Congress Altruistic policy-makers or Single minded seekers of re-election
Congress this week The structure of Congress Incumbency and elections Congress and representation In depth look at decision-making in Congress
Congress Founders believed that the bulk of power exercised by the national government should be in the hands of the legislature. The Basics Article I of the Constitution deals with the powers, structure and operation of the Congress. Bicameralism: At founding it balances the interests and numerical majority of common citizens (House) with the interests of the less numerous elites (Senate).
Great Compromise Balance between small and large states Compromise on degree of popular influence. Senate switches from appointment by state legislatures to popular election with the 17th Amendment (1913).
Difference between House and Senate House of Representatives 435 Seats 2 year terms Must be 25 years old Popularly elected Senate 100 Seats 6 year terms Must be 30 years old Popularly elected (17th Amendment, 1913)
The institutional functions of Congress and Members’ individual goals are connected. Functions of Congress Representation Legislation Oversight Goals of Members Re-election Public Policy Political Influence
Representation Styles Members of Congress balance two styles based on the knowledge of their constituents, their own personal feelings, and public attention to an issue. Delegates closely follow and act on the preferences of their constituents. Trustees act based on their own judgments when they disagree with their constituents. Politicos are sensitive to the issue at hand when deciding whether to follow the preferences of constituents or to act based on their own judgments.
Representation Descriptive Representation A congress that looks like us, matches our characteristics Why would descriptive representation matter? Substantive Representation A congress that promotes policies that represents our interests What is the appropriate standard for representation?
There are important differences between the House and the Senate in how they make legislation. The House 435 Members representing narrow constituencies More organized and with centralized authority Greater degree of policy specialization Generally quicker to act The Senate 100 Senators representing broader, statewide constituencies Less organized and more individualistic Senators tend to be “generalists” More deliberative
Because it is larger and represents more specialized, narrow constituency, the House has naturally a greater collective action problem than the Senate. Still, to cope with this size difference the House has stronger rules and stronger parties and committees that facilitate legislative work.
Gerrymandering a controversial form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage. Incumbency Race
Gerrymandering a controversial form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage. Incumbency Race Partisanship The Drama part I The Drama part II Oral Arguments Court’s Decision
Incumbency advantages Advertising– creating a brand name Creating name recognition Credit claiming– taking personal responsibility for positive a government output Casework Legislative record Pork Barrel Seniority/ committee work Position taking– demonstrating agreement with the district Roll call votes Speeches Public statements
Incumbent Advantages Ties to elites, fundraising Allow for retrospective voting
Agenda-Settingor how Congress decides what to decide on Committees in Congress
Committees Screen out the thousands of bills that are introduced into Congress. This is the real work of Congress. Manage work load and allow for substantive debate Expertise development Balanced committees allow for good and substantive representation Importance of chair and ranking member Geographic representation
Free-riders, Congress, and Committees Getting on the “right” committee Committee control of legislation Jurisdiction over legislation
Two Ways of Understanding Congressional Voting Individual level analysis of decision-making Why a single legislator votes the way she does Aggregate level analysis of decision-making How institutions arrive at the decisions they do For today- how to explain when Congress is gridlocked and when it isn’t
Individual Decision Rules Congress members as “single-minded seekers of re-election.” Who matters in an election (and thus in voting on a bill)? Attentive publics Inattentive publics Latent publics The truly inattentive
Organized Groups and Attentive Publics salient group cost/benefits + traceable to legislator’s action + non-salient general cost/benefit Potential Preferences Latent Publics Group costs COULD be salient + possibility of traceability (if Congress gets it wrong)