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Reapportionment

The process of reallocating seats in the House of Representatives every 10 years on the basis of the results of the census

Gerrymandering

Process of redrawing legislative boundaries for the purpose of benefiting the party or group in power.

Redistricting

The redrawing of congressional and other legislative district lines following the census, to accommodate population shifts and keep districts as equal as possible in population.

Constituents

The residents of a congressional district or state whom a Congress member represents.

Franking

A policy that enables members of Congress
(incumbents) to send material through the mail by substituting their facsimile signature (frank) for postage for free.

Pork Barrel

Federal projects, grants, and contracts available to state and local governments, businesses, colleges, and other institutions in a congressional district

Decentralization

The spread of power away from the center to local branches or governments.

Committee system

System for considering bills in the House & Senate in which before a bill goes to smaller groups (committees) first for debate and consideration; the committee will then recommend or not recommend the bill for approval and send it to the floor for a vote.

Markup session

A meeting held by congressional Committee or subcommittee to approve, amend, or redraft a bill.

Senioirty system

A simple rule for picking committee chairs, in effect until the 1970s. The number who had served on the committee the longest and whose party controlled the chamber became chair, regardless of party loyalty, mental state, or competence

Party leadership

Members of the house and senate who are chosen by the Democratic or Republican caucus in each chamber to represent the party's interest in that chamber and who gives some central direction to the chambers work

Types of Committees

Standing committees
Select committees
Joint committees
Conference committees

Filibuster

A strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation use their right to unlimited debate to prevent the Senate from ever voting on a bill; 60 members present and voting can halt a filibuster

Cloture

Procedure for terminating debate, especially filibusters, in the Senate.

Oversight

The process of reviewing the operations of an agency to determine whether it is carrying out policies as Congress intended.

Appropriations committee

Responsible for approving expenditures made from the Federal Treasury. The Committee also writes annual appropriations bills that allow federal funds to be dispersed through a variety of government organizations, agencies and departments.

Baker v. Carr

(Earl Warren, 6-2, 1962) Charles W. Baker, a Tennessee citizen, sued the Tennessee secretary state, Joe Carr, claiming that the state's electoral districts had been drawn to grossly favor one political party. The defendant argued that reapportionment issues were political, not judicial, matters, but the court disagreed and declared the issue justiciable before remanding the case to a lower court. Two years later, in Reynolds v. Sims, the court mandated the principle of "one man, one vote."

Reynolds v. Sims

14th Amendment requires state legislative districts reflect fair "one person, one vote" rule.

Weberry v. Sanders

(1964) was a case involving congressional districts in the state of Georgia, brought before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court issued a ruling on February 17, 1964 that districts have to be approximately equal in population.

Incumbency

Those already holding office. In congressional elections, incumbents usually win.

Amendment

A statement that is added to or revises or improves a proposal or document (a bill or constitution etc.)

PACs

Political funding vehicles created by the 1974 campaign finance reforms. A corporation, union, or some other interest group can create a political action committee and register it with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which will meticulously monitor its expenditures.

House Ways and Means Committees

The House of Representatives committee that, along with the Senate Finance Committee, writes the tax codes, subject to the approval of Congress as a whole.

Fiscal policy

Use of the federal budget - taxes, spending, and borrowing - to influence the economy; along with monetary policy, a main tool by which the government can attempt to steer the economy. Fiscal policy is almost entirely done by Congress and the president.

Bill

A proposed law, drafted in legal language. Anyone can draft a bill, but only a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate can formally submit a bill for consideration.

Bill of attainder

Legislative act that imposes punishment without a trial.

Calendar

Schedule that lists the order in which bills will be considered in Congress.

Caucus (congressional)

A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. Most are composed of members from both parties and from both houses.

Census

An "actual enumeration" of the population, which the Constitution requires that the government conduct every 10 years. The census is a valuable tool for understanding demographic changes.

Christmas tree bill

A bill that has many riders to increase its chances of being passed.

Conference committee

Congressional committees formed when the Senate and the House pass a particular bill in different forms. Party leadership appoints members from each house to iron out the differences and bring back a single bill.

Contract with America (1994)

Multi-point program offered by Republican candidates and sitting politicians in the 1994 mid-term election. The platform proposed smaller government, Congressional ethics reform, term limits, great emphasis on personal responsibility, and a general repudiation of the Democratic party. This articulation of dissent was a significant blow to the Clinton Administration and led to the Republican party's takeover of both houses of Congress for the first time in half a century.

