Congress Chapter 10 in a Nutshell!
Chapter 10 Section 1 The national legislature
A Bicameral Congress • There are three primary reasons why the United States created a bicameral legislature. • Historical Reasons • Practical Reasons • Theoretical Reasons
Bicameral Legislature: Historical Reasons • The British Parliament had consisted of two Houses since the 1300’s. • All but two of the states had bicameral legislatures by 1787. • Those states were Georgia and Pennsylvania • Georgia became bicameral in 1789 • Pennsylvania became bicameral in 1790 • Only one state has a unicameral legislature today: • Nebraska
Bicameral Legislature: Practical Reasons • The Connecticut Compromise had to settle the differences between the New Jersey and Virginia Plans. • It reflects the ideas of federalism.
Bicameral Legislature: Theoretical Reasons • It might diffuse the power of Congress and prevent it from becoming too powerful. • States must be represented as co-equal members.
Terms and Sessions • Terms • A period of two years. Each term is numbered consecutively. • The first term started March 4, 1789 and ended March 4, 1791. • The 20th Amendment changed the start date in 1933 to noon of January 3rd of every odd numbered year. • Sessions • A period of time during a year in which Congress meets to conduct business. • There are two sessions each term, one each year.
Ending a Term or Session • There are two ways to end a term or session: • Adjourn or Prorogue. • To Adjourn • To end or suspend a session until the next session begins. • Neither house may adjourn sin die, without the other consenting. • To Prorogue • Article 2 Section 3 allows the President to end a session when the two chambers disagree on a date to Adjourn. • No President has used this power.
Special Sessions • The President may also call Congress into a Special Session: • A meeting to deal with an emergency situation. • Only 26 have been called. • The most recent was by Truman in 1948 to consider anti-inflationary policies after WWII. • The President may call one or both houses into a special session • The Senate has been called into 46 special sessions to consider Treaties or Appointments, but not since 1933 • The House has never been called into a special session.
Chapter 10 Section 2 The House of Representatives
Some points to remember • The House has 435 members • They are apportioned (distributed) amongst the states by population, with each state guaranteed one representative. • They serve two year terms. • There are no term limits. • It has been proposed as recently as the 90s as an amendment. • Many amendments recommend limiting a person to 3-4 terms in the house and 2 in the senate.
Reapportionment • The Constitution calls for reapportionment (redistribution) of each seat after each Census. • Until the 1st census there were 65 seats. • After the first senate, the number of seats rose to 106. • The size of the House was permanently set to 435 under the reapportionment act of 1929. • See p. 268 for the 4 steps congress must take to change the number of seats apportioned to each state.
Congressional Elections • Since 1872, Congress has set the date of its elections to be on the “Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year.” • Alaska has the option to hold their elections in October, but to date, have not. • Under that same law, elections must be chosen by written or printed ballots. • Voting machines were approved in 1899.
Off-Year Elections • These are elections that happen in nonpresidential year. • Typically the party in power loses seats in off-year elections. • Is that true for the most recent elections?
Districts • There are 7 states that have only one representative. These states only have one district. • In the other 43 states, there are 428 Congressional districts. • Many states have single-member districts where the voters select one of the candidates from a field. • Some had at-large fields where the whole state voted for all of their representatives.
Formal Qualifications • To be in the house you must meet the following qualifications: • 25 years of age • Citizen of the United States for at least 7 years. • Be an inhabitant of the state from which he/she is elected.
Informal Qualifications • Vote getting abilities. • Party identification. • Political experience • Ethnic/gender/religious qualities.
Chapter 10 Section 3 The Senate
Size • There are 100 Members • During the first session there were only 26 members. • Why? • The number increased each time a new state was added to the union. • The framers hoped that the senate would be smaller and more enlightened than the house. • Senators represent larger proportions of the population, and therefore represent a wider variety of interests
Elections • Originally, under the constitution, senators were chosen by state legislatures. • Changed in 1913 by the 17th Amendment. • They are selected during the November elections. • Each Senator is elected from the State at-large.
Terms • Senators serve 6 year terms • Three times the length of a house term. • There are no term limits. • The current record is held by Strom Thurmond who was elected to 9 senate terms. • The Senate is known as a continuous body • Meaning only 1/3 of the senate is up for reelection at a time. • This gives the senators a sense of “job security”
Strom Thurmond served as a South Carolina Senator from 1954-2003. Though he finally retired at age 100, by the time of his retirement, he was known to frequently doze off during Congressional sessions.
Qualifications • To be eligible for election in the Senate, one must: • Be 30 years of age • Be a citizen of the U.S. for 9 years • Be an inhabitant of the state from which he/she is elected. • Like the house the senate may exclude a member by majority vote: • This has happened 15 times: • Once in 1794 • Fourteen times during the civil war.
Chapter 10 Section 4 Members of Congress
The job • Members of Congress play 5 major roles: • Legislators • Representatives of their constituents • Committee Members • Servants of their constituents • Politicians
As Representatives of the People • As a representative of the people, members of congress typically play one of three roles: • Trustees • Delegates • Partisans • Politicos
Trustees • These are individuals that believe each question/issue must be decided on its own merits. • They use conscience and independent judgment as their guides. • They vote regardless of the way their constituents see issues or how outside influences may try to influence them.
Delegates • These people believe that they are the servants of those who elected them. • They think they should vote the way the folks back home want.
Partisans • These are individuals that owe their first allegiance to their political party first. • Many feel duty bound to tie their votes to their party leadership or their political platform. • Partisans are typically the most common role played by representatives.
Politicos • These individuals attempt to combine the elements of the of the delegate, trustee, and partisan.
In Committees • We will talk about the role of committees in more depth in chapter 12. • However, the largest role of a member of a committee is to utilize the oversight function. • This is the process by which congress checks to see if the various executive agencies are working effectively.
Compensation • Congressional representatives earn $162,000 per year. • The speaker of the house makes $208,100 • The President Pro Tem and the majority and minority floor leaders earn $180,100 • There are other non-salary benefits: • Tax deductions for maintaining two residences • Travel allowances • Small costs for health insurance and/or medical care. • $150,000 pension.
More Compensation • The Franking Privilege. • Free printing • Low TV/radio production costs • Free parking around the capitol and airports.