This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: US Congress
The National Legislature Lecture Outline Constitutional Design Issues The Structure of Congress Constitutional Powers of Congress Partisan Split in Congress Who holds the power in Congress The Curse of Power? US House & Senate Elections How a Bill becomes Law Apportionment Congressional Oversight The Basics The US Congress Bicameral Legislature Congress is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate Members of the US House The number of representatives each state has in Congress depends upon the size of that state's population Being the 2nd most populous state, Texas has 32 US representatives...the largest state, California, has 53...small states are guaranteed at least 1 representative (e.g., Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas) Members of the US Senate Each state has 2 US senators, regardless of the size of the state's population Texas' US Senators: Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Republican) and John Cornyn (Republican) Constitutional Design Issues Why a bicameral legislature? Congress was designed to be the most powerful of the three institutions... Dividing it into two chambers offset Congress' constitutional advantage over the Executive and Judiciary Why equal representation in the Senate? States with small populations worried the larger states would legislate against them Equal representation in the Senate checked the power large states had over small states in the US House Constitutional Differences The US House 435 members 2 year term of office (no term limits) Initiates all revenue-raising bills (e.g., bills that bring in money for the government) not really true in practice The US Senate 100 members 6 year term of office (no term limits) Confirm (or not) nominees to Supreme Court, cabinet, ambassadors, etc. Ratify (or not) treaties with foreign countries Try impeachment trials power of impeachment federal judges, president, and high officials The Powers of Congress The enumerated powers: Article I Section 8 Here are a few: Lay and collect taxes Regulate commerce among the states and among foreign countries Create federal courts (below Supreme Court) Declare war Create an army and navy; regulate both Make all laws necessary and proper to carry out enumerated powers and others in the Constitution Enumerated powers was to constrain government (congressional) power For practical reasons, Congress has assumed much more power than originally intended. Partisan Split in Congress The Balance of Power (109th Congress) US House of Representatives (435 members) 232 Republicans 202 Democrats 1 Independent US Senate (100 members) 55 Republicans 44 Democrats 1 Independent Texas Delegation to US Congress (34 members) US House: 21 Republicans 11 Democrats US Senate: 2 Republican Senators House and Senate Org Chart Committees in Congress Who holds the power in Congress? Congressional power brokers US House: Speaker of the House Currently: Dennis Hastert (R-IL) US Senate: Majority Leader Currently: Bill Frist (R-TN) Other powerful positions US House Majority Leader: John Boehner (R-OH) Minority Leader: Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) US Senate Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV) Committee and Subcommittee Chairs 105 in the US House; 84 in US Senate The Curse of Power? Recent Speakers of the House Jim Wright (D-TX) (1987 - 1989) Forced to resign because of sales of a bogus book...it was a scheme for Wright to make some money... Labor unions bought the book in mass as a "thank you" to Wright for being favorable to labor unions throughout his career An up and coming Republican named Newt Gingrich led the ethics fight against Speaker Wright Tom Foley (D-WA) (1989 - 1994) Lost re-election bid in the Republican sweep in 1994 It is extremely rare for an incumbent to lose re-election and even more so if that incumbent is the Speaker of the House The Curse of Power? Recent Speakers of the House (cont.) Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (1995 - 1998) Gingrich was a lightening rod, loved by Republicans (viewed as the next Ronald Reagan but better), hated by Democrats Long-term vision to reverse the Great Society, turn over welfare and other entitlements (such as Medicare) to the private sector A small number of Republican reformers, elected in 1994, ousted Gingrich in 1998 for not fulfilling the "Republican Revolution" Bob Livingston (R-LA) (never served) Livingston was chosen to succeed Gingrich but then it was revealed that he had adulterous affairs...Livingston resigned from Congress At the time, Republicans charged Clinton for being too immoral to lead the country (because of the Monica Lewinsky affair)... Livingston had also committed adultery, so Republicans had to find another leader to avoid being hypocritical The Curse of Power? Recent US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) (2002 2005) DeLay was (is) another lightening rod: loved by Republicans, hated by Democrats DeLay worked behind the scenes to help Republicans in Texas win control of the Texas Legislature in 2002 Then DeLay pushed a Republican controlled Texas Legislature to redistrict US House districts in 2003 (a mid-term redistricting, which is unusual) The goal was to get more Republicans elected to the US House in 2004, which is exactly what happened...5 additional Republicans were elected to the US House in 2004 DeLay indicted for money laundering in 2005 DeLay allegedly illegally funneled money to Republican candidates to the Texas Legislature in 2002 DeLay forced to resign his leadership position in the US House because of his legal troubles (which are still pending) The Curse of Power? Recent Majority Leader of the Senate Trent Lott (R-MS) Senate Majority Leader Lott resigned his leadership position because he made a comment construed as racist At the 100th birthday party of Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott said he wished Thurmond had won his race for president in 1948 Thurmond ran as a segregationist "Dixiecrat"...he advocated the separation of whites and blacks in society Guilt by association: Hoping for a Thurmond victory in `48, Lott implied he too was a segregationist And Lott was from that segregationist