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 ; originally chosen by state legislators, until 17th Amendment (1913) • Congressional members must be legal residents of their states.
The Representatives and Senators • The Job • Salary of $174,000 (2009) with retirement benefits. Who sets their salary? ($193,400 for leaders, $223,500 for the Speaker) • Office space in D.C. and at home and staff to fill it. • Travel allowances and franking privileges. • Often requires 10 to 14 hour days, lots of time away from the family, and lots of pressure from different people to “do the right thing.”
Who is in Congress? • The House has become less male and less white • Membership in Congress became a career • Incumbents still have a great electoral advantage • But in 1994, voters opposed incumbents due to budget deficits, various policies, legislative-executive bickering, and scandal – Republicans took control! • In 2006, the Democrats regained control of Congress
Congressional Demographics • Members tend to be • Better educated than the population in general • Ninety-five percent are college graduates; over 2/3’s have advanced degrees. • Richer • Nearly 200 are millionaires; 21 Senators are worth at least 3.1 million. 29 House members worth that much as well. • Male • White • Average age is 63 for Senators; 57 for House members. • Aaron Schock (R-IL) elected in 2008 at age of 27. • George LeMieux (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are the youngest Senator (40 & 42). Both were appointed • Occupations: No longer overwhelmingly lawyers • 214 members (182 Representatives and 33 Senators) list their occupation as public service/politics • 204 (152 Representatives and 51 Senators) list law • 201 (175 Representatives and 27 Senators) list business
Actual numbers, not percentages. For the 111th Congress (2009), the breakdown is: Women – 92 Afr. Amer. – 43 Hispanic - 28
The Representatives and Senators • 111th Congress • House Senate • 257 57 • 40 • 2 • 360 83 • 75 17 • 8 3 • 42 1 • 25 3 • 360 93
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.
Congressional Elections • Who Wins Elections? • Incumbent: Those already holding office.
Percentage of Incumbents Reelected to Congress 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 updated by Marc Siegal.
Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Advertising: • The goal is to be visible to your voters. • Frequent trips home & newsletters are used. • Credit Claiming: • Service to individuals in their district. • 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: • Most opponents are inexperienced in politics. • Most opponents are unorganized and underfunded. • Campaign Spending: • Challengers need to raise large sums to defeat an incumbent. • PACs give most of their money to incumbents. Why? • Does PAC money “buy” votes in Congress?
Running for Office and Staying in Office • Incumbency – Another Look • The fact that being in office helps a person stay in office because of a variety of benefits that go with the position • Name recognition • Access to free media • Inside track on fund-raising • District drawn to favor incumbent creating • Safe Seats • 1980 to 1990, an average of 95 percent of incumbents who sought reelection won their primary and general election races.
Congressional Elections • The Role of Party Identification • Most members represent the majority party in their district. • Defeating Incumbents • Some incumbents face problems after a scandal or other complication in office. • They may face redistricting. (ex. Texas gerrymandering) • They may become a victim of a major political tidal wave. (Watergate, or 1994)
Congressional Elections • Open Seats • Greater likelihood of competition, although in some districts it may only be in the primary. Why? • Stability and Change • Incumbents provide stability in Congress. • Change in Congress occurs less frequently through elections. • Are term limits an answer?
The House 435 members, 2 year terms of office. Policy Specialists Initiates all revenue bills, more influential on budget. House Rules Committee Limited debates. The Senate 100 members, 6 year terms of office. Policy Generalists Gives “advice & consent”, more influential on foreign affairs. Unlimited debates. (filibuster) How Congress is Organized • American Bicameralism • Bicameral: Legislature divided into two houses.
The Evolution of Congress • The intent of the Framers: • To oppose the concentration of power in a single institution • To balance large and small states • Bicameralism • They expected Congress to be the dominant institution
Organization of the House • Historically, power struggles have occurred between members and leadership • 1994 brought changes: • Committee chairs hold positions for only 6 years • Speaker limited to 8 years • How can these changes be reversed?
