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Congress - Congress Branch of Government Political...

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Unformatted text preview: Congress Branch of Government, Political Institution, Bastion of Contradiction! Q. Common Denominator of a national institution where each member has to please voters back home to get reelected? A. Attention to Constituency Interests (pandering to the people) Election to Congress Majority of contemporary members are professional politicians Incumbents have best chance of being reelected especially in the House (90% return rate recently) 1. House: 25 y.o.; Citizen for 7 years; resident of state elected from; serve 2 years 2. Senate: 30 y.o.; Citizen for 9 years; resident of state elected from; serve 6 years Incumbents increase reelection by: Pandering to constituents, providing services to their voters, and pork barrel projects Pork Barrel Projects = special projects for a particular locale that may not be crucially needed Members of congress provided with allowance to support a staff and free mailings to constituents Successful congressional campaigns spend over a quarter to several million dollars and incumbents generally raise more money (it's easier with their resources) Actually Having to Adopt a Position Bad part of incumbency legislator can be vulnerable to: 1) social and economic conditions; 2) personal misconduct (e.g., Foley); 3) scandals; 4) victim of midterm election losses to those of the party holding the presidency; 5) formidable challenger Redistricting Poses threat to reelection because it changes constituency Congress Not Highly Responsive to Political Change A safe incumbency weakens the public's influence on Congress and accounts for the relatively few women among its members Congressional Leadership House: 1) Speaker 2) Majority Leader 3) Minority Leader 4) Majority Whips 5) Minority Whips Senate: 1) Majority Leader 2) Minority Leader 3) Majority Whip 4) Minority Whip 5) Vice President presides and votes in case of a tie Congressional Committees Chairpersons are members of the majority party Seniority is usually a factor Committees do the most important work Committee System Most work done in standing committees Standing committees = permanent, deal with particular policy area, has a staff, legislative authority to draft and rewrite proposed legislation to recommend to the full chamber for passage or defeat Bill Becomes A Law How? 1. Introduced on the floor in both houses 2. Goes to subcommittee for hearings and decisions whether to bring it forward 3. Bill must pass in identical form in both houses to become law 4. President has to then sign off on it favorably Congresses Policymaking Role Three Legislative Functions: 1. lawmaking 2. Representation 3. Oversight Lawmaking Authority to make the laws necessary to carry out the powers granted to the national government Representation Most members favor local concerns for their own reelection prospects On issues of national security though they can safely vote contrary to their constituencies Oversight Responsibility to see that the Executive branch is carrying out laws faithfully and is spending money properly Oversight is carried out through committee hearings Pluarlism in Congress 1. Congress remains torn between service to the nation and separate constituencies 2. Congress is still responsible for legislation on national issues 3. Congress has difficulty maintaining middle ground and favors local constituencies over majoritarian interests ...
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