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CONGRESS POWER POINT NOTES
STUDENT LEARNING GOALS
2A-2E
Unit 2
• Student Learning Goal 2A
• Know the differences in leadership, rules
and organization between the House and
the Senate
Congress
US CAPITOL BUILDING
Legislative Branch – “makes laws”
Founders’ Intentions
1. Strongest branch
2. Separation of lawmaking power from
executive
3. Bicameralism balances large/small states
• House – more connected to people (2 yr term)
• Senate – allows for independent thinking (6 yr term)
Important Differences
House
• 435 members
• 2 year term
• 7 year citizen
• Initiate impeachment
• Taxation/Revenue bills
• Strict debate rules
• Chooses Pres. If no
electoral college majority
• No term limits
Senate
• 100 members
• 6 year term
• 9 year citizen
• Tries impeachment
• Approve presidential
appointments and
treaties
• Loose debate rules
• Chooses VP if no
electoral college majority
• No term limits
Constitutional Powers
Article I, Section 8
• To lay and collect taxes, duties, imports
• To borrow money
• To regulate commerce (states and foreign)
• To establish rules for naturalization and immigration
• To coin money
• To award copyrights and patents for
ideas/inventions
• To create lower courts (except Supreme Court)
• To declare war
• To raise and support an army and navy
Evolution of Powers
Elastic clause has extended Congress powers
• Oversight of budget – can restrict the fed.
budget prepared by executive branch
• Appropriations – set amount of money made
available for various activity in a fiscal year
• Investigation – Congress can launch
investigations (Watergate, Clinton-Lewinski
hearings, Steroid use in baseball, 9/11, etc.)
113th Congress
(began 1-3-13)
• House:
• 234 Republicans
• 201 Democrats
•
•
•
•
Senate:
53 Democrats
45 Republicans
2 Independents
(Maine and
Vermont)
Who’s in Congress?
113th Congress (2013-15)
- of the 535 members of the House and Senate combined:
- 100 women and 435 men
- 45 African-Americans
- 38 Latino
- 13 Asian/Pacific islander
- 1 Native American
- 8 LGBT
- youngest is age 29; oldest is age 89; average age is 52.
- 226 people have law degrees
- 12 are foreign born
- 108 have military service
- 56% are Protestant; 31% Catholic
The Life of a Legislator
• Salary: $174K; Speaker $223K; other leaders
$193K
• Staff: Budgets determined by state population;
HR Reps – 14-18 staffers; Senate – 25-35
staffers – some in DC some in home district
• Constituent services – aka CASEWORK – help
the folks at home with their government
problems
• Travel – shuttle back and forth from DC to home
district – maintain a home in 2 places (DC is
hugely expensive!)
Kentucky Districts
Leadership
• Majority party controls the most significant leadership positions
• House - Speaker of the House (R’s)
• Allows people to speak on floor
• Assigns bills to committees
• Influences which bills are brought to a vote
• Appoints members of special and select committees
• Senate – Majority Leader (D’s)
• Schedules Senate business
• Prioritizes bills
• Vice president breaks voting ties
Leadership Positions
in Congress
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Speaker of the House – John Boehner (R-OH)
House Majority Leader – Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
House Minority Leader – Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
KY House District #4 – Thomas Massie (R-KY)
President of the Senate – Vice President Joe Biden
(D-DE)
President Pro-tempore of the Senate – Patrick Leahy
(D-VT) – most senior senator
Senate Majority Leader – Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Minority Leader - Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senior Senator from KY – Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Junior Senator from KY – Rand Paul (R-KY)
Leadership in Congress
House Leadership
SPEAKER
OF THE
HOUSE
MINORITY
LEADER
MINORITY
WHIP
MAJORITY
LEADER
MAJORITY
WHIP
THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES
• Two year terms – no term limits
• 435 members, fixed by law
• Larger legislative body than the Senate – has more formal
rules and procedures.
• Name recognition among constituents not as strong as
with Senators
• Was not originally conceived to have a great deal of
power – the Senate was to be more aristocratic to “keep
down the turbulency of democracy.”
• Are policy experts in one or two areas of policy – know a
lot about a few things!
THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES
• House seats are considered “safer” for re-election
than Senate seats.
• Because they represent fewer constituents than
their Senate counterparts, House members can
and do deliver more national services to their
constituents at the local level. (A more personal
touch = rewards at the ballot box.)
• “He helped my Grandma get her Medicare
enrollment straightened out.”
• “She helped my child get a West Point
appointment.”
