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Understanding Congress. Basics. Congress is made up of… House of Representatives Senate Congress meets in the Capitol Building Senate meets in north wing House of Representatives meets in the south wing Began in 1789 Congress is to make laws A term is 2 years

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Understanding Congress

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  • Congress is made up of…
    • House of Representatives
    • Senate
  • Congress meets in the Capitol Building
    • Senate meets in north wing
    • House of Representatives meets in the south wing
  • Began in 1789
  • Congress is to make laws
  • A term is 2 years
  • A session is the time Congress is working, generally one year, before they adjourn
house of representatives
House of Representatives
  • Current number of representatives is 435
  • 5 delegates attend the House but are not allowed to vote
    • District of Columbia
    • American Samoa
    • US Virgin Islands
    • Guam
    • Mariana Islands
    • 1 resident commissioner from Puerto Rico
  • In order to be a representative, you must:
    • Be 25 or older
    • US citizen for 7 or more years
    • Be an inhabitant of your state
  • Current number is 100
    • Each state gets two senators
  • No commissioners or delegates sit in Senate
  • In order to be a senator, one must…
    • Be 30 years or older
    • Be a US citizen for 9 or more years
    • Be an inhabitant of the state they represent
leadership in the house
Leadership in the House
  • The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Majority Leadership
    • Majority Leader – Represents and speaks for the majority party on the House floor
    • Majority Whip – Assists leadership in managing party’s legislative plan
    • Conference Chairman – Heads organization of all party members
    • Policy Committee Chairman – Heads conference forum to develop policy
leadership in the house1
Leadership in the House
  • Minority Leadership
    • Minority Leader – Represents and speaks for minority party on the House floor
    • Minority Whip – Assists leadership in planning party policy
    • Assistant Leader – Works with caucuses and committees to ensure policy remains consistent
    • Caucus Chairman – Organizes all party members in House
  • Third parties and independent candidates generally join one of the major parties to gain support and be assigned to a committee
leadership in the senate
Leadership in the Senate
  • Vice President of the United States presides over the Senate
  • President pro tempore presides in absence of VP
  • Majority Leadership
    • Majority party leader – Plans party policy and speaks for party on the floor of the Senate
    • Majority Whip – Assists leadership in communicating party plans and policy
    • Conference Committee Chair – Helps organize party members and manage the placement of members on committees
    • Vice Chairman and Policy Committee Chair – Help Committee Chairman and ensure policies are followed on committees
leadership in senate
Leadership in Senate
  • Minority Leadership
    • Minority Leader – Plans party policy and speaks for party on Senate floor
    • Minority Whip – Assists in the communication of party policy
    • Conference Chair – Organizes party members in Senate
    • Policy Committee Chair – Helps ensure policies are followed and communicated on committees
  • As in the House, third parties and independents join major parties for position on committees
utah in congress
Utah in Congress
  • House of Representatives
    • District 1 – Robert Bishop
    • District 2 – Chris Stewart
    • District 3 – Jason Chaffetz
    • District 4 – Jim Matheson
  • Senate
    • Orrin Hatch
    • Mike Lee
    • Senators represent the entire state, not a district
committees and caucuses in congress
Committees and Caucuses in Congress
  • Most of the work in Congress is done by committees
    • Standing – permanent committees focused on a specific area to pass laws
    • Select – temporary to target a specific need or problem
    • Joint – Made up of members of both houses to oversee a common need or compromise on differences in bills of similar substance
      • Subcommittees – Most standing committees have numerous subcommittees to further legislation on precise matters
  • A Congressman or Senator often serves on multiple committees
  • Each committee is headed by a chairman
  • House has 20 standing committees
  • Senate has 16 standing committees
committees and caucuses in congress1
Committees and Caucuses in Congress
  • Congressional Caucus
    • Private meeting, most often a party meeting
    • Sometimes called a coalition, study group, working group, or task force
  • Generally, smaller than a committee
  • No official power to declare policy
    • Job is to develop policy and take it back to the committee or subcommittee
  • Expanded growth in the last decade to tackle more issues
    • Example: Caucus on Youth Sports – target concussions, participation, and safety in youth sports
making laws
Making Laws
  • Bill:
    • What is a bill?
