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Study Guide Key Terms and Questions

House of Representatives

One of the two parts of Congress, considered the "lower house." Representatives are elected directly by the people, with the number of representatives for each state determined by the state's population.


One of the two parts of Congress, considered the "upper house." Senator are elected by the people and there are 2 from each state.

Speaker of the House

the person that oversees the house of reps who are a member of the house LEADER OF THE HOUSE

bicameral legislature

a two-chamber legislature


a period of time during which a legislature meets to conduct business


a population count

Census Bureau

takes a census every 10 years


the process of reassigning representation based on population, after every census


to set up new district lines after reapportionment is complete

Elbridge Gerry

Governor of Massachusetts in late 1790's


to draw a district's boundaries to gain an advantage ion elections

Twenty-Seventh Amendment

-prohibits a sitting Congress from giving itself a pay raise
-any new congressional salary increase will take effect after an intervening election

franking privileges

in addition to salaries Congress enjoys a number of benefits


as a whole; for example, statewide

Political Action Committees

(PAC) an organization formed to collect money and provide financial support for political candidates


a vote of formal disapproval of a member's actions


elected official that is already in office


a person whom a member of Congress has been elected to represent


a private meeting of party leaders to chose candidates for office

majority leader

the SPeaker's top assistant whose job is to help plan the majority party's legislative program and to steer important bills through the House


an assistant to the party floor leader in the legislature


a proposed law


a schedule that lists the order in which bills will be considered in Congress

House Rules Committee



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

president pro tempore

the Senate member, elected by the Senate, who stands in as president of the Senate in the absence of the vice president


a method of defeating a bill in which a senator talks until a majority either abandons the bill or agrees to modify it


a procedure that allows each senator to speak only 1 hour on a bill under debate

The calendar of General Orders


The executive Calendar


standing committee

a permanent committee in Congress that oversees bills that deal with certain kinds of issues


a group within a standing committee that specializes in a SUBCATEGORY of its standing committee's responsibility

select committee

a temporary committee formed to study one specific issues and report its findings to the Senate or the House

joint committee

a committee of the House and the Senate that usually acts as a study group and reports its findings back to the House and the Senate

conference committee

a temporary joint committee set up when the House and the Senate have passed different versions of the same bill

seniority system

a system that gives the member of the majority party with the longest uninterrupted service on a particular committee the leadership of that committee

personal staff

the people who work directly for individual senators and representatives

administrative assistant

member of a lawmaker's personal staff who runs the lawmaker's office, supervises the schedule, and gives advice

legislative assistant

a member of a lawmaker's personal staff that makes certain that the lawmaker is well informed about proposed legislation


a member of lawmaker's personal staff who handles requests for help from constituents

How many members of Congress are there?


How many members in the House of Representatives?


How many members in the Senate?


Who is the leader of the House of Representatives?

speaker of the house

Who is the president of the Senate?

Vice President

How long is the term of a representative?

2 years

How long is the term of a Senator?

6 years

When does each term of congress start?

January 3rd

How long is a term of Congress?

2 years

How many sessions are there in each term?

2 sessions

How long does a session of congress last?

each session lasts one year and includes breaks for holidays and vacations

What are the qualifications to become a Representative?

25 years old
citizen for 7 years
legal resident of the state that elects them

What are the qualifications to become a Senator?

30 years old
citizen for 9 years
legal resident of the state they represent

What are the Characteristics of members of congress?

*nearly half are lawyers
*large number are from business, banking, and education
*typically white, middle-aged males

Why do congressional office holders rarely lose reelection?

1. easier to raise campaign funds cause they have worked with so many while representing their district
2. district gerrymandered in their party's favor
3. well-known to their voters
4. use their position to help solve voters' problems

What is the main task of congress?

to make laws

How often do the House and Senate print their rules?

every 2 years

What are the Vice President's responsibilities in the Senate?

*recognize members and put questions to a vote
*votes only if there is a tie
*can try to influence by personal contact

What are the limitations on the Vice President's participation in the Senate?

can not take part in Senate debates

How important are politics and political parties in congress?

house is organized around political parties

What is the role of a committee chairperson?

6 year term and ...

How is the committee chairperson chosen?


What are support agencies and what do they do?


secret ballot

type of ballot that has made changes to the seniority system

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