THE POWER OF THE SPEAKER
• Formal Powers
• Preside over the House
• Recognize or ignore
those who wish to
speak
• Appoint committee
chairs
• Appoint Rules
committee members
• Appoint members of
special or select
committees
• Refer all bills to one or
more committee
• But he can’t do it alone…
• Majority Leaders and Whips
are the chief legislative aides
to the Speaker. They round
up the party votes so it
speaks with one voice.
• Rules Committee controls
what is debated by placing
time limits on debate and
stating whether or not
amendments can be made in
or out of committee
Senate Leadership
PRESIDENT of the
SENATE
(VICE PRESIDENT)
PRES. PRO
TEMPORE
MAJORITY LEADER
MINORITY
LEADER
MINORITY
WHIP
(MOST POWERFUL)
MAJORITY
WHIP
THE SENATE
• Smaller than the House – 100 members – 6
year terms.
• Originally chosen by each state’s legislature.
The 17th Amendment provided for the direct
election of Senators by the voters.
• Are policy generalists – know a little bit about
a lot of policy areas!
• Has less formal rules and procedures and they
are more non-partisan. (They tend to
compromise with each other more than House
members do.)
THE SENATE
• Prior to the advent of television, the seniority
system prevailed in the Senate – senior senators
were “show horses” and junior senators were
“work horses”.
• Now, it is an incubator for presidential hopefuls.
• For example, in recent history, Bob Dole, John
Kerry, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama,
and Rick Santorum all used their senate years to
gain the experience they needed on those
“generalist” issues to be able to mount a serious
presidential candidacy.
Unit 2
• Student Learning Goal 2B
• Understand the role of committees in the
legislative process
Committees and
Subcommittees
• Most real work happens here
• Bills are passed, changed, ignored, or
killed
• This is where interest groups and lobbyists
can influence legislation the most.
• Testify on upcoming bills to persuade or
dissuade passage.
Types of Committees
• Standing committee
– handle bills in different policy areas
– (ex. Appropriations, Agriculture, Armed
Services, Science, etc.)
– most important and have been “standing”
(existing) for a long time
• Select committee
– formed for specific purposes and usually
temporary – run investigations (ex. Aging,
Intelligence, Watergate, Iran-Contra, etc.)
Types of Committees
• Joint committee
- consist of both House and Senate members
- Meant to draw attention to issues
- Recent fiscal cliff and budget negotiations
- Amendment proposals
• Conference committee
– consist of both House reps and Senators
– formed to hammer out differences between House and
Senate versions of similar bills
Committee Membership
• Controlled by majority party, committee
membership divided proportionally (except
House Rules Committee where majority
has membership in a 2:1 ratio.)
• Committee Chairman
– Senior member of committee
– Controls membership and debate
Work of Committees
• 11,000 bills introduced yearly, most die
• Committees can…
– Report out favorably/unfavorably
– Pigeonholed/table (do not discuss – bill is
killed)
– Amend / “mark up” (change or rewrite)
Congressional Caucuses
• Groupings of members pushing for similar
interests
• Republicans and Democrats have party
caucuses
• Also Informal gatherings often cross party lines.
• Examples – Automotive, Black Legislators,
Boating, Chicken, Everglades, Prayer,
Songwriters, Doctors, Aviation, Global Health,
Second Amendment, Women’s Senate/House
Caucus
Unit 2
• Student Learning Goal 2C
• Describe house House seats are
reapportioned and gerrymandered
(Re)-Apportionment
• Every 10 years, we conduct the US Census. It was
officially done on April 1, 2010.
• Between 2010 and the 2012 election, house seats are
reapportioned (redistributed) based upon population
gains and losses – the fixed number is 435 by
Congressional law.
• They can increase the number of HR members if they
want to but have chosen not to.
• Looking at my CSPAN map - you can see the BIG gains
and losses (Texas +4; Ohio -2; NY -2).
• A congressional district = 600,000 to 750,000 approx.
“Gerrymandering”
• State legislatures draw or re-draw congressional district
lines.
• These are subject to Supreme Court approval and can
be changed if “gerrymandering” is thought to be present.
• Gerrymandering is drawing congressional district lines to
favor one political party over another or “racial
gerrymandering”, to favor one race over another.
• These result in the non-competitive districts we have
talked about (where either the R or D always wins) or
“safe seats”.
“Packing and Cracking”
Packing a district means drawing the
lines so they include as many of the opposing
party’s voters as possible. Results in a safe seat
for each district or political party.