generation, which made him suspect Pandering on Black Entertainment Television (BET) did not save Lott US House/Senate Elections How are House and Senate elections decided? Incumbents have advantages over challengers No. 1: Constituency Services Incumbents have become very good at addressing the needs of their constituents Especially true for the elderly who count on social security checks and other government aid No. 2: Safe Seats Many US House districts are drawn to give one party an overwhelming advantage For instance, voting patterns in a given district may be 80% democratic, 20% Republican, ensuring that the US House seat belong to a Democrat (or vice versa: 80% Republican, 20% Democrat) Other advantages: franking privileges (free use of US mail), name recognition, and fund-raising (contributors are more willing to give money to those already in power) US House/Senate Elections Incumbents almost always win US House incumbents more than 95% of elections US Senate incumbents win at very high rates also US House/Senate Elections Are incumbents ever vulnerable? Yes. Presidential Coattails Some presidents have "coattails" that help members of his party get elected to the US House and US Senate If an House or Senate incumbent is not of the winning presidential candidate's party, the incumbent may be vulnerable But fewer and fewer US House districts are competitive State legislatures usually draw most districts such that they produce "safe seats," guaranteeing that one party will win the seat Redistricting States redraw US House districts after every national census (every 10 years) In Texas, Republicans took over both the Texas House and Senate for the first time since the Reconstruction Era (1870s) in 2003 US House districts were drawn to give Republicans a 21-to-11 advantage in the Texas delegation to the US House Five (5) Democratic incumbents lost in the 2004 elections US House/Senate Elections Are incumbents ever vulnerable? Yes. Scandals The House Bank scandal in the early 1990s hurt some incumbents...sex scandals can hurt too The House Bank Scandal The House bank would allow its members to write "hot" checks (w/ o penalty), with the understanding the money would be paid back Average people don't get to write "hot" checks without being punished Gary Condit (D-CA) lost in the Democratic primaries in 2002 because of the fallout over his affair with an intern, Chandra Levy (who was mysteriously killed in Washington DC) Tim Hutchinson (R-AK) lost in the Republican primaries in 2002 because of an affair he was having with a younger woman who worked for him Sex Scandals US House/Senate Elections Are incumbents ever vulnerable? Yes. Midterm Elections The president's party typically loses seats in a midterm election In 1994, the Republicans won majority control of the US House for the first time in 40 years...Republican also took the US Senate in 1994 How a Bill becomes Law Bills must be approved by both chambers House and Senate each must approve bill by a simple majority vote The bill is then presented to the president The president has four options: Sign the bill -- the bill becomes law Veto -- the bill is killed, unless Congress overrides Tacit Disapproval (don't sign bill) -- Allow bill to become law w/o signature (only when Congress is in session) Pocket Veto (don't sign bill) -- the bill is killed (only when Congress is not in session) How a Bill becomes Law President vetoes bill Congress can override veto with 2/3rd vote in House and Senate...then, bill becomes law Bush43 has not vetoed a single bill, which is unusual in such a polarized political environment Conservatives urged Bush to veto Campaign Finance Reform (2002), but Bush signed it Bush wanted to avert a challenge from John McCain in the presidential primaries; McCain has championed campaign finance Bush threatened to veto a "pork-barrel" transportation bill (2005), but in the end, he signed it President pocket vetoes bill Congress must start the bill-making process all over again when it comes back into session Apportionment Congress reapportions US congressional seats among the states every 10 years following each national census Congressional Oversight The committee system is designed to check the actions of the executive branch Examples: Select intelligence committees (one in the House and one in the Senate) -- oversee the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Congress yanked funding for the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s because the Reagan administration failed to inform Congress about the mining of Nicaraguan harbors Senate Judiciary committee holds hearings on nominees to the Supreme Court, the executive cabinet (sec. of state, defense, homeland security, etc.) Then makes recommendations to the full Senate House judiciary committee held impeachment hearings on Clinton/Lewinsky matter Means of Congressional Oversight Congressional Hearings and Investigations Reform of the intelligence community A joint House-Senate Committee and 9/11 Commission investigated what went wrong on 9/11 Reform of intelligence community passed in Dec 2004 Bureaucratic failures in response to Hurricane Katrina (2005) Executive branch officials (federal, state and local) failed to effectively coordinate efforts in response to the disaster, overlapping responsibilities resulted in a slow response Consequently, people died who may not have otherwise The Congress will investigate and then suggest reforms Means of Congressional Oversight Congress is less effective in Foreign Affairs War Powers Act (1973) President's have complied with 48 hour reporting requirements But have not often consulted Congress prior to inserting troops into a hostile environment Some analysts view the "concurrent resolution" provision to be unconstitutional; some view it as a legislative veto (ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in an immigration case) A concurrent resolution is a formal statement by Congress; it does not require the president's signature and thus is not presented to the president, which may violate the "presentment" clause Question: Should the president have a veto over the Congress' power to declare war--or more specifically in this case--not to declare war? ...
View Full Document
- Spring '08