Legislative Branch


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Legislative Branch

  1. 1. Congress is thelegislative branch ofthe NationalGovernmentWhat is Congress’most basic function? Putting public will into public policy in the form of laws
  2. 2. The Constitutionimmediately establisheda bicameral legislature;that is one made up oftwo houses There are 3 reasons why:
  3. 3. The British Parliament had consisted of twohouses since the 1300s and most colonialassemblies were also bicameral.What is the only state with a unicamerallegislature today? The state of Nebraska
  4. 4. The two chambered body settled theconflict between the Virginia and the NewJersey Plans at the ConstitutionalConvention.Bicameralism is a reflection of what?– FEDERALISM
  5. 5. The Framers favored a bicameral Congressin order that one house might act as a checkon the other.What was the purpose of bicameralism forthe Framers?– Prevent Congress from overwhelming the other two branches of government by limiting its power
  6. 6. A session of Congress is that period of timeduring which each year Congress assembliesand conducts business.Congress adjourns or suspends until the nextsession; and also recesses for short periodsduring a session.
  7. 7. Each term of Congress lasts for 2 yearsand each term is numbered consecutively– 113th Congress presentlyWhy did the start of a term switch fromMarch 4th to January 3rd with the passingof the 20th Amendment in 1933?– Communication and travel concerns were no longer an issue
  8. 8. Only the President may callCongress into a specialsession; a meeting to dealwith some emergencyHas happened 26 times; lasttime 1948Why not recently?– Congress now meets nearly year-round which reduces the need for special sessions
  9. 9. 435 members; that number is set byCongress and the Constitution states thatseats shall be apportioned (distributed)based on populations.Each state gets one seat (7 states)
  10. 10. 2 year terms with nolimits.What is the purposeof the 2 year term?1. Must pay attention to the “folks at home”2. Next election is right around the corner
  11. 11. The Constitution directsCongress to reapportion(redistribute) the seats inthe House after eachdecennial (10 year)census.What was the size of thefirst House of Reps?– 65 before census– 106 after census
  12. 12. As the nation’s population grew, and as thenumber of States increased, so did the size ofthe House.The size of the House eventually grew to 435by 1910.What was the problem after the 1920census? The House was getting to BIG and floor action was more and more ineffective.
  13. 13. Set up an “automatic reapportionment”1. Permanent size of the House at 435 and 650,000 persons per seat in the House (roughly)2. Census Bureau determines the number of seats each State should have after a census is taken.
  14. 14. On the same day inevery state and since1872 .It has been theTuesday following thefirst Monday inNovember of eacheven-numbered year.
  15. 15. Off year elections Years between Presidential electionsWhat usually happens to the party inpower during these elections? Party in power loses seats in Congress
  16. 16. Single Member Districts There are 435 Voters in each district elect one person to represent them in Washington DC.
  17. 17. There are two kinds of qualificationsfor the House:1. Formal Qualifications (from Constitution)2. Informal Qualifications (realities of politics)
  18. 18. At least 25 years ofage.Must be citizen of theUS for at least 7 yearsMust be aninhabitant of theState from whichhe/she is elected
  19. 19. Deal with the ability toGET VOTESIDENTIFY some of theseinformal qualifications:1. Name familiarity2. Political experience3. Gender4. Party ID5. character
  20. 20. The Constitution says that the Senate “shall becomposed of two Senators from each State”.Why did the Framers want the Senate smallerthan the House?– More enlightened and responsible– Can’t be swayed by events or passions of the momentMembers of the Senate represent entire statesthus they represent a larger more diversepopulation with a broad range of interests.
  21. 21. How were Senators originally chosen forthe office? State LegislatorsAfter the 17th Amendment (1913) senatorshave been picked directly by the voters in eachstate.Only one senator is elected from a State in anygiven election, except when the other seat hasbeen vacated by death, expulsion, resignation.
  22. 22. Senators serve for 6-year terms and there isno limit on how manyterms they can serveWho has the record #of terms? Robert C. Byrd (D) WV 51 years, 5 months, 26 days!
  23. 23. Senators terms are staggeredOnly 1/3 of the Senate is up forreelection every two yearsThus the Senate is a continuous body DEFINE – all of the seats are never up for election at the same time – thus the Senate is always in session.
