Like this study set? Create a free account to save it.

Sign up for an account

Already have a Quizlet account? .

Create an account


Leadership of the Senate

The leader of the senate is the US vice president, but his only real power is to break tie votes, Majority leader most powerful senator, Committee chairperson (always members of majority party) hold much power

VP's Role in the Senate

The Role of the US VP is the presding member of the Senate (President of the Senate). He can't debate or vote, unless it is a tie.

Leadership of the House

The leader of the house is the speaker of the house is the leader. He is elected by the house and is the most powerful. Committee chairpersons hold much power.

Speaker of the House

Presiding officer and most powerful member of House of Representatives. Elected by the members of the house voting along party lines. Thus, speaker is actually chosen by majority party.

Role of the Speaker of the House

Roles include controlling floor debates, assigns bills to committees, appoints committee chairpersons, makes committee assignments for congressmen/women in majority party.

Floor Leaders

Each house has a majority leader and a minority leader, referred to as floor leaders. Elected by members of majority and minority parties in each house.

Majority Leader

In Senate, the majority leader is the most powerful member and makes committee assignments for his/her party. In House, the majority party is led by the Speaker of the House, with the majority leader second in command.

Minority Leader

In both houses, minority leader performs the same role leading the minority party. Minority leader makes committee assignments for members of his party.

President Pro Tempore of the Senate

Primarily a ceremonial position, becomes presiding officer of Senate if there is no VP. Reserved for the most senior member of the majority party (the one who has been in the Senate the longest)

Committee System in Congress

The Committees use a system to hold much of the power in the legislative process in Congress. Legislation generaly must be approved by committee before the full Senate or House can consider it. Most of the work of congress is done in committees and their subcommittees.

Pros and Cons of Committee System

Advantage: Permits specialization, allowing legislation to be written by the members with greatest expertise. Disadvantage: Relatively small group of people control legislation in particular subject area.

Standing Committee

Permanent Committees that deal with specific subject areas such as agriculture, energy, veterans affairs, etc. It holds important power in legislative process.


Standing Committees that divide into smaller subcommittees. They often do most work on proposed legislation. Their chairs are appointed by the committee chair and are always members of the majority party.

Select Committee

Temporary committee appointed for a select purpose. Most formed to investigate a particular issue, incident, or scandal. They do not continue from one session of Congress to another.

Joint Committee

A Committee consisting of members of both the senate and the house. may be formed to investigate a particular issue or scandal or simply to administer to a relatively mundane matter such as the Library of Congress.

Conference Committee

Temporary committee of members from both houses created to resolve differences in versions of a bill. Compromise to produce a version of the bill that both the senate and house usually vote to accept.


Congressional working groups that are not official committees. most powerful one are party caucuses. Other caucuses consist of members who share a common goal or identity.

Committee Assignments

Members of congress seek committee assingments that will benefit their constituents or that reflect their own interest and expertise. Political party membersship on each committee reflects the party membership of each house.

Power of Committee Chairs

Chairs of standing committees in both houses of Congress have great power in the legislative area of their committee. Can determine what bills the committee will consider. Seldom does a bill make it through a committee without the support of chair.

Seniroity System in congress

Member of the majority party who has served on the committee the longest becomes committee chair. Traditional system, but exceptions are sometimes now made by bypassing most senior member in favor of another long-standing member of the commitee.

Pros and Cons of Seniority System

Advantages: Predictability, stability, and lack of internal party battels between prospective chairs. Disadvantages: Most senior member not always the most competent leader, spokesperson, or decision maker.

Legislative Powers of Congress

Passing Legislation: Congress can write new laws or amend old ones. Passing the government's annual budget: Congress decides how much money each federal agency can spend and what it can spend it for.


Proposed laws, Bills can be introduced by a senator or congreesman/woman, spending and taxation bills must organize in the house.

How a Bill becomes a Law

To become law, a bill needs majority support at many levels: Subcommittee, Committee, and Full house and Senate. There are many points at which it can be blocked, often by a minority. only a small percentage of bills introduced actually become laws.