      • A formal report attempting to enact/create, amend, or repeal a law
    • Once a bill is passed, it is called a law, act, or statute
  • A bill can be introduced in either house of Congress
    • Bills dealing with revenue (how the government makes money, generally taxes) originate in the House, not Senate
and now a word from our sponsors
And Now a Word From Our Sponsors…
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFroMQlKiag&safe=active
the process of a bill
The Process of a Bill
  • Introduction of a Bill
    • House of Representatives: placed in the “hopper” or basket of the Clerk of the House
    • Senate: the presiding officer of the Senate recognizes the senator, who then formally presents the bill
the process of a bill1
The Process of a Bill
  • Naming the Bill:
    • All bills in the Senate begin with an S.1, then S.2, and so on
    • All bills in the House begin H.R. 1, H.R. 2, and so on
  • Committee Action
    • Bills are sent to a committee that deal with the subject matter of the bill
    • “Pigeonholing” – when a committee ignores a bill and never acts on a hearing or furthering vote
    • Bills can die by a majority vote
    • The committee can amend, rewrite the bill, or leave it as is
the process of a bill2
The Process of a Bill
  • Committee Hearings:
    • If a bill is acted on, the committee will hold a hearing, just like a trial
    • People who deal with the bill will testify
    • The hearing will decide the next step:
      • If defeated in hearing or majority votes against it, the bill dies
      • If the committee passes it, it is sent for report and vote on the floor
      • The committee writes a report
        • Most of the time, if the committee says to pass the bill, it will pass
the process of a bill3
The Process of a Bill
  • Floor Action:
    • A clerk reads the entire bill
    • Debates may be heard
    • Amendments to the bill may be added
      • If too many amendments or objectionable amendments are added, a bill may die on the floor
  • Voting
    • If a bill passes the floor action, it will be voted on
    • House Voting:
      • Voice Vote: Aye (yes), Nay (no)
      • Standing Vote/Division Vote: Count the number who stand in favor of it, then the number who are against
      • Recorded Vote – Done electronically, easiest and most used way
    • Senate:
      • Voice Vote
      • Standing Vote
      • Roll-Call Vote: Names read in alphabetical order, each responds with voice vote
the process of a bill4
The Process of a Bill
  • Congressional Vote
    • If a bill passes one house but not the other, the bill is sent back for revision
    • A conference committee will try to amend the parts of the bill causing the problems in voting
    • After amending, the bill is sent back for vote
the process of a bill5
The Process of a Bill
  • President
    • Has 3 choices:
      • Sign the bill and it becomes law
      • Do not sign bill
        • If Congress is in session for 10 more days, it will automatically become law
        • If Congress is out of session or less than 10 days until Congress adjourns, it will automatically be vetoed (pocket veto)
      • Veto –
        • Formal rejection of the bill by the President
        • President does NOT sign bill and it does NOT become a law
        • Bill is sent it back to the house of Congress it came from
the process of a bill6
The Process of a Bill
  • If a bill is vetoed:
    • It returns to the house of Congress it came from
    • Congress may vote on the bill again or let it die
    • If Congress votes on it:
      • 2/3 approval allows the bill to become law over a presidential veto
types of bills
Types of Bills
  • Public Bills:
    • a bill dealing with “general matters” and applying to the entire nation
    • Most of the bill introduced in Congress are public bills
    • Examples: lowering/raising of taxes, health insurance, gun control, civil rights, abortion, etc.
  • Private Bills:
    • a bill dealing with individual people or places
    • Most private bills are not publicized to the nation
    • Examples: individual claims against the government, immigration exemptions for a person or family
types of bills1
Types of Bills
  • Simple Resolution:
    • Covers matters only affecting one house of Congress
    • Not sent to President for signature
    • Example: the House of Representatives passing a resolution about debate times on a bill
  • Joint Resolution:
    • Covers matters pertaining to both houses, an earlier law, or constitutional amendment
    • President signs – becomes law
    • Example: correcting the amount of money a bill to a group from an earlier bill (increase in Congressional salaries)
types of bills2
Types of Bills
  • Concurrent Resolution:
    • Covers matters pertaining to both houses
    • President does NOT sign
    • Example: Determining when Congress will adjourn for the session
  • Rider
    • A provision for a subject other than what the bill was intended for
    • Called “Christmas tree” legislation – like adding additional ornaments on a Christmas tree just because they are ornaments, not because they need to be on the tree
    • Used for gain (personal or constituent) or to squash the chances of a bill being passed
bill problems
Bill Problems
  • Less than 10% of bills become a law
  • Why?
    • Process is long and complicated, wearing people out and losing motivation to pass a bill
    • One must bargain and compromise. A bill will almost never stay in its original form. Changes are going to happen.
    • People introduce bills that will never become a law in order to waste time and block other bills.
bill problems1
Bill Problems
  • Line-Item Veto
    • Presidents have asked for a line-item veto
    • A Line-Item Veto would allow a President to say “no” to the parts of the bill that he/she disagrees with while the rest of the bill would be passed and made into law
    • This was granted in 1996 for spending and tax issues but reversed and declared unconstitutional in 1998 with the case Clinton v. City of New York
      • That means the line-item veto is not allowed
bill problems2
Bill Problems
  • Rules Committee
    • Most powerful committee in Congress
    • Generally assign bills to committees
    • Recommend changes based on laws
    • The bias of those on the committee may send the bill to a committee that will kill the bill on purpose
  • Calendars
    • Each house of Congress places the bill on a calendar to be heard
    • If the bill misses the date on the calendar, it may not be read or have to wait until the end of the term to be dealt with
more information
More Information
  • For more information, please visit
    • www.house.gov
    • www.senate.gov