On October 23rd, 2014, we updated our
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Clicker Question Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job? Strongly approve Approve Disapprove Strongly disapprove I don’t know…
Clicker Question Do you approve or disapprove of the way your member of Congress is handling his or her job? Strongly approve Approve Disapprove Strongly disapprove I don’t know…
Clicker Question "If the election for Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate in your district or the Republican candidate in your district?" If unsure: "Well, if you had to vote, which way would you lean?" Democrat Republican Other
Clicker Question "Right now, are you inclined to vote to reelect your representative in Congress in the next election or are you inclined to look around for someone else to vote for?" Reelect Look Around Depends Unsure
Clicker Question Do you believe we should have term limits for Members of Congress? Yes No
Clicker Question Should we increase the Term Length of the House to 4 years? Yes No
Clicker Question A presidential veto can be overridden by a: a. two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress b. majority vote in both houses of Congress c. three-fourths vote in the Senate d. majority vote in the House of Representatives
Congress: The First Branch The U.S. Congress is the “first branch” of government under Article I of our Constitution and is the world’s most important representative body. “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”
Sociological Representation? Is it important that Congress be demographically representative of the American people? Descriptive Representation– Sometimes called sociological representation, means that the composition of a representative body reflects the demographic composition of the population as a whole. Would the lack of descriptive representation make a difference for democratic representation?
Clicker Question Do you think it is important that the demographics of Congress represent the social, racial and economic demographics of the country? Yes No
Comparing Congress to the Public
Women, African Americans and Latinos in Congress (1971-2008) Would Term Limits make this process faster?
Representatives as “Agents” While descriptive representation has not occurred, much evidence suggests that our representatives do work hard to represent the interests of their constituents…at least the ones who are paying attention. As agents, representatives only need do their duties if they know that we are evaluating their performance…
Electoral Connection? If representatives can somehow be punished or held to account for failing to speak properly for their constituents, then they have an incentive to provide good representation even if their own personal background, views, and interests differ from those they represent. Elections can create a “connection” between voters and elected officials…a connection that demands that officials represent the wishes of citizens Punished? Do we do this?
Clicker Question When members of Congress cast a vote, which of the following factors should typically most influence their decision? The interests of the country as a whole The interests of their district or state
Americans clearly HATE the job that Congress, as a whole, is doing…
So then, we kick them out frequently, right?... Why?
How Members Represent… Can Challengers do any of this?
Clicker Question I think that Pork Barrel spending is a HUGE problem and needs to be stopped. I agree I disagree
Pork Barrel Spending(or greasing the wheels of democracy…) Particularized Benefits: Funding for government programs whose benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread out amongall taxpayers. COSTS = $19.6 BILLION = $ 64/person Credit-Claiming: Showing your district that you are working for them in Washington…whether you did it or not…
The Organization of Congress How do 435 Representatives and 100 Senators go about the business of legislating across broad policy areas each consisting of highly complex issues? How do things get done in Congress? 1. Political Parties and Leaders 2. Committee System 3. Regularized Process
The first Congress had no parties, no committees, and no real process of getting things done…The reason these structures developed is because each became a useful tool capable of making the work of Congress possible.
1. Party Leadership in the House and Senate Political parties in Congress (primarily the majority party) are the fundamental building blocks from which policy coalitions are fashioned to pass legislation and monitor its implementation. (Majorities = 218+ in House and 51+ in Senate) Caucus or Conference Every two years, at the beginning of each new Congress, the members of each party gather to elect their leaders, plan strategies and make decisions regarding other legislative matters.
Parties in Congress Majority Party Status = Procedural Control (Control of the Agenda…the Rules of the Game)
Key leadership positions – Speaker of the House, Floor Leaders, Whips
All committee and subcommittee chairmanships
Surplus on committee ratios
Supermajority on Rules Committee
Additional staff assistance to facilitate action
Clicker Question Which type of representation takes place when representatives have the same racial, ethnic, religious, or educational backgrounds as their constituents? a. sociological b. delegate c. trustee d. agency
Clicker Question Do you think that political parties are TOO powerful in the legislative process? YES NO
Clicker Question Do you think it is better for the country to have a president who comes from the same political party that controls Congress, does it make no difference either way, or do you think it is better to have a president from one political party and Congress controlled by another? a. Same Party b. Different Party c. No Difference d. Unsure
Clicker Question In general, when most members of Congress debate issues facing the country do you think they are more civil today compared to 10 years ago, less civil, or about as civil as they were 10 years ago? a. More Civil b. Less Civil c. About the same d. Unsure
Clicker Question The most common occupation among members of Congress before coming to Congress is a. business executive. b. sales representative. c. professor. d. lawyer.
Clicker Question Pork-barrel legislation a. deals with specific projects and their location within a particular congressional district. b. deals with specific agricultural subsidies. c. funds efforts to increase the levels of America’s meat exports. d. grants a special privilege to a person named in the bill.
