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Politics of the United States
AP Gov- Legislative Branch
Terms in this set (28)
Organization of Congress
*Two houses meet for terms of two years beginning on January 3 of odd-numbered years; each term is divided into two one year sessions.
The president may call special sessions in cases of national emergency
Each house of Congress chooses its own leadership and determines its own rules
Getting Elected to the House of Representatives
The Constitution guarantees each state at least one representative. Members are chosen from districts within each state. Some practices related to determining congressional representation are:
apportionment-distribution among the states based on the population of each of the states
Reapportionment-the redistribution of Congressional seats after the census determines changes in the population distribution among the states.
Congressional districting-the drawing by state legislatures of congressional districts for those states with more than one representative.
*gerrymandering-drawing congressional districts to favor one political party or a group over another.
Getting Elected to the Senate
The Constitution guarantees that "no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate" (Article V).
Members were originally chosen by the state legislatures in each state.
Since 1913, the 17th amendment allows for the direct election of state senators by the people of that state
The incumbency effect is the tendency of those already holding office to win reelection. The effect tends to be stronger for members of the House of Representatives and weaker for the Senate. Advantages may include:
Name recognition-Voters are more likely to recognize the office holder than the challenger.
Credit claiming-the office holder may have brought government projects and money into the state or district.
Casework for constituents-office holders may have helped constituents solve problems involving government and the bureaucracy.
More visible to constituents-Members can use the "perks" of office to communicate with constituents. Franking, the privilege of sending official mail using the incumbent's signature as postage, provides communications with constituents.
Media exposure-Incumbents are more likely to gain "free" publicity during a campaign through the media.
Fundraising Abilities-it is generally greater for incumbents
Experience in Campaigning-Incumbents have already experienced the campaign process
Voting record-Voters can evaluate their performance based on their record
Term Limits for Congress
Although several states have passed legislation establishing term limits for members of Congress, the Supreme Court has ruled that neither the states nor Congress may impose term limits without a constitutional amendment. Therefore, today, there are no limitations in the number of terms a member of Congress may serve.
The longest serving senator was Robert Byrd-Democrat-West Virginia-1959-2010; South Carolina's Strom Thurmond (Republican)-came in third place-1954-2003
The longest serving representative from the House is the late John Dingell (D-West Virginia) who served from 1933-55; currently, Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont -serving from 1975-the present.
Leadership in Congress-The House of Representatives
The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer and most powerful member of the House. The speaker is elected by his/her political party in the House. Major duties include:
Assigning bills to committee
Controlling floor debate
Appointing party members to committee
Majority and Minority Leaders
-The majority leader serves as the major assistant to the speaker, helps plan the party's legislative program, and directs floor debates.
-The minority floor leader is the majority spokesperson for the minority party and organizes opposition to the majority party
-Whips help floor leaders by directing party members in voting, informing members of impending voting, keeping track of vote counts, and pressuring members to vote with the party.
Leadership in Congress- Senate
he US vice president, although not a Senate member, is the presiding officer of the Senate, according to the US Constitution. The vice president may not debate and only votes to break a tie.
The president pro tempore is a senior member of the majority party chosen to preside in the absence of the Senate president. This is a mostly ceremonial position lacking real power.
MAJORITY and MINORITY FLOOR LEADERS-
-The majority floor leader is the most influential member of the Senate and often the majority party spokesman.
-The minority floor leader performs the same role as the House minority leader.
-Whips serve the same role as whips in the House of Representatives
The Committee System
Most of the work of Congress is accomplished through committees. Committees permit Congress to divide up the work among members, thus allowing for the study of legislation by specialists and helping speed up the passage of legislation.
Committee chairpersons are members of the majority party in each house chosen by party caucus. They set agendas, assign members to subcommittees, and decide whether the committee will hold public hearings and which witnesses to call. They manage floor debates of the bill when it is presented to the full House or the Senate.
Traditionally chairpersons were chosen based on the seniority system , with the majority party member having the longest length of committee service chosen as chairperson. Today, reforms allow for the selection of chairpersons who are not the most senior-majority party member on the committee. However, most are long-standing members of the committee.
Committee System Membership
The percentage of each committee's membership reflects the overall percentage of Democrats and Republicans in each house. Members try to serve on committees where they can influence public policy relating to their district or state (for example, a Kansas senator on the agriculture committee) or influence important national public policy.
Types of Committees
- A Standing Committee is a permanent committee that deals with specific policy matters (agriculture, energy, and natural resources, veterans affairs).
-A Select Committee is a temporary committee appointed for a specific purpose. Most are formed to investigate a particular issue, such as the Senate Watergate Committee.
