The legislative branch
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The legislative branch

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Basic info for our HS class on government, econ and current events.

Basic info for our HS class on government, econ and current events.

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  • U.S. History and Government II 04/04/11

The legislative branch The legislative branch Presentation Transcript

  • The Legislative Branch House and Senate
  • The U.S. Congress: The People’s Branch
    • The Role of Congress
    • Senate vs. House
    • Organization & Leadership
    • The Committee System
    • Lame Duck Session
  • Founders’ Intentions for Congress
    • Most powerful branch of government
    • Representative assembly
    • Accessible to the people
  • House Office Buildings Virtual Tour of the Senate Chamber The Well in the House Chamber Why TWO Houses? Senate Office Buildings Capit o l Hill House Wing Senate Wing
  • House and Senate
  • SIX Constitutional Powers of Congress
    • Spend money for the general welfare
    • Regulate interstate commerce
    • Do what is "necessary and proper“
    • Establish and maintain
    • the armed forces
    • Declare war
    • Raise taxes and
    • borrow money
  • Key Functions of Congress Representation: expresses the diverse views of the American people Law Making: creates bills to address issues and solve problems in American society Consensus Building: reconciles competing interests Oversight: ensures that laws passed by Congress are effectively carried out by the executive branch Investigation: investigates government agencies, including the White House---impeachment Approval: confirms presidential appointees and treaties (Senate Only)
  • Qualifications for the House
    • 25 years old
    • Citizen for at least 7 years
    • Live in state which you represent
      • Should live in district you represent too – though strangely, this is not required
    Remember the stick figure we made?
  • Qualifications for Senate
    • Live in state you represent
    • 30 years old
    • Citizen for at
    • least nine years
  • The Perks of the Job
    • Vote for your own pay raise
      • Though it does not take effect until the next election
    • Current salary is $_________________
    • Dirt cheap life insurance, nice pension, own office (w/ free parking), a staff,
    • Pools, saunas, restaurants, etc
    • A certain amount of immunity for things said on the floor or as a result of the job
    • “ Franking” privilege – can send mail for free
  • The Dregs of the Job
    • Away from home and family for most of the year
    • Need to have a second house or apartment
      • Washington DC is VERY expensive
    • Looooooooooooong hours
    • EVERYONE expects you to solve their problems
  • Congressional Elections
    • The ENTIRE House of Representatives is elected at one time.
    • Only 1/3 of the Senate is up for election in any given year (every other year).
      • Considered a “continuous body”
  • Importance of Winning Power
    • Majority Party gets chairmanship of ALL Congressional Committees
      • Has more say in what will be debated
  • “ The Lower House”
    • The House of Representatives
  • The House of Representatives
    • Considered the “Lower House”
    • More “rough and tumble” than the Senate
    • Terms last two years.
      • No limit on number of times you can be re-elected
    • Represent a small district of a state. More oriented on local needs
  • House of Representatives
    • Each state split into districts
      • Supposed to be fairly equal in population
        • About 650,000 people / district
        • Reapportioned and Redrawn every 10 years based on the Census
          • Lose population = lose reps = lose districts = change the map.
  • So Who Gets How Many?
    • Number of Representatives – 435
      • One for each Congressional District
        • Who is the Congressman from our Congressional District?
    • Apportioned by population
      • How many does PA have?
    • Reapportioned after each census
      • Count of all people in the country
      • Done every 10 years
    • If population of state goes up, they get more Reps and add more districts, if it goes down, they lose Reps
  • Congressional Districts for PA http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd?state=PA Which congressional district are we in? So who is the Representative from OUR district??
  • Congressional Districts
  • What Happens If the Population Grows or Shrinks
    • At the State level – the majority party decides how to draw the lines for new districts after each census.
      • “ Let’s make Philly one district, and split Montgomery County into 5 districts – each with its own Congressman”
      • “ Gerrymandering”
        • Technically illegal, but still done
  • Activity: Gerrymander Island You are part of the government of Gerrymander Island. You have taken the ten year census and found out how many people live on the island. Now you must REAPPORTION the island’s districts. There used to be five districts, now there are only four. YOU want to make sure the ____________(fill in your party here) party gets an advantage in every election for the next 10 years. To do so, you need to draw new district borders that will make sure YOUR party has more votes in each district than the other party. HOWEVER: a couple rules apply Districts must be contiguous – you can’t have an “island” from one district inside another. Each district must have approximately the same NUMBER of people in them.
  • D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R D D D R R R R R R R R D D D R R R R R R R R D D D R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R Gerrymander Island D=57 R= 54 D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D
  • Leaders of the House
  • Majority Leader Minority Leader
    • Majority & Minority Leaders
    • Direct strategy on the House floor
    • Maintains alliances to gain votes and to pass/defeat bills
    • Develop the party’s legislative agenda w/Speaker
    • Ensures that committee chairs take action on bills
    Eric Cantor Nancy Pelosi John Boehner Speaker of the House
    • Speaker of the House:
    • Presides over the Chamber
    • Decides Points of Order During Debate
    • Refers bills and resolutions to the appropriate committees
    • Schedules legislation for floor action
    • Appoints House members to committees
    • 9 members from the majority party—chosen by the Speaker
    • 4 members from the minority party
    Is the Rules Committee democratic?
    • Regulates floor debate
    • Sets limits on amendments
