lecture10.doc - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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LECTURE NOTES UCLA Department of Political Science Winter 2010 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz Hunk 10 Congress: Organization So far , we have talked about:: Political Theory Constitution -History -Strategies (how particular features of the Constitution were adopted) -Content Judicial Branch -Structure and powers -Cases that shaped the Constitution, especially those involving the branches of government, commerce, federal-state relations, civil rights, and political representation Analytical reasoning (important for second essay assignment) The rest of the course will address the other branches of government, not only the legislative and executive but the popular branch , comprising you the voters and your division into political parties and other groups. Today we begin with the legislative branch . Congressional Powers Congress is divided, of course, into the House of Representatives and the Senate. Here are their chief features, those labeled “C” attributable to the Constitution: 1
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The Senate’s longer, staggered terms shield its members from small changes in public opinion. The Senate was meant to slow down the more popularly responsive House. The Constitution is silent about how U.S. Representatives, a.k.a. Congressmen, are elected; it says nothing about congressional districts . That’s decided by state law. In some states representatives were once elected statewide, not by districts. The House alone can initiate revenue bills , but this is not important because the Senate gets involved later and may change them. The Senate confirms Presidential, executive, armed services, and judicial appointments, but not advisory (White House) appointments. The Vice President is the only officer whose confirmation (when the President appoints a new one to fill a vacancy) requires the consent of the House as well. In the impeachment process, the House is the accusing body (like a grand jury); the Senate, the trying body (like a petit jury). 2
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In the Senate, the constitutionally designated presiding officer, or President of the Senate, is the VP of the US; however, this is largely symbolic. The real leadership authority lies with the Majority and Minority Leaders (the leaders of the majority and minority parties in the Senate). If the Vice Presidency is vacant the President pro-tem, elected by his chamber and by custom the most senior majority–party Senator, becomes President of the Senate. Normally some unlucky rookie actually presides--and gets to be addressed as Mr. or Madame President. The VP may vote in the Senate only to break ties. In the House the constitutionally designated presiding officer, the
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lecture10.doc - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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