Congress Congress & Constitution (1789) Sources of Power: How Should Congress Be Elected? Lower house: popularly elected Upper house: sent by state legislatures

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  • Congress

  • Congress & Constitution (1789)Sources of Power: How Should Congress Be Elected?Lower house: popularly electedUpper house: sent by state legislaturesPowers of CongressDoes Congress elect President?No, Electoral College doesYes, when no candidate receives a majority votes in the College

  • Congress & Constitution (1789)Powers of CongressPower of the PurseAppropriation of moneyAuthorization of borrowingtaxationRegulatory PowerRegulation of currencyPunishment of counterfeitingRegulation of inter-state & intl trade

  • Congress & Constitution (1789)Powers of CongressLaw-making PowerEstablishing rules of naturalizationMaking patent & copy-right lawsMaking bankruptcy lawsMaking amendments to ConstitutionWar-making & Military PowerWar declarationRaising & supporting armed forcesProviding for militia

  • Congress & Constitution (1789)Powers of CongressPower of Personnel AppointmentConfirm presidential appointmentsi.e. Secretary of State, US ambassador to the UNConfirm federal judge nominationsFederal court judges (lower courts)US Supreme Court justicesPower of ImpeachmentBring impeachment charges (House)Try impeachments (Senate)REMEMBER-to impeach means to charge, not to kick out of office!

  • Congress & Constitution (1789)Powers of CongressOther PowersEstablishing post office & post roadsFixing weights and measuresProviding for the government of D.C.Admitting new statesEstablishing lower federal courtsNumber + size

  • Senate vs. the HouseSize 435 members in the House (since 1911)100 Senators in the SenateQualificationsHouse25 years of ageCitizenship for at least 7 yearsResidency in district: 1 yearTerm of service: 2 years1 member per 550,000 people How often are congressional elections?How many members face election each time?

  • Senate vs. HouseCongress & ConstituencyHouse of Representatives Closer to the votersMore reflective of voter preferencesMore answerable to constituentsSenateMore remote to the votersAllows for political stability & policy continuityLess responsive to changes in popular opinionCan act as a dispassionate counter-weight to the more popular & radical House

  • QualificationsSenate30 years of age9 years of citizenshipResidency requirement in state: 1 yearTerm: 6 years2 seats per state in SenateHow often are senators elected?How many senators face election each time?

    Senate vs. House

  • Legislative role differencesSenateMore deliberativeWhy?Less structuredHouse of RepresentativesMore centralized & organizedWhy? More routine & structured

    Senate vs. House

  • Congress vs. US Society

  • Congress vs. US SocietyMinorities in Congress

  • A typical member of Congress isMiddle-agedMaleWhiteLawyerWhose father is of the professional or managerial classNative born or from northwestern or central Europe, CanadaCongress vs. US Society

  • 2000 Senatorial Race of New York

    To run for Congress

  • Three success factors#1: Whos actually running? Some attributes give a candidate an edge over others, likeA record of prior public serviceNational name recognitionHillary Clinton versus Rep. Rick LazzioFund-raising capability

    To run for Congress

  • To run for CongressWhy do members of Congress so easily win re-election?

  • To run for Congress#2: Incumbency AdvantagesVisibilityAdvertise thru contacts with constituents Stay visible thru trips to home districts












    Contact with Members of House(blue=Incumbents; brown=challengers)


    Received mail from I50%

    received mail from C18%

    Saw I on TV57%

    Saw C on TV28%

    Read about I48%

    Read about C24%

    Heard I on radio28%

    heard C on radio14%

    Met I personally12%

    Met C personally3%


    Contact with Members of House(blue=Incumbents; brown=challengers)



  • #2: Incumbency AdvantagesMore visible than challengersMedia pays more attention to incumbentsCampaign contributionsDonations tend to go to those in officeDonations to challengers can offend incumbentsTake credit for services to individuals & districtCaseworkAttend to voter concerns, requests, and problemsPork barrel legislationRepresentatives try to steer federal projects, grants & contracts towards their districtTo run for Congress

