control, becoming an imperial Congress
Contract with America • Look up the Contract with America and write down the ten items that the contract promised the American people.
Short answer essay due Monday • Political scientists have described Congress as “imperial” in its relationship with the president in regard to formulation of domestic and/or foreign policy. -Define “Imperial Congress” -Give two examples of how Congress has become imperial in its relationship to the president since 1976, using either domestic or foreign policy to illustrate your answer.