The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government• Article I describes structure of Congress – Bicameral legislature • Divided into two houses • Each state sends two Senators regardless of population. • Number of representatives each state sends to the House is determined by state population.
The Constitution and the Legislative Branch of the Government• Constitution sets out requirements for membership in the House and Senate – House – 25 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 7 years; serve 2 year terms • Directly elected, thus more responsible to the people – Senate – 30 years of age; reside in U.S. at least 9 years; serve 6 year terms ; originally chosen by state legislators, until 17th Amendment (1913) – Congressional members must be legal residents of their states.
The Representatives and Senators• The Job – Salary of $158,100 with retirement benefits – Office space in D.C. and at home and staff to fill it. – Travel allowances and franking privileges. – Often requires 10 to 14 hour days, lots of time away from the family, and lots of pressure from different people to “do the right thing.”
Congressional Elections• Who Wins Elections? – Incumbent: Those already holding office. Figure 12.1
Congressional Elections• The Advantages of Incumbents – Advertising: • The goal is to be visible to your voters. • Frequent trips home & newsletters are used. – Credit Claiming: • Service to individuals in their district. • Casework: specifically helping constituents get what they think they have a right to. • Pork Barrel: federal projects, grants, etc. made available in a congressional district or state.
Congressional Elections• The Advantages of Incumbents – Position Taking: • Portray themselves as hard working, dedicated individuals. • Occasionally take a partisan stand on an issue. – Weak Opponents: • Most opponents are inexperienced in politics. • Most opponents are unorganized and underfunded. – Campaign Spending: • Challengers need to raise large sums to defeat an incumbent. • PACs give most of their money to incumbents. • Does PAC money “buy” votes in Congress?
Congressional Elections• The Role of Party Identification – Most members represent the majority party in their district.• Defeating Incumbents – Some incumbents face problems after a scandal or other complication in office. – They may face redistricting. – They may become a victim of a major political tidal wave.
Congressional Elections• Open Seats – Greater likelihood of competition.• Stability and Change – Incumbents provide stability in Congress. – Change in Congress occurs less frequently through elections. – Are term limits an answer?
How Congress is Organized to Make PolicyAmerican Bicameralism –Bicameral: Legislature divided into two houses.• The House • The Senate – 435 members, 2 year – 100 members, 6 year terms of office. terms of office. – Initiates all revenue – Gives “advice & bills, more influential consent”, more on budget. influential on foreign – House Rules affairs. Committee – Unlimited debates. – Limited debates. (filibuster) From Table 12.3
How Congress is Organized to Make PolicyCongressional Leadership The House The Senate – Lead by Speaker of the – Formerly lead by Vice House - elected by President. House members. – Really lead by – Presides over House. Majority Leader- – Major role in chosen by party committee assignments members. and legislation. – Assisted by whips. – Assisted by majority – Must work with leader and whips. Minority leader.
The House of Representatives www.house.gov• Speaker – Presides over House – Official spokesperson for the House – Second in line of presidential succession (Others?) – House liaison with president – Great political influence within the chamber • Henry Clay, first powerful speaker (1810) • Joe Cannon (1903-1910), was so powerful, that a revolt emerged to reduce powers of the speakership. • Newt Gingrich (1995) • Nancy Pelosi – first woman speaker • John Boehner – current speaker
Other House Leaders• Majority Leader (Eric Cantor, R-VA) – Elected leader of the party controlling the most seats in the House or the Senate – Second in authority to the Speaker—in the Senate, is the most powerful member• Minority Leader (Nancy Pelosi, D-CA) – Elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in the House of Representatives or the Senate• Whips (Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, Steny Hoyer, D-MD)• Party caucus or conference – A formal gathering of all party members
Party Structure in the House - Summary• Speaker of the House is leader of majority party and presides over House• Majority leader and minority leader: leaders on the floor• Party whips keep leaders informed and round up votes• Committee assignments and legislative schedule are set by each party
The Senate www.senate.gov• The Constitution specifies the vice president (Joe Biden) as the presiding officer of the Senate. – He votes only in case of a tie.• Official chair of the Senate is the president pro tempore (pro tem), currently Daniel Inouye (D- Hawaii) Primarily honorific – Generally goes to the most senior senator of the majority party – Actual presiding duties rotate among junior members of the chamber – True leader is the majority leader, but not as powerful as Speaker is in the House
Party Structure in the Senate• President pro tempore presides; this is the member with most seniority in majority party (a largely honorific office)• Leaders are the majority leader (Harry Reid, D-NV) and the minority leader (Mitch McConnell, R-KY), elected by their respective party members
Party Structure in the Senate• Party whips: keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses (Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Dick Durbin, D-IL)• Each party has a policy committee: schedules Senate business, prioritizes bills• Committee assignments are handled by a group of Senators, each for their own party
The Senate• Senate rules give tremendous power to individual senators. – Offering any kind of amendment even if not germane – Filibuster (What was the change in 1975?)• Because Senate is smaller in size organization and formal rules have not played the same role as in the House.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• The Committees and Subcommittees – Four types of committees: • Standing committees: subject matter committees handle different policy areas. • Joint committees: few policy areas- made up of House & Senate members. • Conference committees: resolve differences in House and Senate bills. • Select committees: created for a specific purpose.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• The Committees and Subcommittees – The Committees at Work: Legislation and Oversight • Committees work on the 11,000 bills every session. • Some hold hearings and “mark up” meetings. • Oversight involves hearings and other methods of checking the actions of the executive branch. • As the size of government grows, oversight grows too.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• The Committees and Subcommittees – Getting on a Committee • Members want committee assignments that will help them get reelected, gain influence, and make policy. • New members express their committee preferences to the party leaders. • Support of the party is important in getting on the right committee. • Parties try to grant committee preferences.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• The Committees and Subcommittees – Getting Ahead on the Committee: Chairs and the Seniority System. • The chair is the most important position for controlling legislation. • Chairs were once chosen strictly by the seniority system. • Now seniority is a general rule, and members may choose the chair of their committee.
