Chapter 11: The Legislative Branch What is the primary purpose of Congress? Its main function is to make laws, by translating public will into public policy. Why is Congress bicameral? 3 reasons: Historically, both the British parliament and most state legislatures were bicameral. Practically, a 2 chambered body was a compromise of the NJ and the Virginia Plans. Theoretically, the 2 houses might act as a check on each other. When does it (their term) begin, and how long does it last? It begins at noon on the 3rd day of January of every odd numbered year. A term lasts 2 years. We are currently in the 1st session of the 110th Congress. How big is the House of Representatives? The House has 435 members. That number is set, it cannot increase. Plus, 5 non-voting delegates. One each from Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the District of Columbia. How long do they serve? They serve 2 year terms. They can serve as many terms as they would like. US Term Limits v. Thornton (1994) ? Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law preventing its members of Congress from serving more than 3 terms. What does reapportionment mean? It means to redistribute the seats in the House after each decennial census. After the Census is taken, the Census bureau decides how many members of the House each state should have, based on population. Examples: PA had 21 House seats in 1991, and 19 in 2001. CA had 52 seats in 1991 and 53 in 2001. How many people does each representative represent? Roughly 646,000 persons. When are elections held? On the Tues. following the 1st Mon. in Nov. of each even numbered year. For example, Nov. 7, 2006. Whose job is it to redraw Congressional District boundary lines every 10 years ? if necessary? Since 1842, each of the State Legislatures has been responsible for drawing the congressional districts within its own state. What is gerrymandering? Districts that have been drawn to the advantage of the party or faction in power. Most lines are drawn in 2 ways: (1) To concentrate the opposition in one or a few districts, or (2) to spread the opposition as thinly as possible among several districts. Named after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry. What was the significance of Wesberry v. Sanders of 1964? The Supreme Court held that population differences among Georgia?s congressional districts were so great that it violated the Constitution. This helped to increase the voice of the cities and suburbs. Qualifications ? List Them: A member of the House must be: At least 25 years of age. Must have been a citizen for at least 7 years. Be an inhabitant of the state (but not the district) from which he/she is chosen. What happened to Congressman Michael (Ozzie) Myers of Phila? He became only the 4th member of the House ever to be expelled by the House. Myers had been caught up in the ABSCAM probe. What is the present size of Senate? 100 members. Can increase if more states are added. What was the old way (pre 1913) of choosing US Senators? Each state legislature chose its 2 US senators. How do they do it now? Residents of that state elect the US senators from that state. Both are never up for election at the same time (unless there is a special election). What are their term of office? 6 years. They can be reelected indefinitely. Qualifications ? List Them: He/she must be: 30 years of age. Must have been a citizen for 9 years. Be an inhabitant of the state from which they are chosen. ½ are lawyers. Who were the last 2 senators to face expulsion? In 1981 ? the Senate Ethics Committee voted to expel Senator Harrison Williams of NJ after he was convicted of bribery in the ABSCAM scandal. However, he resigned before the whole senate could vote to expel him. In 1995, Bob Packwood of Oregon resigned before the Senate could vote to expel him on charges of sexual misconduct. Is Congress an accurate reflection of the nation?s population? No, the average member is a white male in his late forties. However, the number of women and minorities in Congress is increasing. There are 74 women in the House, 17 women now serve in the Senate. Nearly all are married and have an average of 2 children. More than ½ are Protestants, ¼ Catholics, 43 Jews, 1 Muslim, and 2 Buddhists. ½ are lawyers Race House Senate Party Black 42 1 All Dem. Hispanic 26 2 21 Dem. Asian Native American 4 1 2 0 ½ Dem. Rep. What is their job? Their main job is to make laws, legislate. They also serve there as representatives of their constituents (people of the district). Are servants of their constituents. Serve as committee members. And are politicians. What is their annual salary? $168,600. Minority and majority leaders of the House and Senate - $186,000. President Pro Tempore - $186,600. Speaker of the House - $215,700. Each year they get an automatic COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) equal to the rate of inflation. List the other compensations. They receive tax breaks to afford a 2nd home in Washington. Travel allowances to travel