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We The People Chapter 9 Congress

We The People Chapter 9 Congress






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  • In addition to its law-making powers, Congress plays a critical role in American democracy as a representative institution. The members of Congress—100 senators and 435 representatives—represent the voices of the people across America. Yet, some observers worry that Congress does not represent all voices equally.
  • This is a good time to remind students why this system was established: the small states wanted equal representation and the large states wanted representation proportional to population. The idea of two equal chambers had never been tried before. Consider discussing the range of representation this system captures: ideological, partisan, geographic, etc. This is particularly salient in states with strong partisan leanings (e.g., California or Texas) at the state level.
  • Five nonvoting delegates: American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, U.W. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Note states will always have the same number of senators. Preview the apportionment discussion here by noting the fact that the number of House seats allocated to the states has varied widely over time, reflecting geographic expansion and population shifts across the states.
  • Note constituents may share some traits but not others with their representatives. Generate discussion by asking students to think about their personal similarities and differences with their representatives in terms of ideology, age, gender, race, and/or income.
  • FIGURE 9.1 Women, African Americans, and Latinos in the U.S. Congress, 1971–2010 Congress has become more diverse in the last 40 years. The number of women and African American members grew sharply during the first half of the 1990s. Why are gains larger for some groups than others? * Note that the trendline for women includes white and minority women. † Remind students the y -axis is the actual number, NOT a percentage of all congressional representatives. SOURCES: Harold W. Stanley and Richard G. Niemi, eds., Vital Statistics on American Politics 2003–2004 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2003), 207, Table 5–2; and Mildred Amer and Jennifer E. Manning, Membership of the 11 th Congress: A Profile, Congressional Research Service 7-5700, December 31, 2008, assets.opencrs.com (accessed 1/31/10). A good discussion question is to ask students whether they expect the kinds of laws introduced and enacted over the last 20 years to differ from prior decades when there were fewer women and minorities in Congress.
  • The increase in the number of Latino and nonwhite members in Congress is shown by the membership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus. Here, members of those three groups hold a press conference on the federal budget and debt.
  • This slide ties into interest groups, as discussed in the previous chapter. Interest groups are expected to reach out to members of Congress, and those members are expected to actively reach out to constituents. However, this is not easy when a representative can have over 600,000 constituents and a senator can have millions.
  • Good potential candidates are scared off by the incumbency advantages, understanding their chances of winning are slim. This means incumbents frequently face weak opposition, further enhancing their odds of re-election.
  • FIGURE 9.2 The Power of Incumbency Members of Congress who run for re-election have a very good chance of winning. Senators have at times found it difficult to use the power of incumbency to protect their seats, as the sharp decline in Senate incumbency rates between 1974 and 1980 indicates. Has the incumbency advantage generally been greater in the House or in the Senate? SOURCES: Norman J. Ornstein et al., eds., Vital Statistics on Congress, 1999–2000 (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2000), 57–58; and authors ’ update. *estimate
  • Again, a point to emphasize is this: in a significant number of congressional races, incumbents are not challenged by the opposing party because the district has been drawn in such a manner that it is very unlikely that the out party would win. In districts like these where the seat is contested, the opponent is either hoping for some unforeseen scandal or accident to happen, is hoping to run well and draw attention for another race down the line, or has unrealistic expectations. Note that only a handful of states actually gain or lose seats each decade. Important to note each state has different procedures determining how district lines will be drawn.
  • FIGURE 9.3 Results of Congressional Reapportionment, 2010 States in the West and parts of the South were the big winners in the reapportionment of House seats following the 2010 census. The old manufacturing states in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions were the biggest losers. Which states have the greatest number of House seats?
  • This is also one reason why it is so hard for Congress to cut spending: members will work to prevent cuts to their districts. Ask whether they think of these examples as markers of good representation by their member of Congress. If other MCs are doing these things for their districts, would they be unhappy if their MC was not?
  • FIGURE 9.4 How Members of Congress Represent Their Districts
  • Spend a moment to recognize the fact that parties are a very important part of Congress. Partisan division is embedded in the institution and can be discussed in light of what has been covered in the parties chapter.
  • FIGURE 9.5 Majority Party Structure in the House of Representatives *Includes Speaker, majority leader, chief and deputy whips, caucus chair, chairs of five major committees, members elected by regional caucuses, members elected by recently elected representatives, and at-large members appointed by the Speaker. Consider having students complete one of these diagrams with current Congress.
  • FIGURE 9.6 Majority Party Structure in the Senate Consider having students complete one of these diagrams with current Senate.
  • Congress does all of its work in and through committees—it is one big group project. The different types of committees manage the workflow.
  • A point to make is that members try to get on committees that have jurisdiction over key elements of their districts. Members representing Connecticut and New York may want to get on Financial Services, for example, while a member from Kansas may want to obtain a seat on Agriculture.
  • The issues for which select committees are formed are often those that span many committees or that are so rare or novel (e.g., steroid use in Major League Baseball) that the standing committees cannot easily address them.
