Congress at Work

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Congress at Work

  1. 1. Congress convenes (begins a new term) every 2 years on January 3 of every odd-numbered year.113th Congress – 2013 until 2015Page  2
  2. 2. Because all 435 members are up for reelection every 2 years the House technically has no sworn members, rules or organization until its opening day ceremonies are held.Page  3
  3. 3. Oath of office is taken and the non-members positions are elected. Who elects these officers? – The Majority PartyWhat about the rules of the House? – Have been developing for 200 years – readopted with little or no changePage  4
  4. 4. House of Representatives Chaplain Clerk Sergeant at ArmsPage  5
  5. 5. Finally the members of the 19 permanent committees of the House are appointed by a floor vote, and with that the House is organized.Page  6
  6. 6. The Senate is a continuous body that has been organized without interruption since 1789.How does this make the Senate different from the House? – Senate does not face large organizational problems at the beginning of a term.Page  7
  7. 7.  After Congress is organized, within a few weeks the President delivers the annual State of the Union message to a joint session of Congress. The President will lay out the broad shape of the policies that his administration will follow and he may recommend specific legislation.Page  8
  8. 8. What is the general purpose of this message? – President reports on the state of the nation as he sees it in both foreign and domestic affairs.Page  9
  9. 9.  Speaker of the House – By far the more important and powerful leadership position within the halls of Congress – Elected presiding officer and leader of majority party.Page  10
  10. 10. Who is Speaker today? – John Boehner (R) OhioThe Speaker follows the Vice President in the line of succession to the presidency.Page  11
  11. 11. Nearly all of the Speaker‟s powers revolve around two duties: To Preside: No To Keep Order: refer member speak until bills to committees; he/she is recognized interprets and applies by the Speaker rulesPage  12
  12. 12. The Constitution assigns the office to the Vice President of the United States.Cannot take the floor to speak or debate; may vote ONLY in case of tie.Page  13
  13. 13. What is the president pro tempore? – Acts as presiding officer. – Usually longest serving member of majority partyPage  14
  14. 14. Congress is a political body and reflecting this political complexion, both houses are organized along party lines.Page  15
  15. 15. The closed meeting of the members of each party in each house.What does the caucus deal with? – Matters of party organization (party leaders and committee membership)Page  16
  16. 16. Next to the Speaker, the majority and minority floor leaders in the House and Senate are the most important officers in Congress.Page  17
  17. 17. What do the Floor Leaders actually do? – They try to carry out the decisions of their party caucuses. – Also, steer floor action to benefit their party – KEY FOCUS: legislative strategiesPage  18
  18. 18. The (2) floor leaders in each house are assisted by whips.They serve as a liaison between the party leadership and the rank-and-file members.Page  19
  19. 19. The bulk of the work of Congress is really done in committee – thus committee chairmen (members who head standing committees) hold strategic posts.Why are the committee chairmen important? 1. DECIDE - When committee meets 2. Which bills they will take up 3. When public hearing are held and what witnesses are calledPage  20
  20. 20. This is an unwritten custom, which provides that the most important posts will be held by those party members with the longest records of service in Congress.Where is this applied most strictly? – Choice of committee chairmenPage  21
  21. 21. Seniority rule ignores ability and discourages younger members.May come from a “safe district” – why is this a problem? – Out of touch with current public opinion because no fear of losing office.Page  22
  22. 22. Defenders of the rule argues that it ensures that a powerful and experienced member will head each committee.What was the major change that the Republicans forged in 1995? – No GOP chair could serve for more than 6 years.Page  23
  23. 23. Permanent committees are set up in both houses where bills are sent to be considered.Committee Assignments – House members are normally assigned to 1 or 2; Senators to 3 or 4.Page  25
  24. 24. How are these committees so vital to the lawmaking process? 1. This is where a bill is discussed and reviewed thoroughly. 2. Both houses usually follow the recommendations the committee makes.Page  26