between Washington and home. They get life and health insurance. They get a nice pension plan. They get offices and can hire a staff. Can mail official letters for free (franking privilege). What does their staff do? How many do they have? They research issues. They write legislation. They deal with constituent issues and concerns. Each member of Congress has dozens of staffers. Senators have more than members of the House. Are they overpaid? No, members of Congress have many expenses and have a hard job; they must work at the Congress and still spend time with their constituents, that is not easy. How do members ?get around? pay increases? COLAS. And also get extra perks like: The liberal pension plan (can retire at age 50 if they have 20 years of service). The incredible health plan (medical treatment at any military facility around the world for free). Tax breaks. Travel benefits. For what does the ?speech and debate clause? provide? Why? For any speech or debate in either house, they shall not be questioned in any other place (courts). It protects them from suits for libel or slander arising out of their official conduct. Who is the speaker and how is he/she chosen? The speaker is always a senior member of the majority party. He/she is chosen by the House as a whole, but only after the party caucus 1st chooses the speaker to be. The Speaker today is Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from CA. Why is the 1st daily session of a term simpler and more routine than in the House? The Senate has only 1/3 of its members up for re-election every 2 years. So 2/3 of the Senate is already sworn in, unlike the House where all members must be sworn in at the start of each term. What is so special about the State of the Union speech? In his address before a joint session of Congress, the cabinet and the Supreme Court, the President reports on the state of the nation, both domestic and foreign. He uses this highly viewed platform to propose legislative recommendations to the people at home. Why is the Speaker of the House so powerful? The Speaker has the power to break ties. She also presides over the House, and no member can speak until recognized by the speaker. She appoints people to special committees, interrupts and applies the rules of the house, answers questions on rules, and determines outcomes of voice votes. Nevertheless, remember as the leader of the majority she tries to improve her party?s standing. Who is the President of the Senate? The VP is the President of the Senate. He cannot vote unless there is a tie and cannot speak on the floor. What is the job of the President Pro Tempore? He serves as President of the Senate at times when the VP is absent. He is elected by the Senate and is usually the senior member of the Majority party. Today the President Pro Tempore is Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat from West Virginia. He also usually appoints another member of his party to act as President during sessions. Who are the other floor leaders in the House and Senate and what are their functions? Senate House Majority Leader Minority Leader Majority Whip Minority Whip Harry Reid Mitch McConnell Dick Durban Jon Kyl Steny Hoyer John Boehner James Clyburn Eric Cantor Minority and Majority Leaders ? The job of the party leaders is to steer action in each house to the party?s benefit. They are the party?s legislative strategists. The Whips ? They are the assistant floor leaders. Their job is to keep the Majority and Minority Leader informed on how many votes they can expect on a piece of legislation. How are they (chairmen) chosen? They are chosen by the majority party caucus in each house. They are usually a senior member of the party. Why are they so powerful? They choose what bills they will take up. They decide when committees will meet, whether public hearings will be held, and what witnesses will be called. In addition, when the bill is debated on the floor they manage the debate. What is the Seniority rule? An unwritten rule saying that formal and party organizations in both chambers will be held by ?ranking members.? Committee chairpersons are usually the member who served on that committee the longest. Under the Republicans, they have moved to weaken the power of the chairperson by limiting them to 6 years as chairperson and under Speakers Gingrich and Hastert, they chose chairpersons who were most qualified, angering some senior members. The Democrats have reverted to the Seniority rule. What is a ?standing committee?? A permanent committee that deals with bills on certain subjects. Examples: Agriculture, Armed Services, Budget, Judiciary, Transportation, Veterans? Affairs. Each member typically serves on 2 committees. The majority party has a majority of the seats. What is the job of the Rules Committee of the House? They are the ?traffic cops? of the House. They manage the flow of bills between the committees and the floor and set the rules for debate. Open rule: Permits amendments on the floor. Closed