Cracking means dividing an opponents voters
into other districts, weakening the opponent’s
voter base. Results in safe seats for one party
only.
“Gerrymandering” back then
In 1812, Governor
Elbridge Gerry signed
a bill that redistricted
Massachusetts to
benefit his
DemocraticRepublican Party.
When mapped, one of
the contorted districts
in the Boston area
was said to resemble
the shape of a
salamander.
“Gerrymandering” today
Is Hamilton County
“Gerrymandered”?
Photo credit – Emerson Holladay
Compact and Continuous
The Supreme Court has ruled that districts
must be compact and continuous or
physically adjoining.
This requirement plus the “one-person, onevote” principal has cut down on some of the
worst examples of gerrymandering.
Is this legal?
• There are 3 districts represented – Red,
Blue and Green. Is this legal?
Is this legal?
• YES…a square within a larger square, or
a circle within a larger circle, is not
permitted.
• But a similar shape can be effectively
achieved with a narrow strip or path of
land that joins the outer area to the inner
area, as in the letter "C". This example
contains three contiguous election
districts, where each district contains
portions of the other two districts.
Is this legal?
• This example contains three contiguous
election districts, where each district
contains portions of the other two districts.
Representation
• Malapportionment – unequal population in
districts
– Wesberry v. Sanders (1963) – found unequal
district pop. unconstitutional – 14th amend
• Gerrymandering – district boundaries are
redrawn in strange ways to make it easy
for candidate of one party to win
– Easley v. Cromartie (2001) – redistricting for
political ideology was constitutional, led to
increase in minority reps
Unit 2
• Student Learning Goal 2D
• List the steps in moving a bill through
Congress to become a law
How Does a Bill
Become a Law?
How A Bill Becomes a
Law
•Founders believed in a SLOW process – they
thought efficiency was a trait of an oppressive
government
•So be careful what you wish for - remember,
the Nazi government was VERY efficient…
•There are numerous “stop signs” or hurdles to
clear along the way to stop legislation from
going forward.
•Only 3-5% of proposed bills become law.
Step 1 – Introduce Bill
• Introduced in Senate or House (except
taxation or revenue bills)
• In the House, it goes in the “Hopper”.
• Single or multiple reps can introduce bill
• Sponsors and Co-Sponsors
• Immediately a bill is assigned to a committee
• This example will begin with a bill in the
House
“Judy the Traffic Cop goes to
D.C”…..or “Just How Powerful is the
Speaker Anyway?”
When a bill in the HR is
proposed, is placed in the
“hopper”, it is numbered, and
read & referred to committee
by the Speaker of the House.
Like our own “Judy the Traffic
Cop” here in the Fort, nothing
and I mean NOTHING happens
in the House without the
Speaker’s say-so!
Step 2 - Committee
1. Bill is assigned to a particular committee in its category
(Ex. Tax bill – Ways and Means Committee, Farm bill –
Agriculture Committee)
2. Bill is then placed in the appropriate sub-committee
3. Bills are debated and “marked up” (amended or edited)
4. Most bills die in committee, committee can vote to “report
out” a bill (favorably or unfavorably)
5. “Discharge petition” gets a bill out of committee in the HR
only (219 signatures needed to go directly to the floor of
the house for a vote)
– rarely happens except, of course, in Hollywood films. See the film
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde if you are curious.
Step 3–Rules Committee
• Before bill can go to floor in House, it must
first set time limits and amendment
regulations.
– Closed rule – sets time limits, restricts
amendments
– Open rule – permits amendments
– Restrictive rule – permits some amendments
Step 4 – Floor Debate
Senate Debate
• Less formal, no speaking limit
• Filibuster – practice of stalling a bill w/ debate
– Harry Reid “nuclear option” of 2013
• Cloture – 3/5 of the Senate vote to stop debate
(60 votes)
House Debate
• More formal, no filibuster, strict rules
THE SENATE IN ACTION
• All bills are placed on one calendar via a unanimous
consent vote.
• But since a single senator can object and derail the
process, the majority and minority leader discuss the vote
beforehand to avoid any derailments.
• Most of the time, the Senate allows unlimited debate.
• The filibuster is used as a tactic to stall voting. One can
speak nonstop for as long as one wishes.
• The longest filibuster came from Senator Strom Thurmond
(D-SC, later R-SC) in 1957. He spoke for 24 hours and 17
minutes to hold up a Civil Rights bill.