Committee Action on Bills

After a bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee for consideration or action. If a committee decides to consider a bill, it holds hearings and rewrites it. If a majority of the committee approve the bill, it then goes to full House or Senate for consideration.

Action by Full House/Senate on Bills

A bill reported by a committee is usually put on the calendar for consideration by full House or Senate, for action, where it can amended and then rejected or passed. If the bill passes, it goes to the other house of Congress, where it is referred to committee and goes through same process.

Reconciliation of House and Senate Bills

Senate and house must pass exact same bill for it to become law. Conference Committee, consisting of members of both houses, is appointed when Senate and House pass simmilar bills. Reconciliation is produced.

Presidential Action on Bills

If both Senate and house pass the exact same bill, it goes to the president for action. president can sign the bill or veto it; if signed, it becomes law. If the president vetoes the bill, it can still become law if 2/3 majority in both houses votes to override veto.

Rules Committee

powerful committee in the house of representatives through which all bills must pass. Determines if a bill is brought to the full House and the rules under which the debate and vote will take place. Senate has no comparable committee.


An atempt to keep debate open in order to stall a vote on a bill. 2/5 of senators must support cloture to end debate and allow voting. Allows senate minority to block a bill. No such practice exsist in the House of Representatives (cloture part).


produced to cut off debate and vote on a bill.


Amendment to a bill that has no connection to subject matter of the bill. Attaching riders to popular bills is a tactic used to get legilation passed that would not otherwise become law.


Rewrite a bill after hearings have been held on it.

Power of the Purse

Power of legislative branch to control spending by executive branch. Congress must annually pass federal budget determining how much money each federal agency can spend and what it can spend it for. one of the key powers of congress.

Passing the Federal Budget

To pass the federal budget, the president submits budget to Congress. congress reviews and modifies the budget as it sees fit. Budget becomes law after both houses of congress have passed it and the president has signed it.

Carrying out the budget

To carry out the budget, the President must spend money allocated in budget; does not have the option to transfer or not spend appropriated

Congressional Budgetary Process

The Congressional Budgetory Process is a Two-part process involving passage of both authorization and appropriations bills. Authorization legislation: authorizes federal programs. Appropriations legislations: allocates money to authorized programs.

Authorization process

Legisaltive process that produces laws authorizing expenditure of money for specific programs. Authorization process dominated by house and senate standing commmittees in different policy areas.

Appropriations Process

Legislative process that allocates money to run the government and carry out public policy. Appropriations can only be made after programs have been authorized in seperate legislation.

Appropriations Committee

Both Senate and house have an Appropriations committee that writes the bills that apprpriate money to federal agencies and programs. Generally they are considered the most powerful committees of congress.

Continuing Resolution

Used to continue funding the government when an appropriations bill has been stalled by gridlock in congress or a presidential veto. If congress does not pass a continuing resolution, agenicies without appropriations must shut down.

Pork Barrel Legislation

Legislation that provides funding for projects in a senator's or representative's home district or state. Members of Congress often brag about the amount of funding for projects they have produced for their constituents.


Supporting another member's legislation in return for his/her support of your legislation. Tactic often used to obtain pork barrel projects for one's own district.


In a bill or law, money designated for a specific project in a specific place. Restricts spending rather than allowing funds to be spent where most needed or most effective. Used by members of Congress to bring government money to home districts.

Nonlegislative Powers of Congress

Nonlegislative Powers: Investigative, Executive, Constitutional amendment, and Impeachment powers.

Investigative Powers of Congress

Congressional committees can investigate activities of executive branch. Investigative can expose illegal or questionable activities to the public. Investigations provide check on the power of executive branch.

Executive Powers of Congress

Senate must approve all treaties the executive branch negotiates by a 2/3 majority. Senate must approve appointments of ambassadors, judges, and key government officials by a majority vote.