rule: Set limits on time for debate and amendments. Restrictive rule: Permits some amendments. They can keep a bill from being voted on even if it passed in its committee. Select Committees ? What is their purpose? Their purpose, most often, is to investigate some particular and current matter. Examples: Aging committees in both Houses, Intelligence committee or the Watergate Committee of the House in the 1970s. Joint Committees ? What is their purpose? They are committees with members of both the House and the Senate. Most are investigative in nature; others have housekeeping duties like the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress. Conference Committees ? What is its purpose? Its purpose is to reconcile differences in the House and Senate version of a bill so both Houses can pass the same bill and send it to the President to sign or veto. Who may introduce a bill? Only a member of the House can introduce a bill in that chamber, only a Senator can introduce a bill in that chamber. The ideas for bills often start executive agencies, pressure groups, and some from private citizens. What happens to most bills? The vast majority of bills that are proposed die in committee. Different types of resolutions. Simple ? Passed by 1 house and affects only that house. Concurrent ? Passed by both houses, affects both. Joint ? Passed by both, signed by President (except Constitutional Amendments). All appropriations (spending) bills must originate in the House of Representatives. What are the 4 ways they vote? Voice vote. Teller vote (House only). Division vote. Roll call vote. How a Bill Becomes a Law. Explain. CRS ? Congressional Research Service. It?s part of the Library of Congress. It prepares its reports for the US Congress. CBO ? Congressional Budget office. It?s a joint office that researches issues dealing with costs of federal programs. GAO ? Government Accountability Office. It studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. Formerly known as the General Accounting Office. What is a rider? Rider ? A rider is an additional provision annexed to a bill, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill. Riders are most effective when attached to an important bill, such as an appropriate bill, because to veto or table such a bill could delay funding to governmental programs, causing serious problems. Pork Barrel Legislation. A derogatory term describing government spending that?s intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. Famous example ? Interstate 99 in PA, The Bridge to Nowhere. Item Veto. Also called Line Item Veto. Is allowed by most states to their governors but not to the president (City of NY v. Clinton ? 1998). It would allow him to delete parts of a spending bill without vetoing the entire bill. Pocket Veto. The Constitutional grants the President 10 days to review a measure passed by the Congress. If the President has not signed the bill after 10 days, it becomes law without his signature. However, if Congress adjourns (ends) during the 10-day period, the bill doesn?t become law, this is a pocket veto. Congressional Road. The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the US Congress. It?s published daily when Congress is in session. Members can ask for documents to be included in the record. Members almost always ask permission to ?revise and extend their remarks? when they are recognized to speak. Filibuster and Cloture. Filibuster ? A practice in the US Senate, where a senator or a group of senators try to talk a bill to death. It?s a stalling tactic used by a minority of senators to stop or delay floor action. By having the floor and just talking, therefore delaying action may force a bill to be removed for consideration. The record, 24 hours and 18 minutes by Senator Strom Thurmond, is an unsuccessful attempt to kill the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Cloture ? In 1917, the Senate adopted Rule 22, the Cloture Rule. It allows for limiting debate in the senate. It takes 60 votes to invoke cloture, it can be used to break a filibuster. It limits each Senator to one hour of debate each. It?s rarely used. The hopper and pigeonhole. Hopper ?The hopper is the box which sits on the House Clerk?s desk, into which a bill or resolution is dropped for introduction. Pigeonhole ? When the rules committee chooses to ignore a proposed bill. Unanimous Consent. A Senator may request unanimous consent on the floor to set aside a specified rule or procedure so as to expedite proceedings. If no Senator objects, the Senate permits the action, but if any one Senator objects, the request is rejected. Quorum and Quorum Call. Quorum ? The # of Senators and Reps that must be present for the Congress to do businesses. Quorum Call ? Often, a quorum call is terminated by unanimous consent before completion, which permits the Senate to use the quorum call to obtain a brief delay to work out some difficulty or await a Senator?s arrival.
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