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Chapter 10 Organizing Congress
Leadership and Committees Both Houses of Congress are organized along party lines In general *Each party has a caucus that
Plans strategy *Chooses leaders *The Speaker House Leadership *Powers of the Speaker *Only post provided for in the Constitution *"2nd most powerful person" in DC *The Speaker is elected by the majority party *Controls floor debate *Chooses chair and majority party members of the Rule Committee *Assigns bills to the appropriate committees * Majority Leader: the majority party's floor leader Counterpart is the minority leader Other House Leadership Positions * Majority Whip: vote counter and coordinator; gets members to the floor for critical votes
Counterpart is the minority leader *Most important position is the majority leader
*Has powers similar to the Speaker *Votes only to break ties Senate Leadership *Presiding officer of the Senate: Vice President * President pro tempore: honorary position goes to the majority party's most senior member
*Presides over the Senate in the absence of the Vice President * Standing committees: permanent with defined jurisdiction * Select committees: temporary committees for specific tasks * Joint committees: both Houses participate to advise and/or *Responsible for specific policy areas Committees in Congress coordinate * Conference committees: a joint committee that reconciles different versions of bills Party balance in a committee is same as party balance in Committee Membership parent body *Standing committees have a fixed membership *Each party has a committee that assigns people to committees
Constituent service committees Committee Types Ex.: Veterans' Affairs *Preferred by junior members or those with unsafe seats Policy committees Preferred by ideologues interested in public policy
Ex.: Economic and Educational Opportunities The most important committees The Power Committees Appointment to these prized committees is a function of Appropriations; Rules; Ways and Means in the House *Foreign Relations; Judiciary in the Senate party loyalty, ideology, experience, seniority Chairs have the power to: Committee Chairs Schedule meetings *Determine order of consideration of bills *Preside over meetings *Direct the committee staff *Choose to direct personally the debate on the floor *Committee chairs are always members of the majority party *Chairs are usually selected by the seniority rule *Why seniority? Choosing Chairs *Seniority=the most consecutive years of service on a particular committee *Prevents bitter power struggles *Stability of membership in committees *Experienced and knowledgeable leadership The Law Making Function of Congress
Bills into Laws Bills can be introduced in either House In the beginning Presiding officer refers the bill to the appropriate committee A House bill will be designated H.R. *A Senate bill will be designated S. *Committee chair then assigns the bill to the appropriate subcommittee
*About 90 percent of bills die in committee
*Most dead bills deserve to be dead; Why?
*Of interest to a few *Poorly written or poorly conceived *Introduced simply to quell an interest group In committee *Hearings on the bill may be held in the subcommittee and the committee *Committee can "mark up" (i.e., revise) a bill before recommending passage *Bill is presented to the Rules Committee *The Rules Committee Going to the House Floor *Schedules debate *Determines the terms and length of the debate *Determines whether a bill can be amended from the floor by issuing:
*An open rule (relevant amendments may by introduced from the floor); or *A closed rule (no amendments possible) *No Houselike rules committee; majority leader schedules bills *Senators have the privilege of unlimited debate
*Allows for the filibuster *3/5 vote of full Senate can stop a filibuster through cloture On the Senate floor *Nongermane amendments (riders) may be introduced
A simple majority of both Houses is enough to pass a bill Reconciling Differences BUT *Bill must pass in identical form *If necessary, a conference committee reconciles differences in House and Senate versions of a bill *Conference compromise bill then returns to each House for vote
*The bill must be presented to the President for consideration *Possible Actions
*Constitution gives the President 10 days to consider a bill To the President *President signs bill *President does not sign but Congress still in session after 10 days; bill becomes law *A Veto *A Pocket veto: no signature; Congress adjourns before the 10 days have passed Congress can override a veto by a twothirds vote of each After a veto House *In the case of a pocket veto, the legislative process must start all over again at the next session of Congress
For a good description of lawmaking in Congress, see: Excellent Resource * http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html Issues in Lawmaking
*Fragmentation invites Presidential leadership Presidential Influence *"President proposes; Congress disposes" *Better coordination in unitary executive *The President can claim a national constituency *Presidential leverage is greatest when prompt action required *The President often sets the agenda for Congress Except for the New Deal era, Congress has dominated: Congressional Leadership * most congressional initiatives are more narrow BUT Labor laws *Environmental laws *Aid to education *Urban development Congress represents State and local interests Representation Function Beyond Lawmaking *Parties in Congress represent different ideological perspectives *Recurring question: Do members of Congress care more about local matters than national policy?
Congress makes sure that: Oversight of the Executive The programs it creates are wellrun and * The money it budgets is not wasted Oversight can occur: During the annual appropriations process *Through "sunset laws" *Through investigations Characteristics: Budget Making An important distinction: Budgeting is incremental *More money is spent in election years * Authorization: creates/maintains a program and specifies funding levels * Appropriation: assignment of actual funds with the authority to spend them ...
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- Fall '08
- Government, United States Congress, committees, majority party, Majority leader