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• Caucuses: The Informal Organization of Congress – Caucus: A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. – Caucuses pressure for committee meetings and hearings and for votes on bills. – Caucuses can be more effective than lobbyists.
Congressional Caucuses• Caucus: an association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional or economic interest• Intra-party caucuses: members share a similar ideology• Personal interest caucuses: members share an interest in an issue• Constituency caucuses: established to represent groups, regions or both
How Congress is Organized to Make Policy• Congressional Staff – Personal staff: Work for the member. Mainly providing constituent service, but help with legislation too. – Committee staff: organize hearings, research & write legislation, target of lobbyists. – Staff Agencies: CRS, GAO, CBO provide specific information to Congress.
The Growth in Staffs of Membersand Committees in Congress, 1930- 2000
Constitutional (Formal) Powers of Congress• The authority to make laws is • Other shared powers shared by both chambers of – Declare war Congress. – Raise an army and navy – Coin money – No bill (a proposed law) – Regulate commerce can become a law without – Establish the federal courts and their the consent of both jurisdiction houses. – Establish rules of immigration and naturalization – Each chamber also has – Make laws necessary and proper to special, exclusive powers carrying out the powers previously listed as well. • Special powers – House – origin of revenue bills, impeachment, (but Senate tries) – Senate – treaties (2/3 vote), presidential appointments
Three types of legislative actionDistributive LegislationRedistributive LegislationRegulatory Legislation
The Congressional Process• Legislation: – Bill: A proposed law. – Anyone can draft a bill, but only members of Congress can introduce them. – More rules in the House than in the Senate. – Party leaders play a vital role in steering bills through both houses, but less in the Senate. – Countless influences on the legislative process.
The Congressional Process• How a Bill Becomes a Law (Figure 12.2)
The Congressional Process• Presidents and Congress: Partners and Protagonists – Presidents have many resources to influence Congress (often called the “Chief Legislator”). – In order to “win” in Congress, the president must win several battles in each house. – Presidential leadership of Congress is at the margins and is most effective as a facilitator.
The Congressional Process• Party, Constituency, and Ideology – Party Influence: Party leaders cannot force party members to vote a particular way, but many do vote along party lines. – Constituency versus Ideology: Most constituents are uninformed about their member. It is difficult for constituents to influence their member, but on controversial issues members can not ignore constituents.
The Congressional Process• Lobbyists and Interest Groups – There are several thousand lobbyists trying to influence Congress - the bigger the issue, the more lobbyists will be working on it. – Lobbyists can be ignored, shunned and even regulated by Congress. – Ultimately, it is a combination of lobbyists and others that influence members of Congress.
Understanding Congress• Congress and Democracy – Leadership and committee assignments are not representative. – Congress does try to respond to what the people want, but some argue it could do a better job. – Members of Congress are responsive to the people, if the people make clear what they want.
Understanding Congress• Congress and Democracy – Representation versus Effectiveness • Congress is responsive to so many interests that policy is uncoordinated, fragmented, and decentralized. • Congress is so representative that it is incapable of taking decisive action to deal with difficult problems. • Defenders argue because Congress is decentralized, there is no oligarchy to prevent comprehensive action.
Understanding Congress• Congress and the Scope of Government – The more policies Congress works on, the more ways they can serve their constituencies. – The more programs that get created, the bigger government gets. – Everybody wants government programs cut, just not their programs.