    • Influences which bills do and do not get consideration
    • Supports the agenda of the majority party .
  • THE SENATE
  • The Senate
    • Considered the “Upper House”
      • More sophisticated than the House of Reps.
    • Serve six year term
      • Supposedly helps them avoid special interest group influence
      • Spend more time working, less time campaigning
    • Represent the entire State, not just a small district
  • Leadership in the Senate: Democratic
    • President Pro Temp
    • Presides when the vice president is not present
    • Usually is the most senior member of the majority party
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R) Daniel Inouye
    • Vice President
    • Is the president of the Senate
    • May not take part in the debate
    • May try to influence a vote through contact with senators
    • May recognize members and put questions to a vote
    • May vote only in the event of a tie
  • Filibuster A senator refuses to give up the floor in order to prevent a vote. If 60 senators vote to end a filibuster, a vote on the bill must be held within 30 hours. (cloture) Strom Thurmond (1957) 24 hours against civil rights legislation Huey Long filibustered on behalf of the poor Is the filibuster democratic? You tell me.
  • Philosophical Roles of Congressmen
  • Roles of Congressmen
    • “ The Trustee”
      • Vote their conscience, regardless of views held by their constituents
        • “ The people place their trust in me to vote the best way I can.”
    • “ The Partisan”
      • Feel their first duty is to their party.
        • “ My constituents obviously believe in our party platform, that is why they elected me. Therefore, I will vote my party line all of the time.”
  • Roles of Congressmen
    • “ The Delegate”
      • Vote the way people back home want them to vote, regardless of their own personal feelings on the issue
        • “ I don’t agree with this issue, but my constituents say they want it, so OK.”
    • “ The Politico”
      • Votes whatever way will ensure he can stay in office.
  • Powers of Congress
    • Power to tax
      • Used to raise money to alleviate debt, or to protect jobs against foreign competition
      • Limitations
        • Only for public purposes
          • The govt can not make a profit
        • Can not tax exports
        • Can not tax Churches
        • Can not tax individual states – must be all or nothing
    • Power to Borrow
      • No credit limit. Govt can borrow as much as it wants.
        • (Theoretically we have a Balanced Budget Act of 1997)
  • Powers of Congress
    • Regulate Commerce
      • “ Anti-Trust laws”
        • Arlen Spector vs the NFL
        • States can not give monopolies to companies that work among more than one state
    • Coin money
      • Solved the problem of each state making its own currency
      • Centralize laws / procedures for bankruptcy
  • Powers of Congress
    • Foreign Affairs
      • Ratify treaties
      • Declare War
        • What can Congress do if the President sends troops to battle WITHOUT declaring war?
        • Letters of Marque and Reprisal
          • What to do with prisoners and captured equipment (ships)
    • Naturalization
      • Establish rules and procedures for naturalization of immigrants
        • Think this will be an issue in the near future?
    • Establish post office and laws dealing with mail (interstate commerce)
      • Laws between states must be upheld
  • Other powers
    • Copyrights and Patents
      • Life +50 for copyrights, 17years for patents
    • Weights and measures
  • Necessary and Proper Clause
    • Allows for great flexibility of Congressional Power
  • Non Legislative Powers
    • Impeachment
      • To bring charges against
        • Can be done to a president or judges – not congressmen
        • Only 2 presidents have ever been impeached
        • Does NOT mean they are kicked out – but if the impeachment vote passes, they hold a “court” to “try” the individual. If found guilty, then they can be removed.
  • Congress’s Executive Powers
    • Confirmation of nominees made by the President by the Senate
      • Judges, Cabinet officers, Federal Attorneys, Diplomats (watch this space for the John Bolton issue)
    • Ratifying Treaties
  • Investigator Powers
    • Congress holds hearings to investigate controversial issues
      • Can you name any that are in the news today?
      • Used to gather info, oversight, focus public awareness, expose corruption
        • Yes, there is often a political side to it. It is a great chance to stick it to the other party.
  • House Majority Leader
    • Currently Republican Eric Cantor
    • Main job is to plan strategy
      • Helps to have a very Machiavellian person in here
      • Plans the order of business on the Floor of the House
        • It is amazing how some things come up for votes at the most inconvenient time for the opposing party
  • House Minority Leader
    • Currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi
    • Main job is to ensure his/her party does not get shafted by the Majority party.
  • Whips
    • Majority and Minority Party both have Whips
    • Main job is to keep a count of who will vote for or against an issue.
      • Once you know you have enough votes, the Whip brings it to the Majority / Minority leader to get it onto the floor to actually vote on it.
      • Ensures members are available to vote on key issues and close votes.
        • He is the “Get out the vote” guy in his party when it comes to floor matters.
  • Committees
    • Chaired by those in the Majority Party
    • Chairs selected by seniority
    • Main types
      • Standing = never goes away
        • The House Commerce Committee
      • Select = called for as needed
        • “ Select Committee on Intelligence”
    • Joint Committee
      • Made up of members of both House and Senate
        • Conference Committee
          • Special Committee that tries to blend different versions of Bills that come out of House and Senate into one final Bill.
  • Main types
    • Standing = never goes away
        • The House Commerce Committee
    • Select = called for as needed
        • “ Select Committee on Intelligence”
    • Joint Committee
      • Made up of members of both House and Senate
        • Conference Committee
          • Special Committee that tries to blend different versions of Bills that come out of House and Senate into one final Bill.
    • House Rules Committee
      • Decides which Bills get sent to which committees and which bills end up getting a vote on the floor of the House
      • VERY POWERFUL CHAIRMANSHIP