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Congress

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Congress

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  1. Congress

  2. The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government • Article I describes structure of Congress • Bicameral legislature • Divided into two houses • Each state sends two Senators regardless of population. • Number of representatives each state sends to the House is determined by state population.

  3. The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government • Constitution sets out requirements for membership in the House and Senate • House – 25 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 7 years; serve 2 year terms • Directly elected, thus more responsible to the people • Senate – 30 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 9 years; serve 6 year terms ; originally chosen by state legislators, until 17th Amendment (1913) • Congressional members must be legal residents of their states.

  4. The Representatives and Senators • The Job • Salary of $174,000 (2009) with retirement benefits. Who sets their salary? ($193,400 for leaders, $223,500 for the Speaker) • Office space in D.C. and at home and staff to fill it. • Travel allowances and franking privileges. • Often requires 10 to 14 hour days, lots of time away from the family, and lots of pressure from different people to “do the right thing.”

  5. The Representatives and Senators

  6. Who is in Congress? • The House has become less male and less white • Membership in Congress became a career • Incumbents still have a great electoral advantage • But in 1994, voters opposed incumbents due to budget deficits, various policies, legislative-executive bickering, and scandal – Republicans took control! • In 2006, the Democrats regained control of Congress

  7. Congressional Demographics • Members tend to be • Better educated than the population in general • Ninety-five percent are college graduates; over 2/3’s have advanced degrees. • Richer • Nearly 200 are millionaires; 21 Senators are worth at least 3.1 million. 29 House members worth that much as well. • Male • White • Average age is 63 for Senators; 57 for House members. • Aaron Schock (R-IL) elected in 2008 at age of 27. • George LeMieux (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are the youngest Senator (40 & 42). Both were appointed • Occupations: No longer overwhelmingly lawyers • 214 members (182 Representatives and 33 Senators) list their occupation as public service/politics • 204 (152 Representatives and 51 Senators) list law • 201 (175 Representatives and 27 Senators) list business

  8. Blacks, Hispanics, and Women in Congress, 1971-2006 – Trends?

  9. Actual numbers, not percentages. For the 111th Congress (2009), the breakdown is: Women – 92 Afr. Amer. – 43 Hispanic - 28

  10. The Representatives and Senators • 111th Congress • House Senate • 257 57 • 40 • 2 • 360 83 • 75 17 • 8 3 • 42 1 • 25 3 • 360 93

  11. Apportionment and Redistricting • Apportionment • Proportional process of allotting congressional seats to each state following the ten year census • Redistricting • Redrawing of congressional districts to reflect increases or decreases in seats allotted to the states, as well as population shifts within a state • 1929: House size fixed at 435.

  12. Congressional Elections • Who Wins Elections? • Incumbent: Those already holding office.

  13. Percentage of Incumbents Reelected to Congress Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, Vital Statistics on American Politics, 1999-2000 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2000), table 1-18; 2004 updated by Marc Siegal.

  14. Incumbents in Congress Reelected by 60 Percent or More

  15. Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Advertising: • The goal is to be visible to your voters. • Frequent trips home & newsletters are used. • Credit Claiming: • Service to individuals in their district. • Casework: specifically helping constituents get what they think they have a right to. • Pork Barrel: federal projects, grants, etc. made available in a congressional district or state.

  16. Congressional Elections • The Advantages of Incumbents • Position Taking: • Portray themselves as hard working, dedicated individuals. • Occasionally take a partisan stand on an issue. • Weak Opponents: • Most opponents are inexperienced in politics. • Most opponents are unorganized and underfunded. • Campaign Spending: • Challengers need to raise large sums to defeat an incumbent. • PACs give most of their money to incumbents. Why? • Does PAC money “buy” votes in Congress?

  17. Running for Office and Staying in Office • Incumbency – Another Look • The fact that being in office helps a person stay in office because of a variety of benefits that go with the position • Name recognition • Access to free media • Inside track on fund-raising • District drawn to favor incumbent creating • Safe Seats • 1980 to 1990, an average of 95 percent of incumbents who sought reelection won their primary and general election races.

  18. Incumbency

  19. Congressional Elections • The Role of Party Identification • Most members represent the majority party in their district. • Defeating Incumbents • Some incumbents face problems after a scandal or other complication in office. • They may face redistricting. (ex. Texas gerrymandering) • They may become a victim of a major political tidal wave. (Watergate, or 1994)

  20. Congressional Elections • Open Seats • Greater likelihood of competition, although in some districts it may only be in the primary. Why? • Stability and Change • Incumbents provide stability in Congress. • Change in Congress occurs less frequently through elections. • Are term limits an answer?

  21. The House 435 members, 2 year terms of office. Policy Specialists Initiates all revenue bills, more influential on budget. House Rules Committee Limited debates. The Senate 100 members, 6 year terms of office. Policy Generalists Gives “advice & consent”, more influential on foreign affairs. Unlimited debates. (filibuster) How Congress is Organized • American Bicameralism • Bicameral: Legislature divided into two houses.

  22. The 109th Congress - Senate

  23. The United States Senate 2009

  24. House of Representatives – 2005-2006

  25. Party Membership by District 2009 House of Representatives

  26. The Evolution of Congress • The intent of the Framers: • To oppose the concentration of power in a single institution • To balance large and small states • Bicameralism • They expected Congress to be the dominant institution

  27. Organization of the House • Historically, power struggles have occurred between members and leadership • 1994 brought changes: • Committee chairs hold positions for only 6 years • Speaker limited to 8 years • How can these changes be reversed?

