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How Congress Works
Part I
Structure, Organization,
& Legislative Process
Who’s in Congress?
Demographic Profile of the 111th Congress
Age Groups

Gender

Party

Ethnicity

Source: http://www.congress.org/congressor...
House-Senate Differences
Senate

House







435 members; 2 yr
terms
Low turnover
Speaker bill referral
hard to chall...
House-Senate Differences








House
Debate limited to 1
hour
Members policy
specialists
Emphasizes tax &
revenue po...
Party Leadership

Bicameral Democratic Leadership

Senate Republican Leadership

110th Congress

110th Congress
HOUSE LEADERSHIP
Speaker
(majority party)

Republicans:
• Majority Leader
• Majority Whip
• Chairman of the
Caucus
• Steer...
HOUSE LEADERSHIP
Democrats:
• Minority Leader
• Minority Whip
• Chairman of
Conference
• Policy Committee
• Committee on
C...
SENATE LEADERSHIP
President of the Senate
(Vice President)

President Pro Tempore
(majority party)

Democrats:
• Majority ...
SENATE LEADERSHIP
Republicans:
• Minority Leader
• Minority Whip
• Chairman of
Conference
• Policy Committee
• Committee o...
Strength of Party Structure?
•

Measure of party strength:
1. Ability of leaders to control party rules
and organization
2...
Party Unity
• Lower today than 100 years ago, but…..
• Ideology important variable explaining party
voting (members vote w...
CAUCUSES
• Groups (may be bipartisan) meeting to pursue
common legislative objectives
• Rivals to parties in policy formul...
"Congress in session is Congress
on public exhibition, whilst
Congress in its committee-rooms
is Congress at work.” - Wood...
Legislative Committees:
Function and Purpose
Legislative Committees:
Function & Purpose

1. Consider bills (a.k.a. “mark-up” bills)

A bill with a member’s mark-up not...
Legislative Committees:
Function & Purpose

2. Maintain oversight of executive agencies

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifi...
Legislative Committees:
Function & Purpose

3. Conduct investigations

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin testified before the Se...
Types of Committees
 Standing Committees - permanent panel with full
legislative functions and oversight responsibilities...
Standing Committees
House Standing Committees
Agriculture
Appropriations
Armed Services
Budget
Education & Workforce
Energy & Commerce
Financi...
Senate Standing Committees
Finance
Foreign Relations
Governmental Affairs
Appropriations
Health, Education, Labor
Armed Se...
Special, Select Committees
• House Select
Committee on
Energy
Independence &
Global Warming
• Senate Select
Committee on
E...
Joint Committees
• Joint Economic Committee
• Joint Committee on Printing
• Joint Committee on Taxation

Joint Committee o...
Title: Resolution
Date: 12/28/06

Artist: Bob Gorrell
Source: http://www.gorrellart.com/
Artist: R.J. Matson, New
York Observer & Roll Call
Date: 1/18/07
Source:
http://www.cagle.com
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How Congress Works