Constitutional Amendment Powers

Amendments to the constitution can be initiated by Congress if passed by 2/3 majority in both houses. To be ratified, an amendment then needs approval by 3/4 of state legislatures.

Impeachment Powers of Congress

Congress can impeach and then, if found guilty, remove from office the president, federal judges, or federal officials. Members of Congress cannot be impeached but can be expelled by a 2/3 majority vote of their house.

Impeachment Process in Congress

The process to impeach: House of Representatives, by majority vote, has the power to impeach a president, federal judge, or federal oficial. Senate tries the impeached official with a 2/3 majority vote required to remove the official from office.

Privilages of Members of Congress

Congressmen/women have several privilages like; Franking: allows postage-free mailing to constituents. Immunity from libel or slander suits for speeches or debate in congres. Immunity from arrest while conducting congressional business.

Support Services for Members of Congress

Government Accountability Office: Oversight of government spending. Library of Congress: Research services and studies. Congressional Staffs: Perform most of the actual work relating to legislation, constituent casework, etc.

Legislative Veto

Nullification of an executive branch action by a vote of one or both houses of congress. The Legislative Veto Declared unconstituional in 1983.

Cheif Criticism of Congress

Too parochial: spend too much time on own district, not country. Too shoirt-sighted: Members look no farther ahead than next election. Too beholden to special interest for money and information. Too slow, with legislation often stalled.

Congressional Checks on Executive Branch

Congress can impeach presidents. Senate must approve treaties negotiated by president by 2/3 majority. Senate must approve appointments of key officials by majority vote. Congress can override presidential veto with 2/3 majority in both houses.

Legislative Checks on Judicial Branch

Congress passes laws structuring federal court system. Senate approves appoinment of federal judges. Congress can negate Supreme Court decisions by rewriting federal laws or proposing constitutional amendments.

Article 2, US Constitution

Creates the executive branch, headed by a president. He is the single most powerful member of US government. Article 2 of the US Constitution defines the powers and duties of the president.

Qualifications for President

Constitution states the president must be 35 years old. Must be a natural-born citizen. Must have been a resident of the US for 14 years prior to election.

Traditional Background of President

White, Male, Married, Northern European Ancestry. Only two presdients that go against at least one of these was Obama and Buchanan

Term of President

4-year terms: linmited to two terms by 22 Amendment because of Franklin Roosevelt who served 4 terms.

22 Amedment

Passed in 1951 which limits president to two terms in office. Reaction to Franklin Roosevelt who was elected to his fourth term in 1944.

Selection of Electoral College

The Electoral College had its electors originally selected by state legislature but today, tey are selected by popular vote for president in the state. Most states have winner-take-all system: Electors of a state vote as a block for the winning candidate in their state

No winner in Electoral College

If no candidate has majority, president is chosen by House from top three candidates. In selecting president in the house, each state gets one vote. This has only happened twice (1800 and 1824)

Pros and Cons of Electoral College

Avoids prospect of a national recount of poular vote which could take months and produce no conclusive winner. But in some cases, winner may not be the person who won the most votes in the popular election.

Proposal to Reform Electoral College

Propsal: Drop winner-take-all rule and choose electors by winner in each congressional district. More likely that winner of popular vote would be president and that candiates would campaign in all the states. Large states would loss some clout.

Powers of President

Include Executive, Legislative, Diplomatic, Military,and Judicial powers. Presidential Power limited by checks and balances of judicial and legislative branches.

Executive Agreement

Agreement with another head of state not requiring approval from the Senate.

Executive Order

The president oders an agency to carry out policies or exsisting laws.

Line Item Veto

The president can reject a part of a bill while approving the rest; declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Executive Powers of the President

Enforces federal laws, treaties, andcourt decisions. Appoints high-ranking officials of US government. Issues executive orders and oversees writing of federal regulations to carry out laws.

Legislative Powers of the President

Signs or vetoes bills, Propose legislation to congress, Uses influence and pressure to get proposed legislation passed, drafts annual budget for US government for approval by Congress.

