Bicameralism • Congress consists of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. • Roots in British and colonial history. • Reflection of federalism and was a compromise between the VA and NJ Plans of 1787. • The two houses act to check and balance each other.
Terms and Sessions of Congress • A term is the length of time between elections in Congress (two years). • Each term of Congress consists of two sessions, one during each year of a term. • Neither House will break without the consent of the other.
Terms and Sessions of Congress • The start of a new term is now “noon of the 3rd day of January” every odd-numbered year. (20th Amendment, 1933) • The President may call a special session to deal with some pressing issue (26 ever held).
SIZE AND TERMS • Today there are 435 members of the House. • Based on population of the states… • Each State is guaranteed at least one seat in the House. • Representatives hold office for two-year terms. • No limit on the # of terms served.
Reapportionment Act of 1929 • Size of House fixed at 435. • Census Bureau determines # of seats per State. • President must send Census Bureau’s Plan to Congress. • If neither house rejects the plan within 60 days it becomes effective.
Congressional Elections • Date – elections are held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year. • Off-Year Elections – occur in nonpresidential election years; party holding the presidency often lose seats. • Districts – drawn by State legislatures… • Gerrymandering…
Wesberry v. Sanders, 1964 • The Supreme Court held that sections of States may not be over- or underrepresented in Congress. • Upheld the principle that one person’s vote should be worth as much as another’s.
Qualifications Formal: • Must be at least 25 years of age. • Must have been a citizen for at least 7 years. • Must be an inhabitant of the State he or she represents.
Qualifications Informal: • Party identification • Name familiarity • Gender • Ethnic characteristic • Political experience
Size and terms • 100 members, two from each State. • 17th Amendment (1914) chosen by the people directly in the November election. • Six-year term – staggered so that only a third of the members are up for election every two years. • Focus more on the interests of the entire State and the nation.
Qualifications • Must be 30 years old • Must be a citizen for 9 years. • Must be an inhabitant of the State which he or she represents. • EXCLUSIVE CLUB…
EXCLUSIVE CLUB • The Senate is known as the upper house because • it is smaller than the House • has stricter qualifications • more prestige • a longer term of office • a stepping-stone to higher political office.