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Congress I - Congress I PREVIEW I Congress& the...

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Unformatted text preview: Congress I PREVIEW I. Congress & the Constitution . Powers: What can Congress 0’0? . What can’tit do? . Congressional districts . Representation II. Elections . Logic of Elections Districts Gerrymandering Candidates vs. panties Incumbency Delegates vs. trustees CONGRESSIONAL DESIGN THE BASICS: . Congress is bicameral, meaning it has two "chambers" or "houses." . The Senate's seat apportionment is intended to give every state an equal vote in Congress . 100 Members (two fiom each state) . Result of the New Jersey Plan . The House of Representatives' (aka. "the House") seat apportionment is carried out according to population. . 435 members . Result of the Virginia Plan Congress is invested with the "legislative" power. . That is, it is the branch tasked with making laws. . Some sections of the US. Constitution spell out the specific legislative powers of Congress. . Other sections list specific limits on the powers of Congress. POWERS OF CONGRESS Article I, section 7: . All bills for raising revenue ($$$) must originate in the House of Representatives. Why? . The Founders believed that private property, which includes personal wealth, is an essential element of liberty. . Ideally, the House will be composed of representatives who are "nearest" to the people and thus they will be less likely to pass burdensome taxes. . Congress has the power to override a presidential veto with a two- thirds supermajority in each house. Article I, section 8: . Contains the so-called enumerated powers of Congress. . Immigration & naturalization . Maintain a national navy . Print money . Declare war . Create a system of courts . Raise an army . Establish post offices . To call on the state militia . Establish copyright laws . Also contains the necessary and proper clause. LIMITS ON CONGRESS Article I, section 9: . During the Constitutional Convention, some delegates objected to a list of prohibited powers. . James Wilson (Penn.): explicitly prohibiting expost facto laws will "proclaim that we are ignorant of the first principles of Legislation." . Nonetheless, a majority of the delegates favored a list of limitations on the power of Congress. . No bills of attainder . No money shall be taken fiom the . No ex post facto laws treasury except by law . No federal taxes on items . No titles of nobility exported fiom states . Habeas Corpus not to be suspen- . No commercial preference given cled except during exigencies to particular states . Importation of slaves allowed to continue until the year 1808 ELECTORAL POLITICS The textbook identifies tw_o Constitutional provisions that have profoundly affected American politics. . 1) Electing National Representatives . Parliamentary System: Voters 9 Representatives 9 Executive Officer 0 American Republic: Representatives 6 Voters 9 Executive Officer . Following the 17th Amendment, all national representatives became agents of the voting public. . Unlike in a parliamentary system, the US. Congress has no power over who becomes the chief executive (i.e., the president). . 2) Determining Winners & Losers . Parliamentary System: some parliamentary systems employ proportional representation, which awards seats based on party affiliation. . If, e.g., the Green Party in Belgium wins 20% of the vote in an election, then 30 of its 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives are awarded to Green Party candidates. . Districts & the Plurality System: American reps are elected in districts/states; most states require winning candidates to secure a plurality of votes. (GA requires a majority 9 run-off elections) CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS As we saw earlier, both the House and Senate have their seats apportioned uniquely. . SENATE: Two senators are elected to represent each of the 50 states for a total of 100 senators. As of 1913, senators are elected directly by the American public in statewide elections. (Think about the constituency to which they must appeal.) . HOUSE: The US. Constitution sets representation at one representative per 30,000 state residents; if necessary, adjustments are made every Census year. . In 1911, Congress capped the House population at 435 members (Public Law 62-5) . Federal/St No. 55: "...the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude." . House members represent palticular districts in their states, so it is the citizens living within those political boundaries that become their constituents. GERRYMANDERING Because states have a great amount of freedom in designing their own districts, it isn't uncommon for local political parties to redraw the lines to their own advantage. . This political practice is known as gerrymandering, named after the early-19th century governor of Massa- chusetts Elbridge Gerry. Naturally, gerrymandering raised suspicions and several cases reached the US. Supreme Court: . Washer/y v. Sande/s (1964) . Reaffirmed "one person, one vote" rule. . Districts must be divided so that the population of each is roughly equal. . E.g., 2000 Census counts GA pop. At 8,186,781 residents. 8,186,781 + 13 (districts) = approx. 629,000 residents per district. GERRYMANDERING However, the Wesberry case simply stated that district populations had to be equal in number. . The opinion of the Court did not mitigate the effects of gerrymandering along demographic lines (e.g., race, religious affiliation, income level, etc.). . Thornburg v. GYng/es(1986) . The Court ruled that district lines cannot be drawn to "dilute" to the voting power of minority voters. . The number of minority voters and their "political cohesion" as a voting group must be taken into consideration. . However, the states cannot redraw district lines that views race as a "predominant factor." To date, however, the states are relatively free to gerrymander with a view to partisan factors. GERRYMANDERING Congressional District i'2 national-atlasgov“ E Congressional District Rowan Counry o GERRYMANDERING Congressional District 4 '3: ' finationalaflasgov-v EI Congressional District {19 Districts) SENATE REPRESENTATION The Senate's seat apportionment is inherently unequal. . Remember: the Founders intended