  24. 24. What is the reason forthe 6-year terms in theSenate?1. Insulation from the rough + tumble of day to day politics2. Less subject to pressures of public opinion and pleas of special interests.
  25. 25. Constituencies Media AttentionAre larger for a Senators get moresenator and thus media attention thanmust keep an eye House members andon “big picture” often use this as arather than local platform to run forissues President.Makes them moreof a nationalpolitical leader.
  26. 26. A Senator must meet a higher level ofqualifications than those the Constitutionsets for members of the House.The Senate, like the House, judges thequalifications of it members and it manyexclude a member by a majority vote.
  27. 27. What are theseConstitutionalqualifications?1. 30 years old2. Citizen for 9 years3. Inhabitant of state
  28. 28. Whatever else they may be, the 535 membersof Congress are NOT a representative crosssection of the American people.DECRIBE the average member of Congress White, male, in his early 50s
  29. 29. Members of Congress play (5) major roles:1. Legislators2. Representatives of the People3. Committee Members4. Servants to their constituents5. Politicians
  30. 30. MakeLAWS!
  31. 31. Voting on proposed bills is a veryimportant task.Senators and Representatives are electedto represent the people and there are (4)options they have when casting votes:
  32. 32. TRUSTEES• Each question should be decided on its merits.• Independent judgment and own conscience.DELEGATES• Agents of those who elected them; you vote the ways the folks at home would want you to.PARTISANS• Vote the way the party leader wants them to.• LEADING FACTORPOLITICOS• Combine basic elements• Balance the conflicting factors.
  33. 33. Proposed laws (bills) are referred tocommittees in each chamber and Senators andmembers of the House screen these proposals.What is the oversight function?– Checks to see that various agencies in the executive branch are doing what Congress wants them to do
  34. 34. They (or staff aides)try to help peoplewho variousproblems with thefederal bureaucracy:Social Security,passport application,etc…
  35. 35. They politicianrole is to dothese things toget reelected.
  36. 36. The Constitution saysthat members ofCongress “shall receivea Compensation for theirServices to beascertained by Law...”1. Salary2. Non-salary compensation
  37. 37. Senators and Representatives arepaid a salary of $174,000 a year.
  38. 38. Each member receives a number of“fringe benefits”, some of which arequite substantial – Examples are: Travel and Office Allowances • Travel between home and office • Office in Washington and home district Medical and Pension • Military hospitals • GOOD pension Franking Privilege • Mail letters and other materials for FREE
  39. 39. There are only (2)real limits on thelevel ofcongressional pay:1. President’s Veto2. Voter backlash at the ballot box
  40. 40. Members of Congressenjoy severalConstitutional privileges: – Cannot be arrested going to, from, or in Congressional session (not really an issue)
  41. 41. The more relevantprivilege is ….” For anyspeech or debate in eitherhouse, they shall not bequestioned in any otherPlace.”EXPLAIN the meaningand relevance of thisstatement Other places means COURTS
  42. 42. There is much that Congresscannot do: – create a national public school system, require to people to vote or attend church or confiscate handguns.Still Congress does have thepower to do many things…
  43. 43. The ExpressedPowers of Moneyand Commerce Power to Tax Borrowing Power Commerce Power Currency Power Bankruptcy Power
  44. 44. Define TAX: Charge levied by government on persons or property to raise money to meet public needs.The Federal Governmenttakes in over 2 trilliondollars - well over 90%comes from various taxeslevied by Congress.
  45. 45. Protective tariffs (taxon foreign goodscoming into US) alsoraise $$How is “licensing” aform of taxation?– Must pay for a license to do certain things in a country
  46. 46. There are limits ontaxation:– Cannot lay a tax on a church service (1st Amendment)– Lay a poll tax on voting (24th Amendment)There are (4) explicitConstitutional limitationson the taxing power:
  47. 47. Congress may not tax for private benefit.Congress may not tax exports.Taxes must be apportioned/assigned to allstates in the country.Taxes must be same rate in every part ofthe country.
  48. 48. Congress can borrow money on the credit ofthe United States.For decades the Federal government haspracticed deficit financing = regularlyspending more than you take in each year.What is the public debt?– All of the money borrowed by the government over the years plus the interest.