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How Congress Works

  1. 1. How Congress Works Part I Structure, Organization, & Legislative Process
  2. 2. Who’s in Congress?
  3. 3. Demographic Profile of the 111th Congress Age Groups Gender Party Ethnicity Source: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/demographics.tt
  4. 4. House-Senate Differences Senate House     435 members; 2 yr terms Low turnover Speaker bill referral hard to challenge Scheduling/rules controlled by majority party with powerful Rules Committee (controls time of debate, amends., etc)     100 members; 6 yr terms Moderate turnover Referral decisions easily challenged Scheduling/rules agreed to by majority & minority leaders
  5. 5. House-Senate Differences     House Debate limited to 1 hour Members policy specialists Emphasizes tax & revenue policy More formal & impersonal     Senate Unlimited debate unless cloture invoked Members policy generalists Emphasizes foreign policy More informal & personal
  6. 6. Party Leadership Bicameral Democratic Leadership Senate Republican Leadership 110th Congress 110th Congress
  7. 7. HOUSE LEADERSHIP Speaker (majority party) Republicans: • Majority Leader • Majority Whip • Chairman of the Caucus • Steering & Policy Committee • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Majority Leader: Eric Cantor Represents Republicans on the House Floor Speaker of the House John Boehner Elected by the whole of the House of Representatives, the Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles: the institutional role of presiding officer and administrative head of the House, the role of leader of the majority party in the House, and the representative role of an elected member of the House. The Speaker of the House is second in line to succeed the President, after the Vice President. Elected by the whole of the House of Representatives, the Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles: the institutional role of presiding officer and administrative head of the House, the role of leader of the majority party in the House, and the representative role of an elected member of the House. The Speaker of Majority Whip: Kevin McCarthy the House is second in line managing Assists leadership in to succeed the President, after the Vice President. party’s legislative program
  8. 8. HOUSE LEADERSHIP Democrats: • Minority Leader • Minority Whip • Chairman of Conference • Policy Committee • Committee on Committees • National Republican Congressional Committee • Research Committee Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Minority Whip Steny Hoyer
  9. 9. SENATE LEADERSHIP President of the Senate (Vice President) President Pro Tempore (majority party) Democrats: • Majority Leader • Majority Whip • Chairman of Conference • Policy Committee • Steering Committee • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee President of the Senate Joe Biden (D-DE) President Pro Tem Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  10. 10. SENATE LEADERSHIP Republicans: • Minority Leader • Minority Whip • Chairman of Conference • Policy Committee • Committee on Committees • Republican Senatorial Committee Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Minority Whip Jon Cornyn (R-TX)
  11. 11. Strength of Party Structure? • Measure of party strength: 1. Ability of leaders to control party rules and organization 2. Extent to which party members vote together in the House and Senate • Senate: less party-centered and leader oriented
  12. 12. Party Unity • Lower today than 100 years ago, but….. • Ideology important variable explaining party voting (members vote with their party 80% of the time) • Party polarization - vote in which majority of democrats oppose majority of republicans • Polarization trends: o 1976 HR = 36%; S = 37% o 1995 HR = 73%; S = 69% o 2000 HR = 43%; S = 49%
  13. 13. CAUCUSES • Groups (may be bipartisan) meeting to pursue common legislative objectives • Rivals to parties in policy formulation • Examples: Democratic Study Group, Congressional Black Caucus, Tuesday Lunch Bunch, Human Rights, Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Out of Iraq Caucus, Rural Caucus, Travel & Tourism Caucus, House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children
  14. 14. "Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.” - Woodrow Wilson
  15. 15. Legislative Committees: Function and Purpose
  16. 16. Legislative Committees: Function & Purpose 1. Consider bills (a.k.a. “mark-up” bills) A bill with a member’s mark-up notes
  17. 17. Legislative Committees: Function & Purpose 2. Maintain oversight of executive agencies Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing re: the Department of Defense Budget (May, 2006)
  18. 18. Legislative Committees: Function & Purpose 3. Conduct investigations New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Hurricane Katrina (Feb., 2006
  19. 19. Types of Committees  Standing Committees - permanent panel with full legislative functions and oversight responsibilities • Subcommittees – formed to tackle very specific tasks within the jurisdiction of the full committees  Select or Special Committees - groups appointed for a limited purpose and limited duration  Joint Committees - includes members of both chambers to conduct studies or perform housekeeping tasks  Conference Committee - includes members of House & Senate to work out differences between similar bills
  20. 20. Standing Committees
  21. 21. House Standing Committees Agriculture Appropriations Armed Services Budget Education & Workforce Energy & Commerce Financial Services Government Reform House Admin. International Relations Judiciary Resources Rules Science Small Business Standards of Official Conduct Transportation & Infrastructure Veterans Affairs Ways & Means
  22. 22. Senate Standing Committees Finance Foreign Relations Governmental Affairs Appropriations Health, Education, Labor Armed Services & Pensions Banking, Housing, & Urban Judiciary Affairs Rules and Administration Budget Small Business and Commerce, Science, Entrepreneurship Transportation Energy & Natural Resources Veterans Affairs Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Environment and Public Works
  23. 23. Special, Select Committees • House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming • Senate Select Committee on Ethics • House & Senate Select Committees on Intelligence Gen. Michael Hayden is sworn in during a full committee hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  24. 24. Joint Committees • Joint Economic Committee • Joint Committee on Printing • Joint Committee on Taxation Joint Committee on Taxation hearing
  25. 25. Title: Resolution Date: 12/28/06 Artist: Bob Gorrell Source: http://www.gorrellart.com/
  26. 26. Artist: R.J. Matson, New York Observer & Roll Call Date: 1/18/07 Source: http://www.cagle.com

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