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19 terms

Government in America: Chapter 12 (Congress) Key Terms

Chapter 12 Key Terms for the 12th edition of Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy by George C. Edwards III, Martin P. Wattenberg, and Robert L. Lineberry.
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incumbents
Those already holding office. In congressional elections, they usually win.
casework
Activities of members of Congres that help constituents as individuals; cutting through bureaucratic red tape to get people what they think they have a right to get.
pork barrel
The mighty 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 houses. The U.S. Congress and every American state legislature except Nebraska's are this.
House Rules Committee
An institution unique to the House of Representative 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, based on the tradition of unlimited debate. Today, 60 members present and voting can halt this.
Speaker of the House
An office mandated by the Constitution. This person is chosen in practice by the majority party, has both formal and informal powers, and is second in line to succeed 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 1970s. The member who had served the committee the longest and whose party controlled Congress became chair, regardless of the party loyalty, mental state, or competence.
caucus (congressional)
A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. Most are composed of members from both parties and form both houses.
bill
A proposed law, drafted in precise, legal language. Anyone can draft one of this, but only a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate can formally submit it for consideration.