Clicker Question Majority Party Status equals _______ control of the legislative process. Underhanded Procedural Committee Limited
Clicker Question The need to divide the labor of legislation is best exemplified in what formal structure of Congress? a. the establishment of party whips b. the establishment of standing committees c. the strict control over floor time in Congress d. the use of conference committees
2. The Committee System
The congressional committee system consists of a set of standing, select, and joint committees, each with its own jurisdiction, membership, and authority to act.
As opposed to the hierarchy-of-power that determines leadership arrangements, the committee system represents a division and specialization-of-labor system.
Most of the work of Congress takes place in its committees and subcommittees.
Generally, members seek assignments that will allow them to influence decision of special importance to their districts.
How a Bill Becomes a Law The rules and procedures that govern the entire policy process (from the introduction of a bill through its submission to the president for signing) influencethe fate of every bill and determines the distribution of power(who gets to be the decider) in the Congress.
1. Committee Deliberation No floor action on any bill can take place until the committee with jurisdiction over it has taken all the time it needs to deliberate. Committees 1. Collect information through hearings and investigations 2. Draft the actual language of bills and resolutions and (Markup) 3.Report the legislation to their parent chambers for consideration Most bill are simply allowed to “die in committee” with little or no serious consideration because they were introduced simply to please constituency groups. The majority party holds a majority and the chairperson on each committee and therefore gets to decide who the “experts” are and how to write the legislation they are considering before they present it back to the floor.
2. Rules Committee (Protecting Party Bills) Once a bill is approved by the relevant committee, the whole bill or various parts of it are transmitted to a special committee, the Rules Committee, which determines the specific rules under which the legislation will be considered by the full House. Here the Speaker influences when debate will be scheduled (controlling the calendar), for how long, what amendments will be in order, and in what order they will be considered. Open Rule– A rule placing no restrictions on amendments. Restrictive Rule– A rule restricting amendments during debate Closed Rule– A rule prohibiting all amendments during debate
Clicker Question “Closed rule” and “open rule” refer to congressional provisions regarding a. whether deliberations are closed or open to the general public. b. assignment to powerful committees. c. whether lobbyists are allowed inside Congress. d. floor debate on a bill.
Congress Rules Committee - Who’s on the Rules Committee?
3a. House Debate Party control of the agenda is reinforced by the rule giving the Speaker of the House the power of recognition during debate on a bill. Debate is governed by the “rule” assigned to each bill. Typically, 1 to 1.5 hours allotted. In the House, virtually all of the time allotted by the Rules Committee for debate on a given bill is controlled by the bill’s sponsor and by its leading opponent (usually the committee chair and the ranking minority member on that committee).
Clicker Question “Closed rule” and “open rule” refer to congressional provisions regarding a. whether deliberations are closed or open to the general public. b. assignment to powerful committees. c. whether lobbyists are allowed inside Congress. d. floor debate and amendments on a bill.
3b. Senate Debate In the Senate, other than the power of recognition, the leadership does not have the same level of control over floor debate. There is no Rules Committee – Debate is technically unlimited. Filibuster – A tactic used by members of the Minority Party in the Senate to prevent action on legislation they oppose by continuously holding the floor and speaking until the majority backs down. Cloture – A vote of 60 Senators that can end a filibuster.
Clicker Question Some people have suggested eliminating the filibuster procedure in the U.S. Senate so that all that would be needed to pass legislation would be a simple majority of votes, 51 out of 100. Do you think that is a good idea or a bad idea? a. Good Idea b. Bad Idea c. Unsure
3c. Floor Voting and Party Discipline In both the House and Senate, party leaders have a good deal of influence over the behavior of their party members (The Whips). Building majority coalitions in support of party policy positions is a central job of leaders. Party leaders can influence legislators’ votes through the direct impact of the party leaders’ tools of persuasion: committee assignments leadership positions campaign money
4. Conference Committee Bills must pass both chambers of Congress in identical form. If the chambers cannot both agree on a single version of a bill, a Conference Committee consisting of members from both chambers meets to resolve differences. The Conference then reports back to both chambers who then vote on the “compromised” bill – the “CONFERENCE REPORT” Conference committees are appointed by the Speaker and Senate Majority Leaders and are composed of senior members of the committees or subcommittees that initiated the original bills.
5. Presidential Action Once adopted by the House and Senate, a bill goes to the president, who may choose to sign the bill into law or veto it. The veto is the president’s constitutional power to reject a piece of legislation. The president must return a vetoed bill within ten days to Congress along with his objections. Pocket Veto– If Congress adjourns during this 10 day period and the president takes no action, the bill is considered to be vetoed. A presidential veto may be overridden by a two-thirds (2/3) vote in both the House and Senate.
Congress Presidential Vetoes and Overrides Veto Pocket Total Overrides