Congress at Work

Bell Ringer
• What is a “Christmas-tree” bill?
Unrelated riders that are attached to a
• What is pigeon-holing?
When the committee ignores a bill and it
dies (just goes away).
Congress at Work
Chapter 7
How a Bill
Becomes a Law
Section 1
• Fewer than 10% of all proposed bills actually
become law.
• Why?
– Process is long and arduous – more than 100
– Willingness to bargain and compromise.
– Congressmen will sometimes introduce bills
that have no chance at becoming law simply
to be on record about an idea or policy
• The 111th Congress considered:
•6,156 pieces of legislation in
the House.
•3,791 pieces of legislation in
the Senate.
•237 pieces of that
legislation were signed into
Public Law.
As of 9-20-10
Types of Bills
Bills and Resolutions
Simple Resolution
Joint Resolution
Concurrent Resolution
• Deal with general matters and apply
to the entire nation.
– Examples: tax bills, education laws.
• Deal with individual people or
• Example: Renaming a post office
or other public building.
• Resolutions differ from bills in that
they deal with matters that affect only
one house or the other, and they do not
relate directly to the public will.
• Resolutions may change rules or
procedures, or they may wish a member
a happy birthday or a prosperous
• They do not require the signature of
the President.
Types of
• Deal with matters affecting
only one house of Congress.
Does not require signature
of president and does not
become law.
• Passed by both houses and requires
presidential signature to become
public law.
• Used to correct errors in previous
bills or appropriate money for a
special purpose.
• When used to propose constitutional
amendments the presidential
signature is not required.
• Cover matters requiring
action of both houses, but
does not need a law.
Introduction of a Bill
Our Federal Government: The Legislative Branch
Bill Numbers
• House bills begin with "H.R." (H.R.112100)
• Simple Resolutions begin with "H. Res."
(H.Res. 112-100)
• Concurrent Resolutions begin with "H.
Con. Res." (H. Con. Res. 112-100)
• Joint Resolutions begin with "H. J. Res“
(H.J. Res. 112-100).
• Senate bills begin with "S." (S. 112100).
Public Law
• Become PL 112-100
Bell Ringer
• On what committee does all important
work on tax bills and other bills
involving money begin?
Spending Bills
Section 2
What does it cost to
run the government?
How Does the Government
Pay for it All?
Article I, Section 8
• “The Congress shall have the power to
lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts
and excises, to pay the debts and
provide for the common defense and
general welfare of the United
• "Taxes are what we pay for a
civilized society.“
» Oliver Wendell Holmes
• “There are only two sure
things in life – death and
» Benjamin Franklin
Where do bills that deal
with money begin?
House Ways
Means Committee
• Accepts or rejects presidential
requests for tax increases and cuts.
• Makes rules to determine who pays
what taxes and who receives tax
Closed Rule
• Until 1973 no amendments could be
added to a tax bill on the floor.
• Only Ways and Means Committee
members could have a hand in writing
a bill.
Senate’s Role
• Article I, Section 7 allows the Senate
to propose amendments.
• Can also eliminate provisions senators
object to.
How the House and Senate
Appropriate Money
• Article I, Section 9
• “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but
in consequence of appropriations made by law.”
• Appropriation is a must before money can be
• Once appropriation has taken place, authorization
of spending must take place.
• Authorization sets up federal programs and
specifies how much money may be appropriated
for that program.
Appropriation Committees
• Use your textbook to find out the
– What They Do:
Receive, review, and amend appropriations
requests from executive agency budgets.
Report out all bills to the executive branch.
– What They Cannot Do:
Kill bills. Affect uncontrollable expenditures and
What are Uncontrollables
and Entitlements?
• Accounts for about 70% of annual
appropriations and authorizations.
• Uncontrollables – expenditures that the
government is legally committed to finance.
– Social Security, Interest on national debt,
federal contract already signed.
• Entitlements – social programs that
continue on a yearly basis.
Bell Ringer
• What is pork-barrel legislation?
A government project that benefits a
legislators home state and/or district (extra
left over).
Major Influences on Lawmakers
The President
Voters in home states and districts
Lawmaker’s Political Party
Staff or Committee Members
Speaker of the House
Senate Majority Leader
Lobbyists for special interest groups
and PACS
Each Other
Campaign Fund Contributors and
Campaign Workers
Section 4
Two Hat Act
• Problem solvers for their constituents
back home.
• Must make sure state and/or district
gets its share of federal money,
projects, and contracts.
How do they juggle???
Caseworker Responsibility in
Representative Artur Davis’ Office
Social Security
Pension benefits
Passports/ visas
Service academy nominations
Flag requests
Requests for White House tours
Three Purposes of Casework
• Helps lawmakers get re-elected.
• A way in which Congress can oversee the
executive branch.
– How are they handling federal programs (Ex:
Social Security, Veteran’s Benefits, Worker’s
• Provides a way for average citizens to cope
with the largeness of the national
– Red Tape
Bring Home the Bacon
• Through pork-barrel legislation.
• Through winning federal grants and
• Through keeping federal projects.
Public Works Bills
“Pork-Barrel Legislation”
• Accounts for billions of dollars each
year and thousands of jobs.
• Examples: Post Offices, Dams,
Military Bases, Waterway
improvements, Federally-funded
highways (Interstates), Veterans’
hospitals, Transit systems.
• Came into use as a political term in the
post-Civil War era. It comes from the
plantation practice of distributing rations
of salt port to slaves from wooden barrels.
When used to describe a bill, it implies the
legislation is loaded with special project
for members of Congress to distribute to
their constituents back home as an act of
generosity to the federal taxpayers.
You Scratch My Back, I’ll
Scratch Yours
• When two or more congressman agree to
help each other it is called “logrolling.”
Grants and Contracts
• Controlled by agencies of the
executive branch (i.e. Departments).
• Harder for the lawmakers to control
flow of funds.
• Look through several of the local
newspapers to find examples of federal
money spent in Alabama, Tuscaloosa or the
West Alabama area. Present your findings
in the form of a radio news broadcast.
Explain how the pork-barrel legislation
benefited the state or community. (Page

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