Unformatted text preview: Chapter 11
Congress Apportionment of House Seats Congressional Districts The Structure and MakeUp of Congress The Requirement of Equal Representation Malapportionment Gerrymandering Minoritymajority district Racial gerrymandering The House of Representatives The Constitution provides for the apportionment of House seats among the states on the basis of their respective populations. Members of the House are elected every second year by popular vote To be a member of the House, a person must: Be a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years A legal resident of the state from which he or she is to be elected At least 25 years of age Apportionment of House Seats The number of House seats per state is based on census results, though each state is guaranteed at least one seat. The lines of congressional districts are drawn by the authority of state legislatures. In Wesberry v. Sanders (1964), the Supreme Court held that congressional districts must have equal populations: "one person, one vote". In 1929, a federal law fixed House membership at 435 members. Reapportionment of House Seats following the 2000 Census Drawing of District Lines Though there have been constitutional challenges to political gerrymandering, the practice continues. District lines are drawn to "pack" the opposing party's voters into the smallest number of districts or "crack" the party's voters into several different districts. In the 1990's, several minoritymajority districts were created to maximize the voting power of minority groups. The practice of racial gerrymandering has been controversial. The Senat e Senators are elected every six years by popular vote This is since the ratification of the 17th Amendment To be a member of the Senate a person must: Be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years A legal resident of the state from which he or she is to be elected At least 30 years of age Congressional Elections Turnout in Congressional elections is quite low. Voters tend not to be terribly interested or well informed on issues relevant to these elections. Many House elections receive very little, if any, media attention, and hence are not often on the voters radar screen. Since issue awareness in Congressional elections is so low, voters tend to respond to either the party or incumbency cue. Challenger as Underdog The Power of Incumbency The overwhelming majority of incumbents who decide to run for reelection are successful. Incumbent politicians have more fundraising abilities Congressional franking privilege allows members of congress to send mail to constituents at taxpayer expense. This helps them maintain their name-recognition advantage. Incumbents also have professional staffs, more lawmaking power, more access to the media, and name recognition One of the greatest benefits of incumbency is name recognition Because voters often do not recognize the challengers name the incumbent receives a lot of votes simply on the basis of name recognition. Incumbents also earn support by bringing federal projects home to the district. The Problem With Term Limits Congressional Terms and Term Limits Each Congress lasts for a term of two years; each term is divided into two sessions; there is no limit on the number of terms a senator or representative can serve. Efforts to impose term limits on members of Congress have had little success. The imposition of such term limits would require a constitutional amendment. While some say term limits might make members more responsive, others argue that the learning curve in Congress is so steep that if we term-limited members, the professional staff on capitol hill would hold all the power and come to act as unelected representatives. Size Matters With its larger size (435 members), the House needs both more rules and more formal rules. The House Rules Committee normally proposes time limitations on debate for any bill The Senate normally permits extended debate on all issues that arise before it. The Senate tradition of unlimited debate filibustering dates back to 1790. Debate may end by invoking cloture, a method of closing debate and bringing the matter under consideration to a vote in the Senate. Sixteen senators must sign a petition requesting cloture, and then threefifths of the entire membership must vote for cloture. The Differences between the House and the Senate Other Differences... Prestige Generally, Senators enjoy more prestige and receive more media attention than do members of the House. The House originates bills for raising revenues. The Senate has the power of "advise and consent" on presidential appointments and treaties. Traditionally the Senate has been more willing to spend on government programs while the House has a tradition of guarding the "federal purse strings". Congressional Leadership House Leadership Speaker of the House- Dennis Hastert (R., Ill) Majority Leader- Tom Delay (R., Tx) Minority Leader-Nancy Pelosi (D., Ca) Whips The Speaker is an office mandated by the Constitution A vote is taken at the beginning of each congressional term to determine the Speaker. Speaker of the House As the presiding officer of the House and leader of the majority party, the Speaker has a great deal of power. Traditionally, the Speaker has been a longtime member of the majority party who has risen in rank and influence through years of service in the House. Speaker has substantial control over what bills get assigned to which committees; presides over the sessions of the House; votes in the event of a tie; interprets and applies the House rules; determines the outcome of most of the votes taken; plays a major role in making important committee assignments; and schedules bills for action. Majority Leader Elected by the caucus of majority party members to act as spokesperson for the party and to keep the party together. The majority leader helps plan the party's legislative program and organizes other party members to support legislation favored by the party. He or She also serves as a strategist who advises the speaker. Minority Leader Although not as powerful as the majority leader, the minority leader has similar responsibilities. The primary duty of the Minority Leader is to maintain cohesion within the minority party. The Minority Leader also organizes party support for the President, if the President is of the minority party. If the President is a member of the other party, the Minority Leader helps organize the "loyal opposition". Whips The leadership of each party includes assistants to the majority and minority leaders known as whips. Whips try to determine how each member is going to vote on certain issues and then advise the party leaders on the strength of party support. Senate Leadership President of the Senate Vice President Richard Cheney President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens (R., Alaska) Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nevada) Whips President of the Senate The Constitution makes the vice president of the United States the president of the Senate. As presiding officer, the vice president may call on members to speak and put questions to a vote. The vice president may not take part in Senate debates and may cast a vote only in the event of a tie. The vice president is rarely present in the Senate. Another presiding officer of the Senate Elected by the whole Senate President pro tempore In the absence of both the vice president and the president pro tem, a temporary presiding officer is selected from the ranks of the Senate, usually a junior member of the majority party. The president pro tem has become a largely honorific position which is more symbolic than substantive. Typically the president pro tem does not exercise any real day to day authority. Because the Senate operates under a rule of unlimited debate there is usually no great authority in presiding during normal session. As a result, a junior senator