Diplomatic powers of the President

Creates foreign policy, appoints ambassadors, negotiates treaties, communicates with foreign governments.

Military Power of the President

Commander-in-chief of armed forces, can conduct military operations, can call out national guard or the military to preserve domestic order.

Judicial Powers of the president

Appoints judges of federal courts, grants pardons, reprieves, and amnesty, and enforces court decisions.

Informal Powers of the President

Bully Pulpit: Ability to speak out and be heard due to widespread media coverage. President is recognized leader of his/her political party.

Presidential Veto

President has power to veto bills passed by Congress. A vetoed bill can only become law if a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress approve.


Refusal of president to spend money appropriated by Congress. Since 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, the president must spend all money appropriated by Congress

Recess Appointments

President can fill key positions without Senate approval if Senate is not in session. Sometimes used to bypass Senate disapproval of a presidental nominee. These appoinments expire at end of the next term of Congress.

War Powers Act

President must obtain a resolution from Congress before commting troops to combat overseas. Constitution goves Congress power to declare war; WAR POWERS ACT instituents a congressional check on president's ability to fight indeclared wars.

Impeachment of President

Congress Can impeach and remove the president. Impeachment requires the majority vote in the house of representatives. President is tried in the Senate with 2/3 majority vote reuired for removal

Grounds for Impeachment of President

Grounds for impeachment include treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors according to the Constitution. No definition of high crimes or misdemeanors, so interpretation is left to Congress.

Presidents who have been impeached

Andrew Johnson: 1868 but acquitted.
Richard Nixon: Resigned before house voted for impeachment in 1974.
Bill Clinton: 1998 but acquitted.


Presidents have the power to pardon people convicted of federal crimes. Usually granted after a person is convicted.

Executive Privilege

Right of the president to withhold private communications from Congress or refuse to testify before Congress. How far executive privalege extends is controversial and often disputed. This was limited by the Supreme Court in US v Nixon.

US v Nixon (1974)

Supreme Court ruled that privilege did not extend to judicial demands for evidence in a criminal trial. nixon was forced to release the transcripts of the Watergate tapes

Death of President

If this happens, which would be tragic, the VP becomes president. If VP dies, Speaker of the House thenPresident Pro tempore of Senate. 25 Amendment defines presidential succession

President unable to perform duties

VP becomes active president, president can voluntarily relinquish powers or it can be done without his consent by VP and Cabinet, President can take over again by notifying Congress that he is able.

Disagreement over President's Ability to Perform Duties

If President says he is able but majority of cabinet and VP disagree, the issue goes to Congres. Congress by 2/3 majority vote can designate VP as acting president against the will of president.

25 Amendment

Passed in 1967 and clarified presidential succession, provided procedures for eventuality that president is not dead but unable to perform duties. Added procedures to replace VP if the Office is vacant.

Role of VP

The VP's role is to Presides over the Senate, breaks tie's if necessary. Assumes presidency if president dies. Becomes Acting president if President is unable to perform duties. Assumes over tasks at the discretion of President.

Selection of VP

Presidential nominee selects VP. P and VP run on the same ticket so people only vote once, but for both people. Electoral college votes seperately for president and VP.

Qualifications for VP

Constitutional requirements are the same as for President since VP needs be able to assume presidency.

Facotrs in Selecting a running mate

Presidential candidate selects running mate who could most help them. Usually seek to "balance the ticket" by choosing someone who represents a different faction of the party or region of the country.

Naming VP if Office Vacant

If VP dies or becomes P, a new VP is nominated by the P. Confirmed majority vote of both houses.

VP's who were not elected

Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller.


Departments, agencies, and offices of executive branch collectively constitute the federal bureaucracy. Responsible for carrying out day-to-day tasks of US government. Contains 2.8 million employees, the largest employer in US.

Characters of Federal Bureaucracy

Hierarchical Authority: president and his appointed officials are at the top, Job Specialization: Each worker has defined duties and responsibilities, and Formal Rules: Established regulations and procedures must be followed.

