American Government - Unit 3

Key Concepts:

Terms in this set (31)

Historical Background
-The framers of the Constitution disagreed on how to elect a president—congressional selection or direct popular election.
-The electoral college was a compromise, combining features of both approaches.

The Electoral College and Federalism
-The electoral college also reflects the federal nature of the Constitution because it ensures that the states have a role in selecting the president.

State Electoral Votes
-Each state is entitled to as many electoral votes as the sum of its representation in the U.S. House and Senate (538 in total)

-Individuals selected in each state to officially cast that state's electoral votes.
-Framers anticipated that electors would be state leaders who would exercise good judgment.
-Today, party leaders select competing slates of electors who are typically long-time party activists.
-Electors almost always vote for their party's candidates.

Selection of Electors
-Each state determines the manner of selection
-All but two states use a winner-take-all statewide election system
-If Candidate A gets the most votes in a state, Candidate A gets the whole slate of electors.
-Maine and Nebraska award electors based on the statewide vote and the vote in each of the state's congressional districts.

Voters and Electors
-A Texan who votes for Bush is really voting for a slate of electors pledged to cast the state's electoral votes for Bush. In 2000, Bush won all of Florida's 25 electoral votes because the final official vote tally showed him ahead of Gore by about 600 votes.

The Real Election
-In December, the electors gather in their respective state capitols to cast ballots for president and vice president. In January, Congress convenes, opens the ballots received from each state, and announces the official outcome.

What if no one receives a majority?
-To win, a candidate needs a majority, that is, 270 electoral votes.
-If no candidate has a majority, the House selects the president from among the three presidential candidates with the most electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. This last happened in 1824 when Congress chose John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson and William Crawford.
-The Senate selects the vice president from the top two vice-presidential candidates.

Popular Vote v. the Electoral Vote
-In a close race, the popular vote winner may not win the electoral college. One candidate may win states by lopsided margins while the other wins states by narrow margins. One candidate may be helped by winning most of the smaller states, which benefit from the small-state bias caused by each state getting at least three electoral votes regardless of its size.

Criticisms of the Electoral College
-The popular vote winner may lose the presidency.
-Electors may vote for persons other than their party's presidential and vice presidential candidates. ("Faithless elector")
-If no candidate receives a majority, Congress will pick the president and vice president.

Political Legitimacy and the Electoral College
-The proponents of the electoral college believe that it conveys legitimacy to the winner in most closely fought presidential elections. For example, Bill Clinton won 69 percent of the electoral vote in 1992 despite capturing only 43 percent of the popular vote. The electoral college gave Clinton the appearance of the majority support necessary to be an effective president.

But don't forget Florida
-The 2000 election demonstrated that the electoral college can sometimes undermine a president's legitimacy. Because of the electoral college, the outcome of the national presidential election was in doubt for more than a month even though one candidate enjoyed a clear popular vote plurality nationwide. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually determined the outcome of the election by halting the vote count in Florida.

Proposals for Reform
-Eliminate electors but still count electoral votes.
-Select electors based on the proportion of the vote each candidate gets in each state.
-Select electors by congressional districts with two electors chosen at large in each state.
-Choose the president by direct popular election.

Critique of the Reforms
-Critics attack some reforms for not going far enough.
-Critics attack other reforms because of the danger that they would produce unintended bad consequences.
The Virginia plan said one seat for every 40,000 people which originally gave the house 50-60 members. As the country grew, so did the house and by 1929, there were 435 representatives. A committee designed the re-apportionment plan. In the beginning, the wanted ~400 seats, but change it to 435 because no one wanted to lose their seats
1) freeze the number of seats at 435
2) every 10 years a census (population count - doesn't count criminals or illegals) will be take to redefine the procedure
3) total population / 435 = # of people per seat (currently it is ~700,000 people per seat)
4) state population / # of people per seat = # of representatives per state
5) state legislators are responsible for drawing district lines in the state - before 1961 there were no rules for this until...
--- Baker v Carr - equal protection clause - legislative apportionment - there must be about the same number of people in each district - some states delayed following this
--- Westbury v Sinders - principle of 1 man 1 vote - states did nothing
--- Kerpatrick v Chrysler - 1971 - districts were still unequally divided - finally did something about it - districts cannot have more than a 2% difference - if someone sues, you have to redraw the districts - states tried to change districts to influence elections to be what they want, so a rule was made that said districts could not be separate parts, they must be contiguous and have a reasonable shape - states also drew districts to prevent minorities from having political influence, so now you can't discriminate by reason of race
PRESIDING OFFICER (runs the meetings)
-House - Speaker of the House - chosen by vote by the members of the House - represents the majority party - most powerful position in Congress - trusted and effective politician according to other members
-Senate- President of the Senate (US VP) - chosen by President - in the absence of the VP, they have a pro tempore as the sub (usually the most senior member)
1)control the speakers on the floor - in 1908, the speakers list was created; as long as you are on the list, the presiding officer can't deny your speech
2)assign bills to standing committees - in the Senate, this power is also given to party leaders; in the House, the speaker of the house has total control
3)they can determine whether a bill passes or not (choosing the committee)
4)set up committees for specific areas - overlap a lot of them

