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Congress. If progress is the advancement of society, what is congress?. Don’t forget to review the worksheet that I gave you regarding powers of the branches…answers are online. Founders’ Intentions. Strongest branch Separation of lawmaking power from executive

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If progress is the advancement of society, what is congress?

Don’t forget to review the worksheet that I gave you regarding powers of the branches…answers are online.
founders intentions
Founders’ Intentions
  • Strongest branch
  • Separation of lawmaking power from executive
  • Bicameralism balances large/small states
      • House – more connected to people (2 yr term)
      • Senate – allows for independent thinking (6 yr term)
important differences

435 members (Public

Law 62-5)

2 year term

7 year citizen

Initiate impeachment

Revenue bills

Strict debate rules


100 members

6 year term

9 year citizen

Tries impeachment

Approve presidential appointments

Approve treaties’

Loose debate rules

Important Differences
constitutional powers
Constitutional Powers

Article I, Section 8

  • To lay and collect taxes, duties, imports
  • To borrow money
  • To regulate commerce (states and foreign)
  • To establish rules for naturalization
  • To coin money
  • To create courts (except Supreme Court)
  • To declare war
  • To raise and support an army and navy
evolution of powers
Evolution of Powers

Elastic clause has extended Congress powers

  • Oversight of budget – can restrict the fed. budget prepared by executive branch
  • Appropriations – set amount of money made available for various activity in a fiscal year
  • Investigation – Congress can launch investigations (Watergate, Clinton-Lewinski hearings, Steroids in baseball)
house leadership
House Leadership






senate leadership
Senate Leadership









  • Majority party controls the most significant leadership positions
  • House - Speaker of the House
      • Allows people to speak on floor
      • Assigns bills to committees
      • Influences which bills are brought to a vote
      • Appoints members of special and select committees
  • Senate – Majority Leader
      • Schedules Senate business
      • Prioritizes bills
who s in congress
Who’s in Congress?

110th Congress (2007-2008)

  • 85% male
  • 85% White
  • 40% Lawyers

109th Congress (2005-2006)

  • 29 accused of spousal abuse
  • 7 have been arrested for fraud
  • 19 arrested for writing bad checks
  • 117 have bankrupted at least 2 businesses
  • 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
  • In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving
  • House members directly elected
  • Senators directly elected after 17th Amend
  • House Incumbent advantage – Why?
    • Name recognition
    • Proven track record
    • Franking privileges – free mailing
  • Malapportionment – unequal population in districts
    • Wesberry v. Sanders (1963) – found unequal district pop. unconstitutional – 14th amend
  • Gerrymandering – district boundaries are redrawn in strange ways to make it easy for candidate of one party to win
    • Easley v. Cromartie (2001) – redistricting for political ideology was constitutional, led to increase in minority reps
how a bill becomes a law
How A Bill Becomes a Law
  • Create legislation, make laws
  • Founders believed in a SLOW process
  • Founders believed efficiency was a trait of an oppressive government
step 1 introduce bill
Step 1 – Introduce Bill
  • Introduced in Senate or House (except tax)
  • Single or multiple reps can introduce bill
step 2 committee
Step 2 - Committee
  • Bill is assigned to a particular committee in its category (Ex. Tax bill – Ways and Means Committee, Farm bill – Agriculture Committee)
  • Bill is then placed in sub-committee
  • Bills are debated and “marked up”
  • Most bills die in committee, committee can vote to “report out” a bill
step 3 rules committee
Step 3–Rules Committee
  • Before bill can go to floor in House, it must first set time limits and amendment regulations.
    • Closed rule – sets time limits, restricts amendments
    • Open rule – permits amendments
    • Restrictive rule – permits some amendments
step 4 floor debate
Step 4 – Floor Debate

Senate Debate

  • Less formal, no speaking limit
  • Filibuster – practice of stalling a bill w/ debate
  • Cloture – 3/5 of the Senate vote to stop debate

House Debate

  • More formal, no filibuster, strict rules
step 5 voting
Step 5 - Voting
  • Majority passes
  • If the bill passes, it must go through the same process in the opposite chamber with a sponsor
  • If the bill passes one house and fails the other, it must start over
  • If the Senate and House cannot come to agreement over two versions, it goes to Conference Committee to fix it and resubmit the bill
presidential action
Presidential Action
  • Sign – bill becomes law
  • Veto – bill returns to origin
  • Override – 2/3 vote in both houses can override veto
  • Pocket Veto – President has 10 days to act on a piece of legislation. If he receives the bill within 10 days of the end of the Congressional session, and doesn’t sign, it dies
committees and subcommittees
Committees and Subcommittees
  • Most real work happens here
  • Bills are passed, changed, ignored, or killed
types of committees
Types of Committees
  • Standing committee

– handle bills in different policy areas

    • (ex. Appropriations, Agriculture, Armed Services, Science, etc.)

– most important and have been “standing” (existing) for a long time

  • Select committee

– formed for specific purposes and usually temporary – run investigations (ex. Aging, Intelligence)

types of committees1
Types of Committees
  • Joint committee

– consist of both House and Senate members

    • similar in purpose to Select committee
    • Meant to draw attention to issues
  • Conference committee

– consist of both House reps and Senators

    • formed to hammer out differences between House and Senate versions of similar bills
  • Congressional Committees and Subcommittees
committee membership
Committee Membership
  • Controlled by majority party, committee membership divided proportionally
  • Committee Chairman
    • Senior member of committee
    • Controls membership and debate
work of committees
Work of Committees
  • 11,000 bills introduced yearly, most die
  • Committees can…
    • Report out favorably/unfavorably
    • Pigeonholed/table (do not discuss)
    • Amend / “mark up” (change or rewrite)
congressional caucuses
Congressional Caucuses
  • Groupings of members pushing for similar interests
  • Ex. – Sunbelt, Northeast-Midwest, Congressional Black, Women’s, Democratic Study Group, Boll Weevils, Steel
criticisms of congress
Criticisms of Congress
  • “Pork” – aka “pork-barrel legislation” – bills to benefit constituents in hope of gaining their votes
  • Logrolling – Congress members exchange votes, bills might pass for frivolous reasons
  • Christmas-tree bill –bill with many riders (pork)
    • in Senate, no limit exists on amendments, so Senators try to attach riders that will benefit their home state
term limits debate
Term-limits Debate
  • No current limit on how many terms members of Congress can serve
  • Some argue this has weakened popular control of Congress, reps might be unresponsive to their constituents
  • Some argue most experienced reps have the expertise to bring home more benefits (pork, riders, etc.)
The term “pork barrel” refers to legislation specifically designed to

A. encourage a balanced federal government

B. ensure the careful inspection of farm goods and other foodstuffs

C. distribute excess produce to the poor

D. provide funding for local projects that are intended to benefit constituents

E. equalize representation between farming and non-farming states

The details of legislation are usually worked out in which of the following settings?

A. a party caucus

B. the majority leader’s office

C. the floor of the House

D. legislative hearings

E. a subcommittee

Most of the bills introduced in the House and Senate are then

A. passed by one chamber but not in the other

B. passed by both chambers, but never sent to the full Congress

C. referred to committee but never sent to the full Congress

D. voted down during the amendment stage of the floor debate

E. killed in the Rules Committee