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incumbents

those already holding office; usually win elections

casework

activities of members of congress that help constituents as individuals

pork barrel

list of federal projects, grants, and contracts available to cities, businesses, colleges, and institutions available in a congressional district

bicameral legislature

a legislature divided into two hours

house rules committee

an institution unique to the House of Representatives that reviews all bills (except revenue, budget, and appropriations bills) coming from a House committee before they go to the full house

filibuster

a strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation try to talk it to death

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 suceed the presidency should that office become vacant

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

whips

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

minority leader

the principal leader of the minority party in the House of Representatives or in the SEnate

standing committees

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

joint committees

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

conference committees

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

select committees

congressional committees appointed for a specific purpose, such as the Watergate investigation

legislative oversight

congress' monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy, performed mainly through hearings

committee chairs

the most important influencers of the congressional agenda; they play dominant roles in scheduling hearings, hiring staff, appointing subcommittees, and managing committee bills when they are brought before the full house

seniority system

a simple rule for picking committee chairs, in effect until the 1970's

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

bill

a proposed law, drafted in precise, 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

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