  • The Republican changes in 1995 were truly revolutionary. Quite a number of senior members were skipped over for chair assignments because their political leanings were not close enough to those of the new leadership.
  • Each representative is allocated a staffing budget, which they can spend as they wish. Senators are allocated budgets according to the population of their state. Staffing is typically allocated on a life-cycle pattern, in which newer members typically focus more heavily on constituent services, with a large percentage of their staff back working in their districts. As they rise in seniority and feel safer in their seats, they typically pull more staff into DC to focus on policy work.
  • FIGURE 9.7 How a Bill Becomes a Law * Points at which a bill can be amended. † Points at which a bill can die. ‡ If the president neither signs nor vetoes a bill within 10days, it automatically becomes law. A group project might have students choose a policy area, then trace the path of a related successful and unsuccessful bill.
  • Approximately 95 percent of bills do not advance past the committee level. The idea that many bills are known in advance to be nonstarters may strike the students as odd. They may not be familiar with “symbolic politics,” where the goal is to make a statement rather than achieve a policy goal.
  • The number of vetoes by a president varies quite dramatically. It largely depends on whether Congress is controlled by the same party as the president.
  • Members of Congress often spend a great deal of time in their electoral districts meeting with constituents. Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland is shown here greeting constituents at an event in Baltimore.
  • The prior chapter detailed the impact interest groups can have. Donations and information are important resources. A group with a lot of both is more influential, and a member without much of either is more prone to their influence.
  • FIGURE 9.8 Party Unity Votes by Chamber Party unity votes are roll-call votes in which a majority of one party lines up against a majority of the other party. Party unity votes increase when the parties are polarized and when the party leadership can enforce discipline. Why did the percentage of party unity votes decline in the 1970s? Why has it risen in recent years? SOURCE: Richard, Rubin. “Party Unity: An Ever Thicker Dividing Line,” CQ Weekly Online (January 11, 2010), 122–31, library.cqpress.com (accessed 2/5/10). Students may not realize that not all votes are partisan in nature. There are many ceremonial votes commending citizens and groups (that are usually unanimous), and spending bills tend to generate majorities from both parties, because they often benefit everyone. However, when it comes to important legislation, we have seen increases in partisanship over the middle of the twentieth century.
  • There are two other points you might want to discuss. The first is that members want to rise in their chamber, and they do so not only through seniority but also by supporting powerful members of their party who can do them favors in return. This means junior members are often influenced by more senior members. On the other hand, there are times when members really do believe in certain policy goals and may not be willing to sacrifice them. There are times when party leaders simply have to accept this.
  • It is also the case, sadly, that just as Congress often abuses its oversight powers for partisan purposes, many witnesses simply refuse to cooperate, either by pleading they have forgotten or simply evading the questions.
  • If the Senate conducts a trial, the chief justice conducts it. Clarify that impeachment and removal from office are two distinct votes with different thresholds.
  • TABLE 9.1 Differences between the House and the Senate
  • As Speaker of the House, John Boehner attempted to keep his party unified, despite disagreements between the Tea Party members and other Republicans. Especially during the 2011 debate over the national debt, Boehner worked hard to persuade House Republicans to fall into line.
  • In 2010, Senator Sanders of Vermont held the Senate floor for over eight hours to draw attention to concerns about a tax plan. Sanders’s long speech wasn’t technically a filibuster (because it did not stop any Senate business), but it provides an example of the rule that a senator can speak as long as he wants once given the floor.

We The People Chapter 9 Congress We The People Chapter 9 Congress Presentation Transcript

  • Chapter 9Congress
  • Congress
  • House & Senate: Differences in Representation• Bicameral system: two chambers – Each state has two senators. – Each state has House representatives; number determined by state population• Predicated on different representation models – Senate: states, with longer terms – House: districts, with shorter terms
  • House & Senate: Differences in Representation• Senate: 100 senators – Since 1913, directly elected by voters statewide – Six-year terms – Two per state (fixed)• House of Representatives: 435 members – Elected by districts – Two-year terms – Population determines number per state (varies)
  • House & Senate: Differences in Representation• How representatives “represent”:– Sociological representation: shares demographic traits, experiences, and interests with constituents– Agency representation: representative has electoral incentive to act on constituent interests
  • Women, African Americans, and Latinos in Congress (1971–2010)SociologicalRepresentation
  • The Social Composition of the U.S. Congress
  • House & Senate: Differences in Representation• Representatives as agents: legislators learn about the interests of constituents.• Parties rarely ask a member of Congress to vote against constituent interests. – Electoral incentives are important to parties, too.
  • The Electoral Connection• Who gets elected? – Who runs (some encouraged more than others) – Incumbency advantage – Districting and gerrymandering issues
  • The Electoral Connection• Incumbency advantage – Members of Congress have an array of tools to keep them in office. • Constituency services • Name recognition and title • Ability to raise funds more easily – Combine to make incumbents strong candidates
  • The Power of Incumbency
  • The Electoral Connection• Districting and redistricting – Congressional districts are typically drawn in a manner that clearly benefits one party or the other. – The vast majority of incumbents represent “safe districts,” where most voters support one party. – Primaries are the critical election in safe districts because there is little party competition.