for the Senate to be a place where the states as political entities could be represented. . Hence, the original structural design that senators were to be elected by state legislatures, n_ot by the people. As a result, consider the senatorial representation of California (pop. = 33 million) versus Wyoming (pop. 490,000). . Until the ratification of the 17th Amendment, senators were kept on a shont leash by their respective state legislatures. This ensured that US. senators remained loyal to their states' interests. . While this remains somewhat the case today, senators tend to view their task in a more national perspective. THE LOGIC OF ELECTIONS From the perspective of the people, elections are meaningful because they expand our political liberties. . We aren't ruled without our consent. . Frequent and recurring elections allow us to modify our government when we believe a new direction is necessary. The Electoral Connection (1974) by political scientist David Mayhew: . ignificant contribution: the idea that politicians—especially legislators—are primarily interested in 1) first being elected and 2) being reelected in subsequent elections. . Major assumption: representatives are interested in being "career politicians." . Thus, politicians will say and do things that they believe will make (a majority of) their constituents happy. WHERE IS THE FOCUS? In general, two theories of voting behavior are discussed in political science: candidate-centered voting versus party- centerecl voting. . Both voting strategies refer to the way in which American voters will determine ho_w they will select their representatives. Candidate-centered voting refers to the concept that American voters are more interested in the personal features and individual opinions of a candidate. Party-centered voting suggests that voters aim to simplify the electoral task by using party labels as shortcut cues. . Words like "Republican," "conservative," "Democrat," and "liberal" are associated with palticular political ideas: e.g., social issues, economics, foreign policy, etc. WHERE IS THE FOCUS? Some political scholars argue that party-centered voting has declined over the past century. How has this conclusion been reached? . More frequent instances of split-ticket voting. Split-ticket voting occurs when a voter chooses members of different political parties to serve in different offices. . This in turn gives rise to divided government. . These divisions are viewed by some as evidence that the power of parties has diminished. . In addition, surveys have shown that in response to the question, "What do you like/dislike about the Republican/Democratic Party?" nearly one-third of those polled say, "Nothing." INCUMBENCY An incumbent is an elected official who currently sits in office. . Incumbency also is considered to be one of the factors contributing to the weakening of party-centered voting. Why? . Name recognition: people are attracted to things that are familiar. . Casework: incumbents, by virtue of being in office, can offer services to their constituents. E.g., helping an elderly constituent retrieve a lost Social Security check, clearing up bureaucratic confusion, etc. . War chests: money saved up by incumbents to defeat challengers during an election season; used for a variety of reasons, including television ads, Website hosting, and paying campaign workers. . Political donors: people contribute money to winners. Senatorial incumbents tend to have a slightly lower reelection rate than House members. . Always keep in mind constituency demographics. . Senators must appeal to entire state populations. . House members are elected by politically drawn districts. PARTIES & NATIONAL POLITICS Despite the increased focus on candidates, parties nevertheless do continue to exert influence in national politics. . For example, there is a tendency for senators and representatives to fare better when the presidential candidate of their party wins the national election. . These congressional copaltisans are said to be riding on the president's coattails—the idea being that the president's popularity extends to his fellow party members, thus getting them reelected. However, bear in mind that a president is up for reelection every m years, while 1/3 of the Senate and all House members are up for reelection every two years. . Historically, members of the president's party lose seats during midterm elections. . And they fare especially poorly when national difficulties are blamed on the sitting president. REPRESENTATION VS. RESPONSIBILITY From the textbook: "Individual responsiveness leads to collective irresponsibility" (p. 263) The Irish statesmen Edmund Burke in his "Speech to the Electors of Bristol" argued two key points concerning political representation: . Delegate Model: Representatives should be closely connected with their constituents to understand their needs and circumstances. . Trustee Model: However, representatives must not sacrifice their reasoned judgment to the whims of their constituents. When representatives act strictly as delegates, we say they are acting in a responsive manner, that is, they are "responding" to their constituents' demands. When representatives act strictly as trustees, they have a great deal of freedom to pursue legislation that they think is best for their constituents. REPRESENTATION VS. RESPONSIBILITY We can link Burke's delegate-trustee theory to our discussion regarding paliy- versus candidate-centered voting. - Candidate-centered voting tends to produce delegates. . Party-centered voting tends to produce trustees. However, consider the hazards of both models: . Representatives acting as delegates: . Are likely to engage in pork barrel spending, i.e., spending that utilizes taxpayer money to fund projects especially for a rep's constituents back home. . As these projects add up, they become subject to criticism during times of economic hardship. . Representatives acting as trustees: . Are somewhat less likely to take into account all their constituents' desires. . Potential for agency loss is greater. Federal/StNo. 71 (Hamilton): . Reps should consider "the deliberate sense of the community" but also be virtuous enough to "serve at the peril of their [constituents'] displeasure." 1O ...
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