Election

A process in which political representatives are chosen by ballot.

Ex post facto law

Latin term meaning "after the fact"; the law makes criminal an act that was legal when it was committed, or increases the penalty for a crime after it have been commited.

Expressed power

Those delegated powers of the National Government that are given to it in so many words by the constitution; also sometimes called the "enumerated powers." Powers expressedly spell out in constitution.
Ex: raise and maintain an army

Gibbons v. Ogden

A landmark case decided in 1824 in which the Supreme Court interpreted very broadly the clause in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, encompassing virtually every form of commercial activity.

Impeachment

The political equivalent of indictment in criminal law, prescribed by the Constitution. The House of Representatives may impeach the president by a majority vote for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Implied power

Powers of the federal government that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution, in accordance with the statement in the Constitution that Congress has the power to "make all laws that are necessary and proper for carrying into execution" the powers enumerated in Article I.

Incumbent advantage

The tendency of an officeholder to be re-elected even when the opponent's views on the issues are closer to the electorate's. The reasons for incumbent advantage include:
 Name Recognition.
 PAC Money.
 Advertising. (Postal Franking)
 Service to Constituents.
 Voting Record

Interstate Commerce Clause

Constitutional provision that gives Congress power to regulate commerce "among the states.", The constitutional clause that gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce. This clause has been broadly interpreted to give Congress a number of implied powers.

Interest Groups

An organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals. Interest groups pursue their goals in many arenas.

Iron Triangle

The three-way alliance among congressional comittees, federal agencies, and interest groups to make or preserve policies that benefit their respective interests.

Joint committee

Congressional committees on a few subject-matter areas with membership drawn from both houses

Legislative veto

A vote in Congress to override a presidential decision. Although the War Powers Resolution asserts this authority, there is reason to believe

Line-item veto

The power possessed by 42 governors to veto only certain parts of a bill while allowing the rest of it to pass into law.

Clinton v. New York

Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the line-item veto as granted in the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 was unconstitutional because it impermissibly gave the President the power to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of bills that had been appropriately passed by the United States Congress.

Majority leader

The principal partisan ally of the Speaker of the House or the party's manager in the Senate. The majority leader is responsible for scheduling bills, influencing committee assignments, and rounding up votes in behalf of the party's legislative positions.

McCullough v. Maryland

An 1819 Supreme Court decision that established the supremacy of the national government over state governments. The Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, held that Congress had certain implied powers in addition to the enumerated powers found in the Constitution.

Minority leader

The principal leader of the minority party in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

Necessary and proper / Elastic Clause

The final paragraph of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to pass all laws "necessary an proper" to carry out th enumerated powers.

Oversight powers

Refers to the abilities of the United States Congress to govern and direct the actions of the Executive Branch and other Federal agencies.

Pocket veto

A type of veto occurring when Congress adjourns within 10 days of submitting a bill to the president and the president simply lets the bill die by neither signing nor vetoing it.

President pro-tempore

Constitutionally recognized officer in the Senate who presides over the chamber in the absence of the normal presiding officer.

Quorum

The minimum number of members who must be present to permit a legislative body to take official action.

Ratification

The process of giving formal approval of an action by an agency or government.

Reno v. Shaw

Case argued on April 20, 1993. The ruling was significant in the area of redistricting and racial gerrymandering. Race cannot be the primary factor in drawing district boundaries.

House Rules Committee

The committee in the House of Representatives that reviews most bills coming from a House committee before they go to the full House.

Speaker of the House

An office mandated by the Constitution. The Speaker is chosen in practice by the majority party, has both formal and informal powers, and is second in line to succeed to the presidency should that office become vacant.

Standing committee

Separate subject-matter committees in each house of Congress that handle bills in different policy areas.

Subcommittee

A group within a standing committee that specializes in a subcategory of its standing committee's responsibility.

Veto

The constitutional power of the president to send a bill back to Congress with reasons for rejecting it. A two-thirds vote in each house can override a veto.

War Powers Act

Passed in 1973, is a resolution of the Congress of that stated that the President can send armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or if the United States of America is already under attack or serious threat. The War Powers Act requires that the president notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days without an authorization of force or a declaration of war.

Whip

Party leaders who work with the majority leader ot minority leader to count votes beforehand and lean on waverers whose votes are crucial to a bill favored by the party.

