42 terms

Chapter 12: Congress

The residents in the area from which an official is elected. Rep. Ted Poe's constituency is District 2, while Sen. Ted Cruz's constituency is the entire state of Texas.
A legislative assembly composed of two chambers or houses. The U.S. Congress is bicameral: Senate and and House of Representatives.
A representative who votes according to the preferences of his or her constituency.
A representative who votes based on what he or she thinks is best for his or her constituency.
sociological representation
A type of representation in which representatives have the same racial, gender, ethnic, or religious background as their constituents. Your representative reflects your identity. (Relevant to redistricting and gerrymandering).
agency representation
A type of representation in which a representative aims to represent the views of a group of which they do not belong and the constituents hold the representative accountable for how well he or she does.
Holding the political office for which one is running (the person already in elected office running for re-election).
term limits
Legally prescribed limits on the number of terms an elected official can serve. Currently, there are no term limits for members of Congress but some people are in favor of them.
The process, occurring after every census, that allocates 435 House seats among the 50 states based on their population. If people move from the Northeast to the South then New York might lose a seat and Texas might gain one.
The process of redrawing election districts and redistributing legislative representatives. Typically happens every 10 years after the census. In most states, it is the state legislature that draws the House districts.
The drawing of district boundaries in such a way as to give advantage to one racial or political group. Gerrymandering is legal for political advantage, but a district can be challenged if it dilutes the voting power of a racial group.
pork barrel
Appropriations made by Congress for local projects in House districts that can be used to help the representative win re-election. Ex: Rep. Henry gets an "earmark" (pork barrel item) that appropriates $10 million to his district for a new community health center. While some criticize such pork barrel spending as "wasteful" or unnecessary, earmarks are an incentive for representatives to compromise on a bill and work together to pass it.
A gathering of House members to make decisions and vote on leadership positions. Republicans call their meeting a conference, while Democrats call their meeting a caucus.
Speaker of the House
The chief presiding officer of the House of Representatives. The Speaker is the most important party and House leader and can influence the chamber's legislative agenda and committee assignments of members.
majority leader
The elected leader of the majority party in the House or the Senate. In the House, the majority leader is subordinate to the Speaker. In the Senate, the majority leader is the highest ranking member.
minority leader
The elected leader of the minority party in the House or Senate.
Party member in the House or Senate responsible for coordinating the party's legislative strategy, building support for key issues, and counting votes.
standing committee
A permanent committee with the power to propose and write legislation that covers a particular function of Congress (public policy, budget, and oversight).
select committee
A temporary committee set up to highlight or investigate a particular issue not within the jurisdiction of existing committees.
joint committee
A committee formed of members of both the House and Senate.
conference committee
A joint committee created to work out a compromise between different House and Senate bills.
The ranking given to an individual on the basis of how long they have been in service. The member with the most seniority has been there the longest.
staff agencies
Legislative support agencies responsible for policy analysis. Ex: Congressional Research Service, Government Accountability Office, and Congressional Budget Office.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
Staff agency that assesses the economic implications and likely costs of proposed legislation and programs. The CBO is non-partisan and provides disinterested (objective) analysis. If someone doesn't like the CBO's analysis of their bill they typically denounce it as biased, but if the CBO reports favorably they assert that no one can argue with it because the CBO is unbiased.
A proposed law that has been sponsored by a member of Congress and submitted to the clerk of the House or Senate.
committee markup
The stage of the legislative process when an entire standing committee rewrites and revises a bill based on the hearing held in subcommittee.
House Rules Committee
The committee in the House that decides what rules will govern action on a bill when it goes to the House floor. The Rules Committee is responsible for scheduling the bill, determining how debate will last, etc. and represents a final hurdle that a bill must pass before being voted on. The Speaker may use the Rules Committee to block a bill from getting to the floor for a vote.
closed rule/open rule
A closed rule is when the Rules Committee prohibits the introduction of amendments during debate, while an open rule permits debate and amendments on the floor.
A tactic used by members of the Senate to prevent a vote on a bill they oppose by continuously speaking against the bill until the bill is withdrawn. Each senator has the power to filibuster because the Senate has unlimited debate.
A tactic used by members of the Senate to end a filibuster and vote on a bill. The invoke cloture requires 3/5 of the Senate (60 votes).
The president's power to reject a bill passed by Congress. A veto can be overridden by a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate.
pocket veto
A veto that is automatically triggered if the president does not sign a bill into law during the final 10 days of a legislative session.
party unity vote
A vote in which half or more of the members of one party take one position while at least half of the members of the other party take the opposing position.
roll-call vote
A vote in which each legislator's yes or no vote is recorded as the clerk calls their names alphabetically.
A legislative practice whereby agreements are made between legislators in voting for or against a bill; "vote trading." Ex: I will support your bill if you support mine.
Hastert Rule
An informal rule that the Speaker will not allow a bill to reach the floor for a vote unless it has the support of a majority of the majority party. This means that bills that could easily pass with bipartisan support from both parties never reach the floor for a vote. Ex: comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013.
The effort by Congress, through hearings and investigations, to exercise control over the activities of the executive branch.
The amount of money approved by Congress in bills for specific agencies, programs, and services. The power of appropriations is called the "power of the purse."
The formal charge by the House that a government official has committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The House can bring charges of impeachment with a simply majority vote and the Senate conducts a trial.
Baker v. Carr (1961)
Supreme Court decision that decided redistricting issues were reviewable by federal courts. The defendants in the case unsuccessfully argued that redistricting was not something that the court system could rule on.
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
Supreme Court decision that redistricting efforts that impact race must be held to a standard of strict scrutiny under the 14th Amendment's "equal protection clause" and that redistricting must be done in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A member of Congress who pragmatically acts as a delegate and trustee in different situations.