Bureaucratic Theory

idea imposed by political theorist Max Weber that the real power of government resides in bureaucrats who administer public policy on day-to-day basis


Practice of giving government jobs as rewards to political supporters. Civil Service Act patronage with a merit system for hiring and promotion for most federal jobs. Top government officials, however, are appointed by president

Spoils System

Practice of Giving government jobs as rewards to political supporters.

Civil Service System

System that ensures federal workers will be hired and promoted based on merit, not politics. Administered by the Office of Personal Management, an independent agency of the executive branch.

Hatch Act

Prohibits federal government employees from engaging in partisan politics activities while on duty. Prohibits federal employees from running federal office or seeking political funding even while off duty. Ensures a nonpartisan bureaucracy.

Influences on the Bureaucracy

President and his appointees, who hold the top postitions in bureaucracy. Congress, which appropriates money to agencies and writes legislation, Interest Groups, especially those that have built close relationships with federal agencies and congress.

Iron Triangles

Alliances between staffs of interest groups, congressional committees, and executive agencies due to a common goal. Interest Groups that can build iron triangles with "iside" support can exert powerful influence on public policy.

Composition of Federal Bureaucracy

Departments, Independent Agencies, Independent Regulatory Commisions, and Government corporations.

Departments of Federal Government

Federal Government is divided into 15 departments. heads of the departments report to the president and are a part of his cabinet. They are called secretaries except for the head of justice; Attorney General.


Advisory body consisting primarily of department heads. Not mentioned in Constitution and has no official powers; advises president. At Presidents discretion, other key advisors and officials can obtain cabinet-level status.

Independent Agencies

Agencies outside departmental structure but still under president. Heads generally report directly to president but do not have cabinet status.

Independent Regulatory Commissions

Independent agencies of executive branch not under president's control. Perform a regulatory mission.

Government Corporations

Independent corporations created by Congress to carry out business-like functions. Government Corporations charge for their services and earn money.

Department of State (1789)

Implements foreign policy, manages foreign aid, communicates with foreign governments, represents US abroad and in international organizations. Headed by Secretary of State.

Department of Treasury (1789)

Collects taxes, pays bills, mints coins and prints money, manages federal debt. headed by Secretary of Treasury.

Department of Defense (1789)

Manages the armed forces, operates military bases, procures weapons systems. Headed by Secretary of Defense.

Department of Interior (1849)

manages federal lands, operates irrigation projects, administers programs for Native Americans. headed by Secretary of the interior.

Department of Justice (1870)

Enforces laws, represents the US in court, operates federal prisons, investigates and prosecutes crimes. Headed by Attorney General.

Department of Agriculture (1889)

Manages agricultural programs, inspects foods, manages national forests, administers food stamp and school lunch programs. Headed by Secretary of Agriculture.

Department of Commerce (1903)

Grants parents and trademarks, conducts the census, gathers economic statistics, promotes international trade. Headed by Secretary of Commerce.

Department of Labor (1913)

Enforces federal labor laws, administers unemployment and job training programs. Headed by Secretary of Labor.

Department of health and Human Services (1953)

Administers Medicare/Medicaid, manages public health programs, enforces food and drug laws. headed by Secretary of health and Human Services.

Department of housing and Urban Developement (1965)

Provides home financing assistance and public housing programs. Headed by Secretary of Housing and Urban Developement.

Department of Transportation (1967)

Promotes mass transit programs, manages federal highway programs and air traffic control system. Headed by Secretary of Transportation.

Department of Energy (1977)

Promotes developement of new energy sources, manages federal nucler programs. headed by Secretary of Energy.

Department of Education (1979)

Administers federal student loan programs and federal aid programs to schools, including No Child Left Behind. headed by Secretary of Education.

Department of Veterans Affairs (1989)

manages programs for veterans of armed forces. Headed by Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Department of Homeland Security (2002)

Works to prevent terrorist attacks, manages disaster response programs and enforces border security. Headed by Secretary of Homeland Security.

