on the Hill
A phrase referring to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. where Congress meets.
A type of direct primary open to voters regardless of their party affiliation. Voters need not publicly declare their party affiliation, but they may only vote for candidates of one party.
An oval shaped room in the White House that serves as the office of the President.
The power of a government official or leader to make appointments and offer favors.
An agency of the U.S. government that sends American volunteers to developing nations to help them improve living standards and provide training.
An immense five-sided building in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. that serves as headquarters of the Department of Defense.
What building in Virginia was damaged during 9/11 when a plane was flown into it by Al Qaeda terrorists.
A political party's or a candidate's written statement of principle and plans. It is usually developed by a committee at the party convention during a presidential campaign.
An agreement that permits a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge instead of pleading guilty to a more serious one. It is usually undertaken by a prosecutor to obtain important information from a defendant or to avoid a long and costly trial.
Pledge of Allegiance
The American patriotic vow.
In what year was "under God" added to the pledge of allegiance?
An automatic veto of a bill that occurs if the president or governor neither signs nor vetoes a piece of legislation within 10 days of receiving it -- as long as the legislature adjourns during that period.
Political Action Committee (PAC)
Committees formed by interest groups to funnel donations to political candidates who are likely to support their positions on various issues. They are allowed to make much larger donations than individuals are allowed to, and they are not allowed to attack or support candidates directly.
The official term is "independent expenditure only committee." These are similar to PACs but with less restrictions; they can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for directly supporting or attacking a political candidate.
A tax required as a qualification for voting. After the 15 Amendment, many southern states instituted them to prevent blacks from voting. In 1964, the 24th Amendment prohibited them for federal elections.
The belief that greater popular participation in government and business is necessary to protect individuals from exploitation.
Appropriations made by a legislature for projects that are not essential, but are sought because they pump money and resources into the local districts of the legislators.
The head of the U.S. Postal Service. Until 1970, he was a member of the president's cabinet. In 1970, the Postal Service was set up as an independent agency.
A term used by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills to describe a relatively small, loosely knit group of people who tend to dominate American policy making.
power of the purse
The influence that legislators have over public policy because of their power to vote money for public purposes.
A previous ruling by a court that influences later decisions in cases with similar issues.
An organized group that tries to influence the government to adopt certain policies or measures (also called an interest group or lobby).
These are state by state elections of delegates to nominating conventions who choose a major party's presidential candidate.
right to privacy
The doctrine, advanced by the Supreme Court, most notably in Roe vs. Wade that the Constitution guarantees protection against activities that invade a citizen's privacy.
Roe vs. Wade
The 1973 supreme court case that found that a constitutional right to privacy applied to reproductive issues, striking down all state laws that prohibited abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy.
A court that has jurisdiction over wills, estates, and guardianship of children.
An electoral system in which seats in a legislature are awarded to each party on the basis of its share of the popular vote. The U.S. does not use this system.
An attorney appointed and paid by the court to represent people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Public facilities and improvements financed by the government for the public good. (hospitals, bridges, highways, and dams, for example)
The minimum number of members of a committee or legislative body who must be present before business can be conducted.
How many legislators make a quorum in the U.S. House of Representatives?
How many legislators must be present to make a quorum in the U.S. Senate?
The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually or culturally) to others.
A legislator on a committee who belongs to the majority party, and, by virtue of seniority, ranks first after the committee chairman.
The approval from the legislative branch required to validate government agreements.
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution require ratification by these bodies.
International treaties are negotiated by the president, but require ratification by what body?
A direct popular vote on an issue of public policy, such as a proposed amendment to a state constitution or a proposed law.
Popularly elected officials who serve in state legislatures and in the lower house of congress.
A member of the Republican Party.
A provision, usually controversial and unlikely to pass on its own merits, that is attached to a popular bill int he hopes that it will "ride" to passage on the back of the popular bill.
A descriptive term for an individual or political faction that advocates very conservative policies. In the U.S. they generally argue for a strong national defense program and oppose social welfare programs.
Robert's Rules of Order
This is a handbook for running meetings effectively and efficiently, written in 1876 by Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert.
The belief that all individuals can succeed on their own and that the government help for people should be minimal. The phrase is often associated with policies of the Republican Party and was widely used by President Herbert Hoover.
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
A test that supposedly measures the aptitude of high schoolers for college. Originally devised in 1926, it was not widely employed by colleges to select students until the 1950s and 60s.