pols 4 - Congress I Today's Congress overview A Congress...

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Congress 1. Today’s Congress: overview 1. Congress occupies center stage in national policy making 2. Electoral politics influences almost everything members of Congress do, collectively and individually 3. The majority party, through party leaders, directs and dominates the action in the House and Senate 4. The rules and organizational structures the House and Senate adopt have a deliberate and crucial effect on power and policy making 5. It is always easier to stop things from happening in Congress than to make things happen 2. Qualification differences 1. The minimum age for the House members was set at 25 years; whereas it was set at 30 for the Senate 2. House members were required to be citizens for at least 7 years, whereas for senators it was 9 years 3. Both are required to reside in the state they represented 3. Areas of congressional authority 1. House: bills dealing with raising and spending revenue must begin in the House 2. Senate: advice and consent on treaties, confirms presidential appointments of ambassadors, justices, members of cabinet 4. The Electoral system 1. Two choices made by the Framers of the Constitution have profoundly affected the electoral politics of Congress: 1. Members of Congress and presidents are elected separately 2. Members of Congress are elected from the states and congressional districts by plurality vote – that is, whoever gets the most votes wins 2. Congressional elections are held every 2 years 3. All 435 House seats 1. 233 democrats, 202 republicans, 0 independents 4. 1/3 of Senate seats 1. 49 republicans, 49 democrats, 2 independents 5. Congressional districts 1. After the first census in 1790, each state was allotted one House seat for every 33,000 inhabitants for a total of 105 seats. 2. Would be over 9000 seats today 3. Total membership was finally fixed at its current ceiling of 435 in 1911 when House leaders concluded that further growth would impede the House’s work 6. House apportionment 1. 435 seats based on population 1. Seats given out based on mathematical formula
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2. This is called apportionment 2. Every 10 years, census takes place 1. Actual enumeration 2. Undercounts, overcounts 3. Malapportionment 1. Prior to 1964, districts were not equal in size 1. Rural districts: small population 2. Urban districts: large population 2. 1964 Reynolds vs. Sims (state) 1. Districts must be appointed on population 3. 1964 Wesberry vs. Sanders (House) 1. One person, one vote 4. Forced to divide “communities of interest” 7. Redistricting 1. After census, districts are redistributed amongst the states 2. Districts must be nearly equal in population within a state 3. Extremely political 1. Mostly done by State legislatures and approved by Governor 1. Courts if they can’t agree 2. Some use non-partisan commissions 4. Gerrymandering 1. Definition: conscious line drawing to maximize seats for one party or group 2. Cracking – split an area of partisan strength among several districts 1. Hard for party to win 3. Packing – draw lines to encompass as many of one’s 4. Partisan gerrymander 1.
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