typically presides as acting or temporary president of the Senate. Usually the member of the majority party with the longest continuous term of service in the Senate. Majority Leader The majority leader is the most powerful individual and chief spokesperson of the majority party The majority leader directs the legislative program and party strategy The majority leader is capable of providing favors and benefits to senators in his or her party that might include desirable travel, assistance with raising campaign funds, etc. The majority leader also exercises considerable influence over the committee assignments of senators in his or her party. If the majority leader and the President are of the same party, they tend to work closely together on policy matters important to the administration. If the president is a member of the other party, the majority leader leads the "loyal opposition". The minority leader commands the party's opposition to the policies of the majority party and directs the legislative strategy of the minority party. The minority leader works closely with the president if they are of the same party and seeks to provide opposition to the president's legislative agenda if they are of different parties. Life in the minority is difficult and the minority leader seeks to keep minority members as professionally satisfied as possible given the difficulty that the minority party has in passing legislation. Minority Leader Congressional Committees Standing Select Joint Conference The committee system is a way to provide for specialization, or a division of the legislative labor. Standing Committees
Permanent committees These deal with legislation concerning a particular area. Membership is generally divided between the parties according to the number of members in each chamber. That is, party strength in the chamber is reflected in the membership on each standing committee. Most are also divided into subcommittees, which have limited areas of jurisdiction that deal with specialized areas under the committees larger substantive charge. Special (Select) Committees These may either be permanent or temporary. They are formed to study a specific problem or issue. These committees, unlike standing committees, are seldom useful to the career success of the member. Joint Committees These are formed by the concurrent action of both chambers They consist of members from each chamber They are seldom significant in the overall scheme of the legislative process. DO NOT CONFUSE THESE COMMITTEES WITH CONFERENCE COMMITTEES. Conference Committees These are formed for the purpose of achieving agreement between the House and the Senate on the exact wording of legislative acts when the two chambers pass legislative proposals in different forms. These committees are critical to the legislative process. They are populated by members of both the House and Senate who are on the original standing committees that considered the bill. Their sole purpose is to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the same bill. Most significant legislation goes to a conference committee. Introduction of Legislation and Referral to Committees Reports on a Bill The Rules Committee and Scheduling Floor Debate Vote Conference Committee The president's signature Overriding a veto Pocket veto The Legislative Process Subcommittee markup session Conference report Introduction of Legislation Though bills may be proposed by the executive branch, lobbying groups, or private citizens, only a member of Congress can formally introduce legislation. There is a billdrafting service on Capitol Hill that helps House members and Senators with the actual preparation and formatting of bills. Referral to Committees After introduction, a bill is sent to the appropriate standing committee A committee chairperson will typically send the bill on to a subcommittee. Staff members will do research, public hearings may be held, and a markup session will take place. The bill is then sent to the full committee, where additional hearings and markup sessions may be held. The committee will report the bill back to the full chamber. The Rules Committee and Scheduling Typically, the House Rules Committee will specify the amount of time to be spent on debate and whether amendments can be made by a floor vote. The Senate brings a bill to the floor by "unanimous consent", a motion by which all members present on the floor set aside the formal Senate rules and consider a bill. Floor Debate
Only on rare occasions does a floor debate change anybody's mind. Floor debates do give the full House or Senate the opportunity to consider amendments to the original version of the bill. Some consider activity on the floor something of a "floor show" that allows members to grandstand for the constituents back home. Floor debate is covered in the national media. Vote There are several methods of voting: Voice Standing Recorded The House has electronic voting Conference Committee Report Once conference committee members agree on the final compromise bill, a conference report is submitted to each House. The bill must be accepted or rejected by both houses as it was written by the committee, with no further amendments made. Presidential Action All bills passed by Congress have to be submitted to the president for approval. The president has ten days to decide whether to sign the bill or veto it. If the president does nothing, the bill goes into effect unless Congress has adjourned before the ten-day period expires. In that case, the bill dies in what is called a pocket veto. The Budgeting Process 1st Step: Authorization 2nd Step: Appropriations Creation of the legal basis for government programs Congress passes authorization bills outlining the rules governing the expenditure of funds. Congress determines how many dollars will actually be spent in a given year on a particular set of government activities. Many entitlement programs operate under openended authorizations that, in effect, place no limits on how much can be spent The Budgeting Process, cont. About eighteen months prior to October 1 (the start of the fiscal year), the executive agencies submit their requests to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) The OMB outlines a proposed budget, if the president approves it, the budget is submitted to Congress. The Budget Resolution The first budget resolution is supposed to be passed by Congress in May. It sets overall revenue goals and spending targets. The second budget resolution, which sets "binding" limits on taxes and spending is supposed to be passed in September. Whenever Congress is unable to pass a complete budget by October 1, it passes continuing resolutions, which enable the executive agencies to keep doing whatever they were doing the previous year with the same amount of funding. Investigation and Oversight Investigative Function Senate Confirmations Congress has the authority to investigate the actions of the executive branch, the need for certain legislation, and even the actions of its own members. The Senate confirms the president's nominees for the federal courts and toplevel advisers. Impeachment Power Congress has the power to impeach and remove from office the president, vice president, and other "civil officers", such as federal judges. An impeachment resolution is a bringing of charges that occurs in the House of Representatives. If the House impeaches, a trial is held in the Senate with the Senators sitting as jury and, if the president is being impeached, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides. Since the Constitution is vague on what constitutes an impeachable offense, impeachments can, and have, taken on political and/or partisan hues. ...
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- Winter '08
- Gerrymander, United States Congress, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, Majority leader, President pro tempore of the United States Senate