PARTY LEADERS (organizes party's efforts)
-chosen by majority vote in caucus
-trusted, experienced
1) establish priorities- get the party into a mode to figure out what they want to do
2) provide communication & support- make sure everybody knows what to do
3) coordinate party member's positions on issues (how to vote)
-whip- assistant to party leader - usually a relatively younger member that shows promise - main duty is to help the party leader know the outcome of the vote on a bill before it happens (called a Whip Count) - conducts a poll that tends to be pretty accurate - if the party leader is going to lose a major vote, they now have time to create a cover story; if the are going to win, they can blow it up to the press and make sure people don't miss the vote; if it's going to be close, they can make sure everybody shows up to vote; if it's a close loss, they can coordinate those few members that are causing the loss by using bribery/favors/logrolling
4) assignments to committees (caucuses) (seniority is a significant factor in deciding committees)
*the ratio of D/R in the House is proportional to the committee seats (advantage to the majority party)

-originally, the speaker assigned the committee chairs
-today, it is a party decision, usually is based on seniority
-chair is the most senior member (from the majority party) by default unless voted out by the party or committee (party caucus- overturn of chair is almost never done)
-Most bills go through the House (the ones that cost money)
1) Introduction - idea - anyone can introduce a bill: congressmen, president, petition, people - the bill must be officially introduced by a member of the House (cannot be introduced by president, interest group, or speaker of the House) - research and the first draft of bills are often done by interest groups - the official draft is done on the House floor
2) The Speaker of the House has the bill and must assign it to a standing committee ***
3) the Standing Committee Chair has the bill
1. put on the agenda
2. pigeonholed (leaving a bill off the agenda - on life support - dies . at the end of session) ***
4) the standing committee has the bill
1. can kill it - doesn't happen often ***
2. pigeonhole it - happens to about 40% of all legislation . introduced ***
3. pass it
4. send it to a sub-committee - should be writing official versions . of legislation - where the real work is done
5) sub-committee has the bill
1. can kill it ***
2. pigeonhole it - much less common ***
4. mark it up
6) standing committee has the bill
1. can kill it ***
2. pigeonhole - rare ***
3. pass it
4. mark it up
7) House Rules Committee has the bill (most powerful committee)
1. limit debate time ***
2. prohibit amendments ***
3. special rule - consider a bill to be a priority and put it at the top . of the House agenda
8) House floor has the bill
1. can kill it ***
2. pass it
3. amend it (mark it up)
4. send it back to the standing committee (rare)
9) Senate has the bill
1. Introduction
2. Presiding Officer
3. Committee Process
4. Does not have a House Rules Committee
5. Senate Floor
Senate can mark up a House bill, but it has to go to conference committee if it is passed by both houses. If they can't compromise on which bill to pass, it is killed ***
10) President has the bill
1. Sign it into law
2. veto - sends it back to Congress who can override the veto . . . with a 2/3 vote in both houses or make changes and run it . . . back through the entire process ***
3. Sit on it - not do anything ***
Pres has 10 days to act on legislation, if he doesn't act, it . . . becomes law (never happens)
pocket veto - if Congress adjourns before day 10, and the pres
doesn't act on the bill, it dies (all Presidents do this)

interest groups influence this process a lot
a. represent the interests of the party (positively) - raises money, helps party members get elected, achieve party priorities
b. access to media - appoint people to jobs (members or allies of his party usually)
c. Congress (Senate must approve appointments) - other party leaders within his own party

a. establish priorities - Git r' dun (resolve priorities)
b. veto legislation - or can threaten to veto causing negotiation between him and congress
c. divided gov't - presidential party and congress are controlled by different parties - makes compromise more difficult - working majority is a majority that can pass a bill in both houses

a. to enforce the laws of the US and the Constitution
b. appointment- "spoil system" (Jackson - a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party —as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity) - in the 1880's a person wanted a job so badly that they ended up assassinating President Garfield and when VP Arthur took over he reformed the spoil system and created the Pendleton Act and the Civil Service
c. The Senate must approve appointments - the civil service can just delay or water down a law if they don't want to follow it

a. represents the US in relationships with other nations, and sets the tone and direction of foreign policy
b. recognition- acknowledging that for a specific country, it's gov't is what is best for that country; allows negotiation, ambassadors, trade, and the giving of aid
treaties- agreements between 2 or more countries- president negotiates treaties
executive agreements- not a formal treaty; doesn't need senate approval
c. senate must approve treaties
other nations that don't like us (North Korea)

a. maintain security of the US - defend from outer and internal threats
b. coordinate military (send troops into conflict); can't start a war but could authorize a preemptive nuclear strike until the cold war ended, now there is a procedure that must be followed, but the president can still authorize a strike back
c. only congress has the power to declare war
some people don't do what the president wants them to
military could be too aggressive or non-responsive

a. maintain the support and confidence of the people
b. media - news management - manage what the people see, what information we get and how we get it
c. 1st amendment (freedom of speech, press)
the diversity of our population