• Only a cloture vote can stop a filibuster (60 votes needed to
be filibuster proof). (Known as Rule XXII)
• Now, a “gentleman’s filibuster” has been agreed upon –
9am to 5pm, and the speaker can resume speaking the
next day.
Voting on a Bill
In the House,
voting is done
electronically. In
the Senate, each
member’s name is
still called out loud
in alphabetical
order. A quorum is
needed to conduct
any official
business (50% +1
is usually
sufficient).
Step 5 - Voting
• Majority passes
• If the bill passes, it must go through the same
process in the opposite chamber with a sponsor
• If the bill passes one house and fails the other, it
must start over
• If the Senate and House cannot come to
agreement over two versions, it goes to
Conference Committee to fix it and resubmit the
bill – both houses MUST agree on a final version
or no go!
Presidential Action
• Sign the bill into a law.
• Veto the bill & it goes back to Congress. They can override his
veto with a 2/3 vote of both Houses.
• Allow it to become a law without a signature (do nothing for 10
days if Congress is in session – it becomes law).
• “Pocket Veto” – President has 10 days to act on a piece of
legislation. If he receives the bill within 10 days of the end of the
Congressional session(or if congress is not in session), and
doesn’t sign, it dies.
• Most laws are passed the last few days before Congress takes
an official recess, making pocket vetoes a distinct possibility.
• In Congress is in recess (an official vacation), the president can
appoint some people to positions WITHOUT Senate approval.
Unit 2
• Student Learning Goal 2E
• Discuss the budget process and the
criticisms related to it
Fiscal Policy
• Fiscal Policy is the impact of the federal
budget on the economy--for exampletaxes, spending and borrowing--so in
talking about the budget process, we
are talking about making
fiscal policy
The Fiscal Year
• The fiscal year for the national gov’t is from
Oct. 1-Sept. 30. (KY – July 1 to June 30)
• IF Congress & the President can’t get the
budget completed on time, Congress can
pass a continuing resolution. This will
continue to fund the gov’t at last year’s level.
• If Congress doesn’t pass a continuing
resolution or the President doesn’t sign it,
the national gov’t shuts down until a
budget or a continuing resolution can be
passed – like this time last year.
• See handouts of the current budget
MAJOR PLAYERS
• Executive Branch
–The President
–The Office of Management &
Budget
–The Bureaucracy
MAJOR PLAYERS
• The Legislative Branch
House & Senate Appropriations
Committees
House & Senate Budget
Committees
House Ways & Means Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Congressional Budget Office
The Process
The President is supposed to
prepare the budget and present
it to Congress by the first
Monday in February.
The Office of Management
& Budget
• The OMB will also take requests from
the different executive agencies and
departments.
• The President will give the OMB his
guidelines for the budget.
• The OMB uses all of this info to prepare
the budget.
Congress
• The Budget Committees in the House &
Senate receive the budget & study it.
• Each committee makes a recommendation to
their chamber by early May and this
recommendation becomes the
– Budget Resolution
The Budget Resolution is a goal--NOT
binding!! It can change!
• During the summer, each chamber
passes 13 appropriations bills.
• Pass a law to authorize the creation
of a program, then pass another to
appropriate $ to fund the program>
• Once Congress passes a
budget, each chamber
usually has to pass a
budget reconciliation
resolution
• A budget reconciliation resolution
resolves the differences between what
the House or Senate meant to spend -budget resolution--and what they
actually spent!!
• After the House and Senate agree on
the appropriations bills and pass them,
the President signs them (and we all
faint!:)
• Remember – we ran without a budget
for 5 years and funded the government
on 2009 levels for that time.
• This is an election year so expect
Congress to play budget hardball with
the president!
Criticisms of “Pork”
• “Pork” – aka “pork-barrel legislation” – bills to benefit
constituents in hope of gaining their votes (now called
“earmarks” because pork-barrel has such a negative
connotation)
• Logrolling – Congress members exchange votes, bills might
pass for frivolous reason
• Christmas-tree bill –bill with many riders (pork)
– in Senate, no limit exists on amendments, so Senators
used to try to attach riders that will benefit their home state
Term-limits & “Pork”
•
1.
2.
No current limit on how many terms members of
Congress can serve
Some argue this has weakened popular control of
Congress, reps might be unresponsive to their
constituents because they think we aren’t interested in
what they do.
Some argue most experienced reps have the expertise to
bring home more benefits and government projects but
with Tea Party members overseeing government
spending, pork barrel spending has declined as of late –
good news – we have decreased spending – bad news we need the Brent Spence bridge rebuilt
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