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Congress In Action Ch. 12 Notes and Review. Congress Organizes. Sect. 12.1. Speaker of the House. Arguably the most powerful person in Congress (House or Senate) The elected presiding officer of the House and the leader of the majority party in the House

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speaker of the house
Speaker of the House
  • Arguably the most powerful person in Congress (House or Senate)
  • The elected presiding officer of the House and the leader of the majority party in the House
  • Expected to preside in a fair and judicious manner, also expected to help their own party whenever possible
roles and duties
Roles and Duties
  • To preside and keep order over the House
  • Decides who gets to speak and when
  • Interprets and applies the rules
  • Refers bills to committees
  • Decides when to call a vote
  • With careful planning, can usually decide the outcome of most votes
president of the senate
President of the Senate
  • Sounds more important than it really is.
  • Not a member of the Senate at all.
  • The position is reserved for the Vice Pres.
  • When the VP is there, he or she does have the powers of the presiding officer
  • However, the VP is rarely present in the Senate.
VP usually goes to the Senate for special occasions or events of critical importance
  • VP (Pres. Of the Senate) most important role is to vote in case of a tie
president pro tempore of the senate
President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  • Presides over the Senate when the VP is not present; most of the time.
  • Elected by the members of the Senate
  • A leading member of the majority party (not necessarily the same party as the VP)
floor leaders and party whips
Floor Leaders and Party Whips
  • Floor Leaders (Majority and Minority)
    • These are “unofficial” positions but hold the most power next to the Speaker of the House
    • They are concerned with party strategy
    • Help to “steer” Congressional actions to best benefit their party
    • Chosen by their party

Majority and Minority Whips

    • Assistant to the Majority and Minority Floor Leaders
    • Again, chosen by their party
    • Try to organize the vote by their party members. Obviously, they try to convince their members to vote with the party
party caucuses party conference
Party Caucuses (Party Conference)
  • Closed meeting of each party in each house
  • Deals with party organization
  • Selection of party leaders
  • Discussion on committee selection
  • Issues of party strategy
committee chairpersons
Committee Chairpersons
  • The head of each standing committee in each chamber of congress
  • Decides when the committee will meet, what bills they will discuss, when to hold public hearings and which witnesses to hear
  • Chairperson will try to see their committee’s bills all the way through passage
the seniority rule
The Seniority Rule
  • An unwritten custom in Congress
  • The most important jobs and committee assignment go to the those with the longest records of service to Congress
  • Particularly important in committees since that is where most of the difficult work of Congress takes place
seniority rule pros
Seniority Rule Pros
  • The most experienced and respected people will hold the most important jobs
  • Easy rule to apply
  • Eliminates bickering among party members
seniority rule cons
Seniority Rule Cons
  • Ignores ability or someone’s specialty
  • Discourages young members
  • Members who have been in Congress for a long time might be out of touch with the wishes of the people
  • No new people with new ideas
end of 12 1

End of 12.1

More Later

making laws

Making Laws

12.3 & 12.4

origin of bills
Origin of Bills
  • Bills come from many sources.
    • Exec. Branch Agencies
    • Industry
    • Special Interest Groups
    • Private Citizens
    • Members of Congress
house or senate
House or Senate
  • A Bill can begin its process in either the House or Senate.
  • Depends on who is sponsoring the Bill.
  • Tax Bills MUST begin in the House of Representatives.
public and private bills
Public and Private Bills
  • Public Bills apply to the nation as a whole.
  • Private Bills apply to a select group who are uniquely affected by the Bill.
riders and pork barrel
Riders and Pork Barrel
  • Additions to a Bill that are unrelated to the intended subject.
  • Items that are unlikely to pass on their own. Included in an unrelated Bill so as to “ride” through the process and become law.
  • Usually a pet project of particular members of Congress.
  • Pork Barrel Spending!!
christmas trees
Christmas Trees
  • A Bill with LOTS of Riders.
  • Gifts for everyone.
  • Each Bill is numbered and given a title.
  • Copies are made for each Representative.
  • Entered into The Record.
  • The Bill is read to the whole House.
the speaker
The Speaker
  • The House Speaker assigns the Bill to a Committee.
  • Has some discretion (flexibility) where he/she sends the Bill.
  • This can have a huge impact on the chances for the Bill’s survival.
standing committee sieve
Standing Committee Sieve
  • Standing Committees receive a huge amount of Bills.
  • They must sift through them and focus on only the Bills with the most merit or importance.
  • All others are “killed”.
pigeon holed
“Pigeon Holed”
  • Not accepted and not rejected.
  • Put on a shelf and never acted upon.
  • Requires a majority vote in the House to save it.
  • Needed to divide up the overall workload of the committee as a whole.
  • Research, hearings, debates, mark ups and revisions.
  • Only when subcommittee work is done, the Bill will be considered by the committee as a whole.
  • The minimum number of Representative that must be present for the House to do business (vote).
  • Quorum Calls – Force Reps. to drop what they are doing and go to the floor of the House.
consideration by the house
Consideration by the HOUSE
  • Read, Debated, Amended, rewritten.
  • Finally voted on!
  • On to the Senate.
formality and strictness rules
Formality and Strictness Rules
  • Senate rules are less formal and less strict. More “gentlemanly” behavior is just assumed.
time and subject rules
Time and Subject Rules
  • Strict rules in the House.
  • Senate:
    • No limits on speaking time.
    • No limits on subject.
    • Only two speeches per Senator per day.
the filibuster
The Filibuster
  • A notorious feature of the Senate.
  • Filibuster – an attempt to “talk a Bill to death”, or at least to delay a vote.
  • No time limits on a Senators speech. He/She can talk for as long as they are able.
  • Delay a vote or force changes to a Bill.


    • Very effective
    • Many compromises are reached just by the threat of a filibuster.
filibuster video clips
Filibuster Video Clips

Fixing the Filibuster

  • The Cloture Rule, can essentially put an end to a filibuster.
  • Requires 3/5 vote of the Senate (60) votes.
  • Senators hesitate to call for Cloture.
    • Honor of Senate tradition
    • They may want to use the filibuster themselves later
conference committees
Conference Committees
  • A committee with members of both the House and the Senate
  • Must make House and Senate versions of a bill identical.
  • After leaving Conference, the bill must again be passed in both houses before being sent to the President.
the president s options
The President’s Options
  • 1. Sign the Bill and it becomes law.
  • 2. Veto the Bill. Send it back to Congress with objections.
    • 2/3 vote in both houses to override a veto; not likely.
  • 3. Do nothing for 10 days and the Bill becomes law automatically.
    • What purpose?

4. Pocket Veto: Do nothing and Congress’ session ends before the 10 day rule. The Bill dies.

  • What purpose?
the line item veto
The Line Item Veto
  • Line Item Veto: Get out a marker and cross out items that the President does not like, then sign it into law.
  • Line Item Veto Pros?
  • Line Item Veto Cons?