-A Joint Committee is made up of members of both houses of Congress. It may be a select committee (Iran-Contra Committee) or perform routine duties (Joint Committee on the Library of Congress)
-A Conference Committee is a temporary committee of members from both houses of Congress, created to resolve the differences in House and Senate versions of a bill. It is a compromise committee
Caucuses are informal groups formed by members of Congress who share a common purpose or set of goals (Congressional Black Caucus, Women's Caucus, Democratic or Republican Caucus).
Congressional Staff and Support
-Personal staff work directly for members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and their district offices in their home states.
-Committee staff work for committees and subcommittees in Congress, researching problems and analyzing information.
-Support agencies provide services to members of Congress (Library of Congress, Government Printing Office)
Roles of Members of Congress
Members of Congress have several roles:
*Policymaker-make public policy through the passage of legislation
-delegate -members vote based on the wishes of constituents, regardless of their own opinions.
-trustee-after listening to constituents, members vote based on their own opinions.
* Constituent servant-helps constituents with problems
* Committee member-serve on committees
* Politician/party member- work to support their political party platform and get reelected.
Privileges of Members of Congress
Members of Congress enjoy several privileges, including:
Allowances for offices in their district or home state
The franking privilege allows members of Congress to send mailings to constituents postage free
Immunity from arrest while conducting congressional business
Immunity from libel or slander suits for their speech or debate in Congress
Legislative Powers of Congress
Legislative Powers-the power to make laws
* expressed powers-powers specifically granted to Congress, found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution
* implied powers-powers that may be reasonably suggested to carry out the expressed powers; found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18; "necessary and proper" or elastic clause; allows for the expansion of Congress's powers (expressed power to raise armies and navy implies the power to draft men into the military)
*limitations on power- powers denied Congress by Article I, Section 9 and the 10th Amendment
Nonlegislative Powers of Congress
Nonlegislative Powers-Duties other than Lawmaking
* electoral powers-Selection of the president by the House of Representatives and/or vice president by the Senate upon the failure of the electoral college to achieve a majority vote.
* amendment powers-Congress may propose amendments by a two-thirds vote of each house or by calling a national convention to propose amendments if requested by two-thirds of the state legislatures.
* impeachment- The House may bring charges or impeach, the president, vice president, or any civil officer; case is tried in the Senate with the Senate acting as the jury (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate).
* executive powers of the Senate- The Senate shares the appointment and treaty-making powers with the executive branch; the Senate must approve appointments by majority vote and treaties by two-thirds vote.
* Investigative/oversight powers- Investigative matters falling within the range of its legislative authority often involves the review of policies and programs of the executive branch
The Committee System
plays a major role in the passage of legislation; bills may die if committees fail to act upon them or reject them
an attempt by members to gain the support of other members in return for their support on the member's legislation
a vote in the Senate or the House to end debate
Provisions in an appropriation bill that require government spending on a certain project. Usually they are inserted into bills by senators or representatives who are trying to get pork-barrel spending projects for their district.
a procedure in the Senate used to block a bill that has majority support from being passed. The longest filibuster to date was Strom Thurmond (R-SC) in opposing the 1957 Civil Rights Act
Pork Barrel Spending
one way for members to improve their reelection prospects is t channel federal spending in their home district (bringing home the bacon). Pork Barrel projects are local projects funded under the federal budget and includes the building and funding of highways, bridges, federal building, hospitals, dams, airports, etc.
a section of a bill that does not relate to the subject of the bill, such as a rider on abortion that is attached to a defense funding bill
War Powers Resolution Act (War Powers Act)
a law passed by Congress over President Nixon's veto in 1973. This limits the power of the president to commit US troops to military engagements abroad without Congressional approval. Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, giving it what was once an effective check on the president's power. Now that wars are seldom declared, however, this Constitutional check on the president's power is no longer very meaningful
Influences On Congress
Various individuals and groups Influence Congress.
* constituents-members, especially those who hope to win reelection, often take into consideration the opinion of their constituents and voters back home in their district or state.
* Other lawmakers and staff-More senior members often influence newer members; committee members who worked on legislation often influence other members and staff often research issues and advise members.
*Party influences-each party's platform takes a stand on major issues, and loyal members often adhere to "the party line". Members in the House are more likely to support the party position than are Senators.
* presidents-Presidents often lobby members to support legislation through phone calls, invitations to the White House, or even appeals to the public to gain support from voters to bring pressure on members.
*Lobbyists and Interest Groups-Often provide members with information on topics relating to their group's interests as possible financial support in future campaigns.
South Carolina's US Senators
Tim Scott (Republican ) from North Charleston, SC
Lindsey Graham (Republican) from Seneca, SC
South Carolina House Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Mark Sanford -Republican
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