  25. 25. The members of each standing committee are formally elected by a floor vote at the beginning of each term in Congress.Which party holds a majority of the seats in a standing committee? – The majority party in that house.Page  27
  26. 26. Sometimes called the “traffic cop” in the Lower House.Why is this committee necessary? – So many bills are introduced in the House, that some screening is necessary.Page  28
  27. 27. Normally, a bill gets to the floor only if it has been granted a rule (scheduled for floor consideration) by the Rules committee.How does this make the Rules Committee important? – They can speed up, delay or even kill a bill in the House.Page  29
  28. 28. These groups are sometimes called special committees; they are set up of some specific purpose and for a limited time.Why are these committees usually formed? – To investigate an important, current matter.Page  30
  29. 29. Senate‟s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities – (Watergate Scandal)Senate‟s Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to the Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition – (Iran-Contra Affair)Page  31
  30. 30. What is a joint committee? – One composed of members of both housesSome joint committees are investigative in nature and issue periodic reports to the House and SenatePage  32
  31. 31. What is a conference committee? – A temporary joint committee.Why is it created? – To iron out the differences in a bill and produce a compromise that both houses will accept.Page  33
  32. 32. Page  35
  33. 33. As many as 10,000 measures are introduced in the House and Senate during a term in CongressFewer than 10% ever become law.Page  36
  34. 34. What is a bill? – Proposed law presented to the House or Senate for consideration.Page  37
  35. 35. Most bills do not originate with members of Congress – they are usually born somewhere in the executive branch.Only members can introduce a bill in the House: how do they do this? – Drop them into a “hopper” = a box hanging on the edge of the clerk‟s desk.Page  38
  36. 36. A special box on the side of the clerk‟s desk.Representatives can only introduce bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.Page  39
  37. 37. Public/Private Bills • Public = apply to the nation as a whole • Private = apply to certain persons or places Joint Resolutions - A proposal for some action that has the force of law Concurrent Resolutions • Deal with matters in which the House and Senate must act jointly • Do not have force of law, or require president signature Resolutions • A measure dealing with some measure in house and does not have force of law – does NOT require president‟s signaturePage  40
  38. 38. A rider is a provision not likely to pass on its own merit and thus is attached to an important measure certain to pass.The sponsor hopes it will “ride” through the legislative process.Page  41
  39. 39. Why are some bills called “Christmas trees”? – So many riders are “hanging” on the bill like ornaments on a tree.Page  42
  40. 40. Bills are numbered according to where and when they are introduced: HR 13 or S. 8The clerk then gives the bill a short title and then the bill is entered into the House Journal and in the Congressional Record.Where does the bill go after the first reading? – The appropriate standing committee.Page  43
  41. 41. Most of the of bills introduced in each session of Congress are pigeonholed: that is they DIE in committee.How can a bill be blasted out of committee? – A discharge petitionPage  44
  42. 42. Bills that are considered in the committee are discussed at times chosen by the chairmen.This takes place in the subcommittees.Page  45
  43. 43. Why will a public hearing be held? – The bill is important or controversial (or both!)Occasionally, a subcommittee will make a junket (trip) to locations affected by a measure – these can be controversial.Page  46
  44. 44. Report the bill favorably with a “do pass” recommendation Refuse to report the bill (pigeonhole it) Report the bill in amended form – make changes or combine with similar bills Report the bill with an unfavorable recommendation (rarely happens) Report a committee bill – an entirely new bill that the committee has drawn upPage  47
  45. 45. Before it goes to the floor for consideration, a bill must be placed on one of several calendars. DEFINE: schedule of the order in which bills will be taken up on the floor.There are (5)….Page  48
  46. 46. Under the rules of the House, bills are taken from each of these calendars on a regular basis. Union: bills dealing with revenues, House: Private: appropriations, or for all other public bills for all private bills government property Corrections: Discharge: minor bills with no for petitions to discharge opposition bills from committeePage  49
  47. 47. Rules committee must grant a rule before most bills can in fact reach the floor.What happens if a rule is not granted? – The bill DIES.Page  50