  28. Organization of the House – Post-1994 • Reduced the number of committees and subcommittees • The Speaker dominated the selection of committee chairs • The Speaker set the agenda (Contract with America) and sustained high Republican discipline in 1995

  29. Evolution of the Senate • The Senate escaped many of the tensions encountered by the House • The major struggle in the Senate was about how its members should be chosen; 17th amendment (1913) • The filibuster is another major issue: restricted by Rule 22 (1917), which allows a vote of cloture • Define filibuster and cloture

  30. How Congress is Organized • New Congress is seated every two years. • Elect new leaders • Each house has a hierarchical leadership structure.

  31. How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • Congressional Leadership Summary – Who are they? • The House • Led by Speaker of the House - elected by House members. • Presides over House. • Major role in committee assignments and legislation. • Assisted by majority leader and whips. • The Senate • Officially led by Vice President. • Really led by Majority Leader- chosen by party members. • Assisted by whips. • Must work with Minority leader.

  32. The House of Representativeswww.house.gov • Speaker • Presides over House • Official spokesperson for the House • Second in line of presidential succession (Others?) • House liaison with president • Great political influence within the chamber • Henry Clay, first powerful speaker (1810) • Joe Cannon (1903-1910), was so powerful, that a revolt emerged to reduce powers of the speakership. • Newt Gingrich (1995) • Nancy Pelosi – current speaker, first woman speaker

  33. Other House Leaders • Majority Leader (Steny Hoyer, D-Md) • Elected leader of the party controlling the most seats in the House or the Senate • Second in authority to the Speaker—in the Senate, is the most powerful member • Minority Leader (John Boehner – Ohio) • Elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in the House of Representatives or the Senate • Whips (Eric Cantor, R-VA, James Clyburn, D-SC) • Party caucus or conference • A formal gathering of all party members

  34. Party Structure in the House - Summary • Speaker of the House is leader of majority party and presides over House • Majority leader and minority leader: leaders on the floor • Party whips keep leaders informed and round up votes • Committee assignments and legislative schedule are set by each party

  35. The Senatewww.senate.gov • The Constitution specifies the vice president (Joe Biden) as the presiding officer of the Senate. • He votes only in case of a tie. • Official chair of the Senate is the president pro tempore (pro tem), currently Robert Byrd, D-WV • Primarily honorific • Generally goes to the most senior senator of the majority party • Actual presiding duties rotate among junior members of the chamber • True leader is the majority leader, but not as powerful as Speaker is in the House

  36. Party Structure in the Senate • President pro tempore presides; this is the member with most seniority in majority party (a largely honorific office) • Leaders are the majority leader (Harry Reid, D-NV) and the minority leader (Mitch McConnell, R-KY), elected by their respective party members

  37. Party Structure in the Senate • Party whips: keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses (Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Dick Durbin, D-IL) • Each party has a policy committee: schedules Senate business, prioritizes bills • Committee assignments are handled by a group of Senators, each for their own party

  38. The Senate • Senate rules give tremendous power to individual senators. • Offering any kind of amendment even if not germane • Filibuster • Because Senate is smaller in size organization and formal rules have not played the same role as in the House.

  39. Committee System • Standing Committees • Continue from one Congress to the next—bills referred here for consideration • Joint Committees • Includes members from both houses of Congress, conducts investigations or special studies • Conference Committees • Joint committee created to iron out differences between Senate and House versions of a specific piece of legislation • Select (or special) Committees • Temporary committee appointed for specific purpose, such as conducting a special investigation or study

  40. How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • The Committees at Work: Legislation and Oversight • Committees work on the 11,000 bills every session. • Some hold hearings and “mark up” meetings. • Oversight involves hearings and other methods of checking the actions of the executive branch. • As the size of government grows, oversight grows too.

  41. How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • Getting on a Committee • Members want committee assignments that will help them get reelected, gain influence, and make policy. • New members express their committee preferences to the party leaders. • Support of the party is important in getting on the right committee. • Parties try to grant committee preferences.

  42. Committee Practices • The number of committees has varied; significant cuts in number of House committees in 1995, and in the number of House and Senate subcommittees • Majority party has majority of seats on the committees and names the chair

  43. How Congress is Organized to Make Policy • The Committees and Subcommittees • Getting Ahead on the Committee: Chairs and the Seniority System. • The chair is the most important position for controlling legislation. • Chairs were once chosen strictly by the seniority system. • Now seniority is a general rule, and members may choose the chair of their committee.

  44. Role of Parties in Organizing Congress • Parties and their strength have important implications in Congress. • Committees are controlled by the majority. • Committees set the agenda. • All committee chairmen are from the majority party. • Why is this important?

  45. The Organizational Structure of 109th Congress

  46. Committees • Committees are the most important organizational feature of Congress • Consider bills or legislative proposals • Maintain oversight of executive agencies - Examples • Conduct investigations – Examples

  47. Congressional Committees

  48. Committee Membership • Members often seek assignments to committees based on • Their own interests or expertise • A committee’s ability to help their prospects for reelection • Pork/ earmarks: legislation that allows representatives to bring home the “bacon” to their districts in the form of public works programs, military bases, or other programs designed to benefit their districts directly. • Access to large campaign contributors