Organization of the House – Post-1994 • Reduced the number of committees and subcommittees • The Speaker dominated the selection of committee chairs • The Speaker set the agenda (Contract with America) and sustained high Republican discipline in 1995
Evolution of the Senate • The Senate escaped many of the tensions encountered by the House • The major struggle in the Senate was about how its members should be chosen; 17th amendment (1913) • The filibuster is another major issue: restricted by Rule 22 (1917), which allows a vote of cloture • Define filibuster and cloture
How Congress is Organized • New Congress is seated every two years. • Elect new leaders • Each house has a hierarchical leadership structure.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Congressional Leadership Summary – Who are they? • 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 • Officially led by Vice President. • Really led by Majority Leader- chosen by party members. • Assisted by whips. • Must work with Minority leader.
The House of Representativeswww.house.gov • Speaker • Presides over House • Official spokesperson for the House • Second in line of presidential succession (Others?) • House liaison with president • Great political influence within the chamber • Henry Clay, first powerful speaker (1810) • Joe Cannon (1903-1910), was so powerful, that a revolt emerged to reduce powers of the speakership. • Newt Gingrich (1995) • Nancy Pelosi – current speaker, first woman speaker
Other House Leaders • Majority Leader (Steny Hoyer, D-Md) • Elected leader of the party controlling the most seats in the House or the Senate • Second in authority to the Speaker—in the Senate, is the most powerful member • Minority Leader (John Boehner – Ohio) • Elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in the House of Representatives or the Senate • Whips (Eric Cantor, R-VA, James Clyburn, D-SC) • Party caucus or conference • A formal gathering of all party members
Party Structure in the House - Summary • Speaker of the House is leader of majority party and presides over House • Majority leader and minority leader: leaders on the floor • Party whips keep leaders informed and round up votes • Committee assignments and legislative schedule are set by each party
The Senatewww.senate.gov • The Constitution specifies the vice president (Joe Biden) as the presiding officer of the Senate. • He votes only in case of a tie. • Official chair of the Senate is the president pro tempore (pro tem), currently Robert Byrd, D-WV • Primarily honorific • Generally goes to the most senior senator of the majority party • Actual presiding duties rotate among junior members of the chamber • True leader is the majority leader, but not as powerful as Speaker is in the House
Party Structure in the Senate • President pro tempore presides; this is the member with most seniority in majority party (a largely honorific office) • Leaders are the majority leader (Harry Reid, D-NV) and the minority leader (Mitch McConnell, R-KY), elected by their respective party members
Party Structure in the Senate • Party whips: keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses (Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Dick Durbin, D-IL) • Each party has a policy committee: schedules Senate business, prioritizes bills • Committee assignments are handled by a group of Senators, each for their own party
The Senate • Senate rules give tremendous power to individual senators. • Offering any kind of amendment even if not germane • Filibuster • Because Senate is smaller in size organization and formal rules have not played the same role as in the House.
Committee System • Standing Committees • Continue from one Congress to the next—bills referred here for consideration • 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 Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • The Committees at Work: Legislation and Oversight • Committees work on the 11,000 bills every session. • Some hold hearings and “mark up” meetings. • Oversight involves hearings and other methods of checking the actions of the executive branch. • As the size of government grows, oversight grows too.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • Getting on a Committee • Members want committee assignments that will help them get reelected, gain influence, and make policy. • New members express their committee preferences to the party leaders. • Support of the party is important in getting on the right committee. • Parties try to grant committee preferences.
Committee Practices • The number of committees has varied; significant cuts in number of House committees in 1995, and in the number of House and Senate subcommittees • Majority party has majority of seats on the committees and names the chair
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • Getting Ahead on the Committee: Chairs and the Seniority System. • The chair is the most important position for controlling legislation. • Chairs were once chosen strictly by the seniority system. • Now seniority is a general rule, and members may choose the chair of their committee.
Role of Parties in Organizing Congress • Parties and their strength have important implications in Congress. • Committees are controlled by the majority. • Committees set the agenda. • All committee chairmen are from the majority party. • Why is this important?
Committees • Committees are the most important organizational feature of Congress • Consider bills or legislative proposals • Maintain oversight of executive agencies - Examples • Conduct investigations – Examples
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