  48. 48. If a bill reaches the floor, it receives its second reading in the House.Page  51
  49. 49. Includes all members of the House – there is no need for a quorum – majority of the full membership of the House (218).They sit as one large committee and the rules are less strict in so that floor action moves at a much faster pace.Page  52
  50. 50. The large size of the House has forced it to impose severe limits on floor debate. For example: – An 1841 rule forbids any member from holding the floor for more than 1 hour without unanimous consent to speak for a longer time. – An 1880 rule allows for the Speaker to force a member to give up the floor if what happens? • Stray away from the subject at handPage  53
  51. 51. Time for debating a bill is usually split up between the floor leaders.At any time a member “may move the previous question” - that is demand a vote on the issue before the House.Page  54
  52. 52. A bill may be the subject of several votes on the floor; and it is very confusing!!!Votes on various amendments, motions, etc.Page  55
  53. 53. Voice Votes • Speaker calls for “ayes” and then “nays” • Speaker then announces results Standing Votes • Also known as the „division of the house‟ – members stand to be counted Teller Votes • Speaker names two tellers and members walk between them and they count. Roll Call Votes • Many be demanded by 1/5 of members presentPage  56
  54. 54.  Once a bill has been approved at second reading, it is engrossed – this means the bill is printed in its final form. It is then read a 3rd time, by title, and a final vote is taken. Then what happens to the bill? – GOES TO THE SENATE !Page  57
  55. 55. Introducing the BillBills are introduced by senators, given a number and referred to committee – much like what is done in the House.Page  58
  56. 56. What are some differences between the House and the Senate? 1. Less formal, rules less strict. 2. One calendar 3. Called to floor discussion at discretion of the majority floor leader.Page  59
  57. 57. The major difference between the House and Senate procedures involve debate: – floor debate is strictly limited in the House but almost unrestrained in the Senate.Page  60
  58. 58. As a general matter, senators may speak on the floor as long as they please.What is the reason for this unlimited speech? – Encourages the fullest possible discussion of matters on the floor.Page  61
  59. 59. An attempt to “talk a bill to death”.It is a stalling tactic in which a minority of senators seeks to delay or prevent Senate action on a measure.Page  62
  60. 60. How does it work? – Try to monopolize time on the Senate floor so that the Senate drops the bill. – OR the proposed bill will be changed to make it more acceptable to the minority.Page  63
  61. 61. And the record is…… Senator Strom Thurmond held the floor for 24 hours + 18 minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to block a civil rights bill.Page  64
  62. 62. The Senate‟s real check on the filibuster is its Cloture Rule.What was the origin of this rule? – A filibuster before US entry into WW I; 3 weeks long.Page  65
  63. 63. Rule XXII provides for cloture (limiting debate) and requires 60 senators or 3/5 of the Senate to invoke cloture and then the measure must be voted on.However, this rule is rarely invoked: There are two reasons why 1. Dedication to free debate in the Senate 2. Majority may want to use filibuster somedayPage  66
  64. 64. Any measure enacted by Congress must have been passed by both houses in identical form.When they do not agree on a measure – it is turned over to a conference committee (a temporary joint committee)Page  67
  65. 65. What is the purpose of this? – Iron out differences and come up with a compromise bill.The committee cannot include any new material in the compromise version.Page  68
  66. 66. The bill then moves onto the President and the Constitution gives the President (4) options at this points:Page  69
  67. 67. (1) Sign the bill and it then becomes a law (2) The President many veto - refuse to sign bill (veto message explains why) - 2/3 of both houses can overridePage  70
  68. 68. (3) The President may allow the bill to become law without signing it; by not acting on it for 10 days (4) What is a pocket veto? Congress adjourns its session within 10 days of submitting bill to President – President does nothing it diesPage  71
  69. 69.  Congress added another element to the veto power with the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 – power to reject individual items in appropriations bills Ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court - Clinton v. New York 1998Page  72

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