Institutions of National Government: The Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, and the Federal Courts (35-45%)
Unit Overview • Students must become familiar with the organization and powers, both formal and informal, of the major political institutions in the United States- the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts. The functions these institutions perform and do not perform, as well as the powers that they do and do not possess, are important. It is necessary for students to understand that power balances and relationships between these institutions may evolve gradually or change dramatically as a result of crises. Students are also expected to understand ties between the various branches of national government and political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments. For example, a study of the conflicting interests and powers of the President and Congress may help explain recent and repeated struggles to adopt a national budget. • The major formal and informal institutional arrangements of power • Relationships among these four institutions, and varying balances of power • Linkages between institutions and the following: • Public opinion and voters • Interest groups • Political parties • The media • Subnational governments
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
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
Apportionment and Redistricting • 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
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The House • Led by Speaker of the House—elected by House members • Presides over House • Major role in committee assignments and legislation • Assisted by majority leader and whips • The Senate • Formally lead by Vice President • Really lead by Majority Leader—chosen by party members • Assisted by whips • Must work with Minority leader Congressional Leadership
Congressional Pay • Senate $174,000 • Senate LeadershipMajority Party Leader - $193,400Minority Party Leader - $193,400 • House $174,000 • House LeadershipSpeaker of the House - $223,500Majority Leader - $193,400Minority Leader - $193,400
Congressional Elections • Who Wins Elections? • Incumbents: Those already holding office.
Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Advertising: • The goal is to be visible to your constituents • Frequent trips home, use of newsletter, and technology • Credit Claiming: • Service to constituents through: • Casework: specifically helping constituents get what they think they have a right to • Pork Barrel: federal projects, grants, etc. made available in a congressional district or state
Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Position Taking: • Portray themselves as hard working, dedicated individuals • Occasionally take a partisan stand on an issue • Weak Opponents: • Inexperienced in politics, unorganized, and underfunded • Campaign Spending: • Challengers need to raise large sums to defeat an incumbent • PACs give most of their money to incumbents • Does PAC money “buy” votes in Congress?
Congressional Elections • The Role of Party Identification • Most members represent the majority party in their district, and most who identify with a party reliably vote for its candidates • Defeating Incumbents • One tarnished by scandal or corruption becomes vulnerable to a challenger • Redistricting may weaken the incumbency advantage • Major political tidal wave may defeat incumbents
Congressional Elections • Open Seats • Greater likelihood of competition • Most turnover occurs in open seats • Stability and Change • Incumbents provide stability in Congress • Change in Congress occurs less frequently through elections • Are term limits an answer?
PACs • Political Action Committee’s • How do they influence the legislature?
How a Bill Becomes A Law 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.
How a Bill Becomes a Law: The Textbook Version • 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
How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version • 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.
How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version • 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
How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version • 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.
How a Bill Becomes a Law: Textbook Version • 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
Not in the Constitution • Used to kill a bill by not allowing it to go to a vote • Used to require the speaker to speak the entire time they were filibustering • Longest actual filibuster: Strum Thurmond • 24 Hours and 18 minutes • To stop the Civil Rights Act of 1957 • Read the phonebook
Types of Committees(Standing, select, joint, conference) • Standing: Permanent committees (last from year to year); agriculture, appropriations, armed services, budget • Process bulk of legislation • Select (or Special): • Temporary, usually lasting only 2 years • Usually don’t have legislative authority, but study bills and make recommendations • Coordinate legislation that overlaps jurisdiction of several standing committees (Select committee on homeland security)
Joint: Include members of both chambers (House and Senate) • Economic, Library, Printing, Taxation • Conference: Reconcile differences between similar measures passed by both chambers (legislation must be identical before signed by president) • Composed of members of both houses 4 types of conference bargaining: • Traditional: participants meet, haggle • Offer-counteroffer: sides suggest compromises, recess to discuss • Subconference: groups address special topics • Pro forma: informal preconference negotiations
Committee System • 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
How assignments are made • Formal Criteria • In Senate, “Johnson rule” is followed: • All party members assigned to one major committee before someone gets a second major assignment • These are: Appropriations, Armed Services, Commerce, Finance, Foreign Relations • In House, committees are ranked exclusive, nonexclusive, exempt • Exclusive can’t serve on any other standing committee • Can serve on two nonexclusive
Informal assignment criteria • Seniority: Only Senate Republicans apply seniority rigidly when two members compete for a vacancy or chairmanship (most senior longest continuing committee service) • Fundraising ability • Demographics • Issue Advocates
Are Committees “Representative?” • Should they be? • “High Demanders” • Expertise • Partisan effects, seniority, “issue ownership” • Bargaining with the other chamber/President
What happens in committees • 3 standard steps: public hearings, markups, reports • Hearings: committee listens to a wide variety of witnesses • Explore need for legislation • Provide a forum for citizen grievances • Raise visibility of issue • Educate lawmakers and public
2. Markups: members decide on bill’s actual language, conceptualize the bill • Outside pressures often intense during markup • Government in the Sunshine Act (1977) rules all markup sessions conducted in public (except Nat’l Security, some commerce, a few others) • After markup, if in a subcommittee, recommendations sent to full committee, which votes to ratify, conduct its own markup, return to subcommittee, or do nothing 3. Reports: If committee votes to send bill to floor, the staff prepares a full report summarizing results of committee research
Committee Chairs • 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
Committee Membership • 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
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Caucuses: The Informal Organization of Congress • Caucus: a group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic • About 300 caucuses • Caucuses pressure for committee meetings and hearings and for votes on bills. • Caucuses can be more effective than lobbyists.
The Congressional Process • Lobbyists and Interest Groups • There are 35,000 registered lobbyists trying to influence Congress—the bigger the issue, the more lobbyists will be working on it. • Lobbyists try to influence legislators’ votes. • Lobbyists can be ignored, shunned and even regulated by Congress. • Ultimately, it is a combination of lobbyists and others that influence legislators’ votes.
The Members of Congress • 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
Congress and the President • 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
Shifting Balance of Power • 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