  • Results of Congressional Reapportionment
  • The Electoral Connection• Direct patronage – Pork barrel spending • Earmarks – Patronage • Some local and state elected officials have jobs to offer to constituents. – Constituent services – Private bills
  • The Electoral Connection
  • The Organization of Congress• The majority party controls leadership and shapes agenda. – The Speaker of the House is the leader of the majority party. – Both parties also elect a majority leader, a minority leader, and a whip. – Parties determine which of their members sit on various committees.
  • Majority Party Structure in the House of Representatives
  • Majority Party Structure in the Senate
  • The Organization of Congress• Committee system – Standing committees – Select committees – Joint committees – Conference committees
  • The Organization of Congress• Standing committees are permanent; where majority of legislation is written
  • The Organization of Congress
  • The Organization of Congress• Select committees – Formed temporarily to focus on a specific issue • Cannot present bills to the chamber • Bring attention to a specific subject• Joint committees – Formed from members of both chambers – Gather information – Cover issues internal to Congress
  • The Organization of Congress• Conference committees – For a bill to become a law, the same wording of the bill must be passed by both chambers. – Conference committees are formed to write the final wording when both chambers pass similar bills that need to be reconciled.
  • The Organization of Congress• The number of seats the minority party has on a committee is roughly proportionate to the seats it has in the House, but at an unfavorable rate.• Seniority determines committee assignments. – Chairs can be removed by the party caucus. – Chairs are term-limited.
  • The Organization of Congress• Congressional staffers – Specific topic or issue expertise – Constituent service • Over 11,500 staff in DC and district offices • Another 2,000 staff for committees
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law• A bill is a proposed law that has been sponsored by a member of Congress and submitted to the Clerk of the House or Senate.• The bill is given a number and assigned to a committee, which typically refers it to a subcommittee.• Bills taken seriously are given a hearing.• The vast majority (95 percent) do not become laws.
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law• The House rule determines how much time is allocated for floor debate.• The debate time is divided equally between those for the bill and those against the bill.• The Senate allows for unlimited discussion, requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster via cloture.
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law• Once a bill clears in one chamber, it is sent to the other, where the process starts over.• If both chambers pass the same wording, the bill is sent to the president.• If not, both chambers create a conference committee.
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law• The president is given 10 days to veto a law. – Vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in each chamber. – Pocket veto: If there are less than 10 days left in the congressional calendar and the president does not sign the bill into law, it dies and must begin again from scratch in the next session.
  • How Congress Decides• Many factors influence members of Congress.• Constituents – Legislators take constituents seriously if they believe it will affect their support in the next election. – This includes voters as well as industries with a large presence in the district. – Electoral incentives make constituents a priority.
  • Interest Groups Influence Constituents and Congress
  • How Congress Decides• Interest groups – Can supply legislators with very detailed information and data about pending bills – Can make sizeable donations – Do they represent the interests of constituents?
  • How Congress DecidesParty discipline: Congress increasingly partisan since 1990s
  • How Congress Decides• Tools party leaders have at their disposal: – Leadership PACs – Committee assignments – Access to the floor – The whip system – Logrolling – Presidency
  • Beyond Legislation• Oversight – Congress is expected to oversee the activities of the executive branch in order to ensure funding is spent properly and laws are enforced.• Advice and consent – The Senate confirms executive appointments, ambassadors, and federal judges. – Approves all treaties
  • Beyond Legislation• Impeachment – If high officials are thought to have committed “Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” they can be impeached. – The House acts as a grand jury. – The Senate conducts the actual trial.
  • Public Opinion PollDo you approve or disapprove of the way Congress ishandling its job?a) Strongly approveb) Approvec) Disapproved) Strongly disapprove
  • Public Opinion PollDo you approve or disapprove of the way your memberof Congress is handling his or her job?a) Strongly approveb) Approvec) Disapproved) Strongly disapprove
  • Public Opinion PollDo you believe we should have term limits formembers of Congress?a) Yesb) No
  • Public Opinion PollDo you believe state legislatures should be responsiblefor drawing congressional districts?a) Yesb) No
  • Public Opinion PollDo you think it is important that members of Congressreflect national economic demographics?a) Yesb) No
  • Public Opinion PollDo you think it is important that members of Congressreflect national racial and ethnic demographics?a) Yesb) No
  • Public Opinion PollWhen members of Congress cast a vote, which of thefollowing factors should most influence their decision?a) The interests of the country as a wholeb) The interests of their district or state
  • Public Opinion PollWhen members of Congress cast a vote, which of thefollowing factors should most influence their decision?a) Constituent preferencesb) The president’s preferencesc) The members’ party leadership preferencesd) The members’ own ideology
  • Chapter 9: Congress• Quizzes• Flashcards• Outlines• Exerciseswwnorton.com/we-the-people
  • Following this slide, you will find additional images,figures, and tables from the textbook.
  • Differences between the House and the Senate
  • Party Leaders Rely on Party Discipline
  • Debate