  49. 49. The power of Congress to regulate interstateand foreign trade.Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): the SupremeCourt decision that affirmed this powerHow did this power play a role in the civilrights movement in the 1960’s?– Access to or service in hotels, theaters and other public accommodations is commerce
  50. 50. Congress has the power to coinmoney and regulate the value of it.
  51. 51. Congress has the power to establish uniformlaws on the subject of Bankruptciesthroughout the United States.DEFINE bankruptcy : legal proceeding inwhich the bankrupt’s assets are distributed towhom a debt is owed.
  52. 52. The NationalGovernment hasgreater powers in thefield of foreign affairsand Congress sharesthis power with thePresident (states haveno part in foreignaffairs)
  53. 53. Congress has the power to deal with war andnational defense; and these powers areshared with the president.Power to declare war, raise and support anarmy + navy, and the power to provide for“calling forth the militia”.
  54. 54. Congress claimedthe power torestrict the use ofAmerican forceswith what? War Powers Resolution of 1973
  55. 55. The Constitutionsets out a numberof other expressedpowers that have adirect influence onthe daily lives ofAmericans:
  56. 56. Naturalization• The process by which citizens of one country become citizens of another.Postal Power• Congress has the power to establish Post Offices and post RoadsCopyrights and Patents• Copyright = exclusive right to reproduce, publish, sell creative work.• Patent = grants sole right to sell, manufacture art, machine, etc.Weights and Measures• Fix the Standard of Weights and measures throughout the United StatesEminent Domain• The inherent power to take private property for public use.
  57. 57. What does the Constitution say abouteducation? NOTHING – yet Congressappropriates (assigns to a particular use) morethan $60 billion a year.How can this be? This is an example of animplied power stated in the Necessary andProper Clause (Article I Section 8) – Whatdoes this mean?– Make laws that are necessary and proper
  58. 58. The Necessary andProper Clause wasimmediately calledinto question in1790 over the issueof a National bank:2 sides to thedebate….
  59. 59. Strict Construction Loose/Liberal Construction Those powers Power to do anything expressly stated in that was reasonably the Constitution. related to the expressed Thomas Jefferson powers. Alexander Hamilton Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland 1819 reaffirmed Necessary and Proper clause as being Constitutional. RESULT = National bank was legal
  60. 60. Congress has the power to propose aConstitutional Amendment by 2/3 vote inboth houses – It has done so 33 times.Congress can also call a national conventionof delegates from each of the States to proposeAmendment – this has never happened.
  61. 61. The Constitutiongives certainelectoral dutiesto Congress.These are rarelyexercised.
  62. 62. House of Representatives may be called onto elect a President.How does this happen?– No candidate gets a majority of electoral votesThis has happened 2x – Thomas Jeffersonin 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1824.
  63. 63. 25th Amendment provides forthe filling of a vacancy in thevice-presidency.President nominates a successor(replacement) and the nomineeis subject to a majority vote inboth houses of Congress.Has this process ever happened?– 2X : Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller
  64. 64. President, Vice President and other high officialsmay “be removed from Office on Impeachmentfor Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other highCrimes and Misdemeanors”DEFINE IMPEACH – to accuse or bringcharges against.
  65. 65. 1. House has the power to bring the charges (majority vote)2. Senate has the power to try the case. (2/3 vote for a conviction) Who presides over a case of impeachment? – Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  66. 66. Andrew JohnsonViolated Tenure of Office Act and was workingagainst Reconstruction (NOT guilty)Bill ClintonPerjury, Obstruction of Justice – MonicaLewinsky affair (NOT guilty)Richard NixonWatergate Scandal - RESIGNED as theprocess started
  67. 67. All major appointments (cabinet, federaljudges) made by the President must beconfirmed by the Senate by majority voteWhat is senatorial courtesy?– If Senator from state that is involved opposes the appointment, the Senate will vote against.
  68. 68. The Senate mayaccept or reject atreaty as it stands, orit may decide to offeramendments.Treaty of Versailles(WW I) was rejectedby Senate.
  69. 69. Congress has thepower to investigateany matter that fallswithin the scope ofits legislative powers. Organized crime 9-11 investigation Steroids in Sports