Writ of habeus corpus

A court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.

22nd Amendment

Passed in 1951, this amendment limits presidents to two terms of office.

Watergate

The events and scandal surrounding a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 and the subsequent cover-up of White House involvement, leading to the eventual resignation of President Nixon under the threat of impeachment.

25th Amendment

Passed in 1951, this amendment permits the vice president to become acting president if both the vice president and the president's cabinet determine that the president is disabled, and it outlines how a recuperated president can reclaim the job.

Cabinet

A group of presidential advisors not mentioned in the Constitution, although every president has had one. Today the cabinet is composed of 14 secretaries, the attorney general, and others designated by the president.

National Security Council

The committee that links the president's foreign and military policy advisers. Its formal members are the president, vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense, and it is managed by the president's national security assistant.

Council of Economic Advisors

A three-member body appointed by the president to advise the president on economic policy.

Office of Management and Budget

An office that prepares the president's budget and also advises the president on proposals from departments and agencies and helps review their proposed regulations.

Presidential coattails

These occur when voters cast their ballots for congressional candidates of the president's party because they support the president. Recent studies show that few races are won this way.

Budget

A policy document allocating burdens (taxes) and benefits (expenditures).

Deficit

An excess of federal expenditures over federal revenues.

Expenditures

Government spending. Major areas of federal spending are social services and national defense.

Revenues

The financial resources of the federal government. The individual income tax and Social Security tax are two major sources of the federal government's revenue.

Income Tax

Shares of individual wages and corporate revenues collected by the government. The Sixteenth Amendment explicitly authorized Congress to levy a tax on income.

16th Amendment

The constitutional amendment adopted in 1913 that explicitly permitted Congress to levy an income tax.

Federal debt

All the money borrowed by the federal government over the years and still outsanding. Today the federal debt is about $15 tirllion.

Social Security Act

Created both the Social Security program and a national assistance program for poor families.

Medicare

A program added to the Social Security system in 1965 that provides hospitalization insurance for the elderly and permits older Americans to purchase inexpensive coverage for doctor fees and other health expenses.

Incrementalism

A description of the budget process where the best predictor of this year's budget is last year's budget, plus a little bit more (an increment). According to Aaron Wildavsk, "Most of the budget is a product of previous decisions."

Entitlements

Policies for which Congress has obligated itself to pay X level of benefits to Y number of recipients. Social security benefits are an example.

Congressional Budget Office

Advises Congress on the probable consequences of its decisions, forecasts revenues, and is a counterweight to the president's Office of Management and Budget.

Bureaucracy

According to Max Weber, a hierarchical authority structure that uses task specialization, operates on the merit principle, and behaves with impersonality.

Patronage

One of the key inducements used by party machines. A patronage job, promotion, or contract is one that is given for political reasons rather than for merit or competence alone.

Civil service

A system of hiring and promotion based on the merit principle and the desire to create a nonpartisan government service.

Merit principle

The idea that hiring should be based on entrance exams and promotion ratings to produce administration by people with talent and skill.

Hatch Act

A federal law prohibiting government employees from active participation in partisan politics while on duty or for employees in sensitive positions at any time.

Independent regulatory commission

A government agency with responsibility for making and enforcing rules to protect the public interest in some sector of the economy and for judging disputes over these rules.

Government corporations

A government organization that, like business corporations, provides a service that could be delivered by the private sector and typically charges for its services. The U.S. Postal Service is an example.

Policy implementation

The stage of policymaking between the establishment of a policy and the consequences of the policy for the people affected. Implementation involves translating the goals and objectives of a policy into an operating, ongoing program.

Administrative discretion

The authority of administrative actors to select among various responses to a given problem. Discretion is greatest when routines, or standard operating procedures, do not fit a case.

Street-level bureaucrats

A phrase coined by Michael Lipsky, referring to those bureaucrats who are in constant contact with the public and have considerable administrative discretion.

Regulation

The use of governmental authority to control or change some practice in the private sector.

Command-and-control policy

The typical system of regulation whereby government tells business how to reach certain goals, checks that these commands are followed, and punishes offenders.

Executive Orders

Regulations originating from the executive branch. Executive orders are one method presidents can use to control the bureaucracy.

Deregulation

The lifting of government restrictions on business, industry, and professional activities.

Specialization

The concentration of the efforts and knowledge of individuals on a limited number of activities - results in Congress because of committee system.

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