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Legislative Branch:  3rd Set of Notes
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Legislative Branch: 3rd Set of Notes

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  • 1. Congressional incumbency
    • What is an incumbent?
  • 2. Incumbency
    • 19th Century
        • A large fraction, often a majority of representatives and senators, serve only one term.
        • It was NOT regarded as a career.
  • 3.
    • 1950s -
      • It had become a career. From 1863 to 1969 the proportion of first “termers” in the House fell from 58% to 8%.
      • Are they out of touch with the people?
      • 90% of House members are incumbents
  • 4.
    • Marginal Districts
        • Political districts in which candidates elected to the House win in close elections. Less than 55% of the vote.
        • Does a marginal district make it easier or harder for the incumbent?
  • 5.
    • Safe Districts
        • Districts in which candidates win by margins of 55% or more.
        • Would incumbents rather live in a safe district or a marginal district?
        • What about someone running against an incumbent?
  • 6.
    • Lets take a look
  • 7.
    • NOW - people are more likely to vote for the person, not the party, but people are more likely to have heard of incumbents.
    • Are you guys more likely to vote for the person than the party? How do incumbents play into your decisions? Do they?
  • 8.
    • Why do incumbents have such a good chance?
        • Better Known
        • Easier to raise funds
        • Can use staff to do constituent service (and franking privilege)
        • Serve on committees that help constituents
  • 9. Do members represent their voters?
    • What do you think? Do they care about their constituents? Their party? Their conscience? A mix of these?
  • 10.
    • Congress-people can influence legislation in many other ways than voting.
    • What are some examples?
    • Hearings, mark up bills, offer amendments, media outlets
  • 11.
    • Representational View/Delegate
    • Based on the reasonable assumption that members want to get reelected and therefore they vote to please their constituents
    • What are the problems with this?
    • If there is not a strong or clear opinion then they can risk defeat if they vote against some constituents.
  • 12.
    • Organizational View/Partisan
        • Most constituents do not know how their legislator voted, so it is not essential to please them but it is important to please fellow members of Congress
        • Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
        • Principle Cue is Party - VERY PARTISAN
  • 13.
    • Attitudinal View/ Trustee
    • There are so many pressures that they cancel one another out, leaving them virtually free to vote on the basis of their own beliefs
    • More consistently conservative or liberal
    • Senators are usually less in tune with public than representatives
  • 14.
    • Any Mix of these/ Politico
    • Balances the trustee, delegate, and partisan
    • What is the one most important indicator of how they will vote?
    • PARTY
  • 15.
      • Trustee -
          • decided on its merits
      • Delegate
          • Decided based on constituents, agents of who elects them
      • Partisan
          • Owe allegiance to the party
      • Politico
          • Attempt to combine the basic elements of the others
    To Review
  • 16.
    • What would you rather have representing you in Congress, a delegate, trustee, partisan, or politico. WHY? Defend your answer.
  • 17. Party Unity and Congressional Caucuses
  • 18. How do we measure party unity?
  • 19. Party Polarization
    • Party Polarization:
        • A vote in which a majority of Democratic legislators oppose a majority of Republican legislators.
        • What would be an example of a bill subject that could cause this?
  • 20. Party Unity
    • Senate Numbers (as of right now...to change in January)
        • 49-49 but the 2 Independents caucus with Democrats (Dems think it is 51-49)
    • House Numbers
        • Dem - 233
        • Repub-202
  • 21. Party Unity
    • Another measure
        • Cohesion of the parties on votes that elicit a party split
        • If deeply divided, then we know their party unity is low
  • 22.
    • Bi-Modal Voting
        • When all Democrats vote one way and all Republicans vote the other
  • 23.
    • Example of Bimodal Voting
    • Clinton Impeachment
        • 98% of House Republicans voted for at least 1 impeachment article
        • 98% of House Democrats voted against all 4
  • 24.
    • So, does political party make a difference?
        • Enough of a difference that party affiliation is the most important thing to know about a member of Congress
  • 25. Congressional Caucuses
    • Do not get this confused with electoral caucuses. These relate to members IN congress.
    • They are an association of congressional members (senators and representatives) created to advance a political ideology or regional, ethnic, or economic interest.
  • 26.
    • So, its sort of like a club for like-minded congressmen and women
    • Coalitions
    • Study groups
    • Task forces
    • Working Groups
  • 27.
    • Intra-party caucuses
            • between members of the same party
            • ex. House Democratic Caucus, House Republican Caucus
  • 28.
    • Personal Interest Caucuses
        • Art
        • Congressional Family
        • Human Rights
        • Population and Development
  • 29.
    • Constituency Concerns, National
        • Black Caucus
        • Women’s issues
        • Vietnam Veterans
  • 30.
    • Constituency Concerns, Regional
        • Sunbelt
        • Western
        • TVA
  • 31.
    • Constituency Concerns, by State
        • MA caucus
        • VA caucus
  • 32.
    • Constituency Concerns, Industry
        • Steel
        • Textile
        • Boating
  • 33.
    • Why join a caucus?
        • To pursue common legislative goals
  • 34. Review for Quiz
    • next class: 7 short answers
    • Describe the three reasons we have a bicameral legislature.
  • 35.
    • What are three reasons why incumbent rates are so high in the House?
    • Define the theory of descriptive representation.
  • 36.
    • Discussed what happened in the court case Shaw v Reno
    • What is a filibuster and how can it be stopped
  • 37.
    • Describe the 4 ways members of Congress can vote/represent their voters?
    • Why would a congressman or woman want to join a caucus?