  • #2: Incumbency AdvantagesIncumbent resourcesInstitutional connections and access to channels of communicationsfranking privilege (free use of the US mails)As long as it is congressional businessTax-funded travel allowance to stay visible in ones own districtIncumbents scaring challengers away

    To run for Congress

  • Congressional Districts-Gerrymandering!District 23 (Texas) and District 3 (Florida in 92 and 96)To run for Congress

  • #3: RedistrictingCongressional districts redrawn every 10 years after the censusTo avoid under- or over-representation Re-drawing districts is highly politicalUsed to create advantage for one party-(new law being considered in Ohio to limit this!) Gerrymandering legal on a political, but not a race, basis

    To run for Congress

  • Cost to Get ElectedCongressional elections are getting more costlyOver $3 billion spent on 2014 Congressional electionIncumbents outspend their opponentsCandidates of major states spend moreNC Senate race in 2014 most expensive in history-$108 million spentCost of Congressional Race

  • Cost of Congressional RaceRising Cost

  • Congress not only represents, it also legislates.Internal complexity makes it hard to conduct business without organization.Congress is organized around:Political partiesA committee systemParliamentary rules of the House & Senate

    Organization of Congress

  • Political Parties House leader election every two yearsMajority party leader = House SpeakerEach party has a Committee on Committees (Democrats call theirs: the Steering & Policy Committee)Assign new legislators to committeesTransfer incumbents to new committees on request Seniority systemSenators and Reps who have served the longest typically receive chairmanships/committee requests before newer members.Representation on committees is proportional to party representation in Congress, e.g. a 60% Republican House gets 60% of the seats on committees-can serve on multiple committeesOrganization of Congress

  • Party Structure in the SenatePresident pro tempore presides; this is the member with most seniority in majority party (a largely honorific office)Leaders are the majority leader and the minority leader, elected by their respective party members

  • Copyright Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.13 | *Party Structure in the SenateParty whips: keep leaders informed, round up votes, count nosesEach party has a policy committee: schedules Senate business, prioritizes billsCommittee assignments are handled by a group of Senators, each for their own party

    Copyright Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  • Copyright Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.13 | *Party Structure in the HouseSpeaker of the House is leader of majority party and presides over HouseMajority leader and minority leader: leaders on the floorParty whips keep leaders informed and round up votesCommittee assignments and legislative schedule are set by each party

    Copyright Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  • Committee SystemStanding CommitteesImportant policy-making bodiesPermanent- Exist from Congress to CongressParallel executive agenciesForeign Affairs Committee - State DepartmentIntelligence Committee CIA & othersHave power to report legislation for a vote (or not!)

    Organization of Congress

  • Select CommitteeTemporary committeesNo power to report legislationSet up to handle specific issues that fall between the jurisdiction of existing committeesA special committee for investigating the Watergate scandal (1973)Organization of Congress

  • Joint CommitteeHas members from both partiesCan be permanentNo power to report legislationFour types of joint committeesEconomicTaxationLibraryprintingOrganization of Congress

  • Conference CommitteeTemporaryMembers appointed by Speaker & Senate presiding officerFor reconciling any differences on legislation once it has been passed by House & SenateThe Committee System

  • A number of staff members for every legislatorStaff members (8,853 in House alone, 2009): Handle constituency requestsTake care of legislative detailsFormulate & draft proposalsOrganize hearing, deal with administrative agencies, reporters and lobbyists

    The Staff System

  • What is a caucus? Informal group or committee composed of Senators or Representatives who share opinions, interests or social characteristics.Ideological causesLiberal Democratic Study GroupIssue-oriented caucusesTravel & Tourism CaucusesCongressional Friends of AnimalsCommon background caucusesThe Congressional Black CaucusThe caucuses

  • What is a caucus?Objectives of the CaucusesTo advance interests of the groups they represent by promoting legislation, encouraging Congress to hold hearing, and pressing administrative agencies for favorable treatment

    The caucuses

  • How a Bill Becomes LawSome facts:For a bill to become law, there are many routine hurdlesIt is easier for opponents to kill a bill than to pass itThe law-making process is highly political

  • How a Bill Becomes LawThe Law-making StepsIntroducing legislationWho can suggest legislation?Members


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