CHAPTER 12 CONGRESS
The House of Representatives • In the House of Representatives there are 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats, and 3 vacant seats. • In addition, the District of Columbia and the U.S.’s island territories elect a total of 6 delegates to the House with limited voting privileges. Puerto Rico’s delegate is called the Resident Commissioner. • Representatives represent about 710,000 people each.
The Senate • The Senate has 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 Independents, who caucus with the Democrats • A senator represents between 1 and 37 million people, depending on their state’s population.
AGE • The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 112th Congress was 56.7 years; and of Senators, 62.2 years. • U.S. = 36.8 years
EDUCATION • The vast majority of Members (92% of House Members and 99% of Senators) at the beginning of the 112th Congress held bachelor’s degrees. • 26 Members of the House and 1 Senator have no degree beyond a high school diploma. • Law degrees are held by 167 Members of the House (38%) and 55 Senators (55%).
BACKGROUND/EMPLOYMENT • The dominant professions of Members are public service/politics, business, and law. • Law is the dominantly declared profession of Senators, followed by public service/politics, then business; • For Representatives, business is first, followed by public service/politics, then law.
RELIGION • 57% of the Members (248 in the House, 56 in the Senate) are Protestants. U.S. = 51.3% • 29% percent of the Members (132 in the House, 24 in the Senate) are Catholic. U.S. = 23.9% • 7% of the Members (27 in the House, 12 in the Senate) are Jewish. U.S. = 1.7% • Other religious affiliations represented in the 112th Congress include Greek Orthodox, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). There are also three Buddhists and two Muslims, all serving in the House.
GENDER • 91 women (16.8% of the total membership) serve in the 112th Congress. 74, including 3 Delegates, serve in the House and 17 in the Senate. • U.S. = 50.7% • 113th: 98 women; 78 House, 20 Senate.
RACE: AFRICAN-AMERICAN/BLACK • There are 44 African American Members (8.1% of the total membership, and a record number) in the 112th Congress; all 44 serve in the House, including two Delegates. • U.S. = 12.6% • 113th: 43 African Americans
RACE: LATINO/HISPANIC • There are 31 Hispanic or Latino Members in the 112th Congress, 5.7% of the total membership. (Same for 113th). • 29 serve in the House and 2 in the Senate. • U.S. = 16.3% [12 Asian American/Pacific Islander]
VETERANS • 118 Members (21.8% of the total membership) • U.S. = 7.2%
REPRESENTATION Does Congress/our representatives need to be DESCRIPTIVE in order to be SUBSTANTIVE?
The House of Representatives • a. The House is more institutionalized than the Senate meaning it is more hierarchical • b. Party loyalty to leadership and party-line voting are more common in the House (since there are more members – leaders do more leading) • c. House Rules Committee: unique committee in the House that reviews most bills coming from a House committee before they go to the full House • 1. Each bill is given a “rule” which schedules the bill on the calendar, allots time for debate, and sometimes even specifies what kind of amendments may be offered (speaker appoints members) • d. House can impeach officials and all revenue bills must start there
The Senate • a. Since the Senate is smaller it is less disciplined and less centralized • b. Committees and the party leadership are important in determining the Senate legislative agenda • 1. the party leaders do for scheduling what the Rules Committee does in the House • c. Filibuster: a strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation try to talk it to death, based on the tradition of unlimited debate • 1. Cloture: today 60 members can vote to stop a filibuster
The Committees and Subcommittees 1. Most of the real work of Congress goes on in committees • a. Committees dominate policy-making • b. Committees regularly hold hearings to investigate problems and possible wrong-doing and to oversee the executive branch • c. They control the congressional agenda and guide legislation from its introduction to its send-off for the president’s signature
2. Committees can be grouped into four types • a. Standing committees: separate permanent subject-matter committees in each house • of Congress that handle bills in different policy areas • Subcommittees: smaller units of a committee created out of the committee • membership • In the 107th Congress the typical member of the House served on two • standing committees and four subcommittees • In the Senate the typical member served on three committees and seven • subcommittees
b. Joint committees: Congressional committee on a few subject-matter areas with membership drawn from both houses
c. Conference committees: congressional committees formed to work out differences when the Senate and the House pass a particular bill in different forms • 1. party leadership appoints members from each house • 2. the result must be a single bill
d. Select committees: congressional committees appointed for a specific purpose • 1. an example would be the committee to deal with the Watergate investigation
Legislative oversight: Congress’s monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy, performed mainly through hearings • 1. This is one of the checks that the legislative branch has over the executive branch • 2. Members of a committee constantly monitor a has a law that they passed is being implemented – this allows Congress to exert pressure on executive agencies, or even to cut their budgets in order to secure compliance with congressional wishes • 3. Congressional oversight sometimes captures the public’s attention, such as the 1973 Watergate scandal and the 1987 Iran-Contra Affair • 4. Congress keeps tabs on more routine activities of the executive branch through its committee staff members, who have specialized expertise in fields and agencies that their committees oversee and maintain an extensive network of formal and informal contacts with the bureaucracy
INCUMBENTS • Current officeholders
Put another way … • A recent Gallup poll found that 11% of people found polygamy "morally acceptable." • Additionally, 30% of Americans expressed approval of pornography.
Why? • 1. Advertising • Service to constituents • Franking Privilege
2. Credit Claiming • Service to constituents • Casework: individual service • Pork Barrel: $ for public projects
3. Position Taking • Stances on issues • Public Image
4. Weak Opponents • Not well-known/qualified • Lack experience • Lack organization • Lack $
5. Gerrymandering • a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan or incumbent-protected districts
The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry. • In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.