Executive Office of the President

Includes chief advisors to president. Contains several key agencies that help president carry out his duties, including National Security Council and Office of Management and Budget. Headed by President's chief of Staff.

National Security Council

Principle forum for creation of national security policy by president. Members include president, VP, secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security advisor, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence.

Presidential Checks on Judicial Branch

President nominates federal judges. has power to grant pardons, reprieves, and amnesty that can negate a guilty verdict by a federal court. Judicial branch relies on executive branch to enforce court decisions.

Executive Checks on Legislative Branch

President can veto legislation. President has leeway in deciding hw laws passed by Congress will be enforced.


Authority of Courts to hear a case. Determined by what type of laws are involved. Also determined by georgraphy since courts only have authority in defined region of US except for Supreme Court.

Jurisdiction under Federalism

Fedeal courts have jurisdiction in cases involving federal law, international treaties, and US constitution. State courts have jurisdiction in cases involving state law and state constitutions.

Concurrent Jurisdiction

Some cases can be tried in either state or federal courts since they involve state and federal law.

Jurisdiction of Federal Courts

Federal Courts have Jurisdiction in Cases involving federal law, Cases involving treaties US has ratified, Cases involving interpretations of the US Constitution.

Original Jurisdiction

Authority of courts to hear new cases. Court with original jurisdiction is also known as "trial court" since that is where trials are conducted and evidence is presented.

original Jurisdiction in Federal Courts

US District have original jurisdiction in federal cases. In disputes between state governments or cases involving foreign governments, Supreme Court has original jurisdiction.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Authority of courts to hear appeals of decisions made in lower courts. Courts either have original or appellate jurisidiction; rarely does the same court hear both types of cases.

Appellate Jursidiction in Federal Courts

US court of Appeal and US Supreme Court, federal courts, have appellate jurisidiction. US Supreme Court is final appellate court; no further appeal is possible.

Structure of Federal Court System

District Courts (original jurisdiction), Court of Appeals (appellate jurisdiction), US Supreme Court (Final appelate court)

US District Courts

Have original jurisdiction in fedral court system and never hear appeals. US divided into 94 districts, each with a District Court. Conduct trials in both civil and criminal cases.

US Court of Appeal

Have only appellate jurisdiction; never conduct trials. 13 Court of Appeal, each serving a region of the country called a circuit. Each case is heard by panel of judges.

Article 3, US Constitution

Creates Supreme Court, but no Federal Court System. Article 3 gives congress power to create federal courts below Supreme Court.

Number of Supreme Court Justices.

Court consist of one chief justice and 8 associate judges. Number of justice determined by Congress; current size set in 1869.

FDR's "Court Packing" Plan

During Great Depression, Supreme Court ruled many laws of New Deal Unconstitutional. Roosevelt proposed adding justices to the Court. FDR was unsuccesful in getting Congress to agree.

Cheif justice of Supreme Court

First among equals. Presides over Court but has no more real power than associate justices. Justices all get one vote.

Selection of Federal Judges

Federal Judges Nominated by president and confirmed by majority vote in Senate. Same process used for judges at all levels of federal courts system.

Constitutional Qualifications for Federal Judges

No formal qualifications for federal judges in the Constitution.

Term of office for Federal Judges

Federal judges have life terms - they serve until they die or resign. Life term allows judges to be free from political pressures when deciding cases. Federal judges can be removed from office by impeachment and conviction.

Selection of District Court Judges

To select a district court judge, they are nominated by the president and confirmed by majority vote in Senate. Since no district covers more than one state, Senators have traditionally been given veto power over district court judges in their state.

Senatorial Courtesy

The practice of giving senators veto power over the nomination of US Distirct court judges for districts in their state. Not part of the Constitution, but a traditional practice that helps president maintain good relationship with the Senate.

See more

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions and try again


Reload the page to try again!


Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

Voice Recording