US CONGRESS

Report
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• The US Congress is one of the most praised
yet most criticized political institutions in the
world.
• On the one hand, it is one of the world’s most
representative and democratic institutions,
admired for its openness and deliberateness.
• On the other hand, it is criticized relentlessly
for its inefficiency and unresponsiveness.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• Citizens think members
of Congress do not
understand their
needs, place their
concerns of special
interests ahead of those
of their constituents,
and will say anything to
get reelected and then
do pretty much
whatever they want.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• Today’s Congress has come under
intense criticism for its lack of
legislation dealing with the
crucial issues facing the nation.
• In the Congressional elections of
2010, the Republican Party
gained control of the H of R with
its promise to create jobs.
• In the same election, the
Democrats kept power in the
Senate.
• Neither chamber of Congress has
conducted the business of the
nation as the people want it
carried out.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• As a result, the approval
rating of the current
Congress is 13%.
• How do we measure
the success of
Congress?
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• The success of a session of Congress cannot really
be measured in the number of laws enacted.
• The framers understood that Congress could
sometimes be quite successful by not passing any
laws at all.
• Having given each branch of govt., its own list of
checks and balances against the other two
branches, the framers expected that the odds
against action would be high,
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• The frames did not want
Congress to defeat all
legislation.
• In giving Congress a long
list of carefully prescribes
legislative powers in
Article 1, Sec. 1, of the
Const., the framers clearly
expected Congress to
address foreign and
domestic threats.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
INTRODUCTION
• Because the framers created a system of shared
powers, Congress and the president often agree
to disagree, postponing action on important
issues until compromise can be reached.
• That may be frustrating to the nation, especially
when the public favors action, and may create
the image of a “do-nothing” Congress, but it fits
perfectly with the framers intention to protect
the nation from the passions of the moment.
• Congress protects the nation by both passing and
defeating legislation.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
• There is only one way describes in the Const.,
but there are two very different electoral
calendars for entering office.
• Each of the 435 members of the H of R is
elected to a two-year term in even-numbered
years.
• In the Senate, a third of the Senate’s 100
members are chosen for six-year terms every
two years.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
• HOUSE
REQUIREMENTS:
– 25 years old
– Citizenship for 7 years
– Must be a resident of
the states from which
they are elected.
• SENATE
REQUIREMENTS:
– 30 years old
– Citizenship for 9 years
– Must be a resident of
the states from which
they are elected.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
• By setting the Senate
requirements higher and
given its members a sixyear term, the framers
hoped the Senate would
act as a check against
what they saw as the less
predictable House.
• JM: Concerned about the
“fickleness and passion”
of the House, he saw the
Senate as “a necessary
fence against this danger.”
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
• The framers did not put
any term limits on House
and Senate members.
• The term limit imposed
by the Articles of
Confederation had forced
several members out of
office, leaving the Cont.,
Congress less effective
and souring the framers
on the idea.
• Should there be term
limits?
• Regardless of their
differences, Reps and
Senators are politicians
who enter office by
winning elections.
• Ironically, it is good
politics for them to deny
they are politicians and to
lead the charge against
the institution in which
they serve or wish to
serve.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• Members of the House
and Senate represent
different populations.
• According to the Const.,
every state has two
Senators each of whom
represent the entire state.
• Seats in the House are
distributed or
apportioned among the
states according to
population.
• There are 435
congressional districts,
each composed of about
650,000 people.
• No matter how small its
population, every state is
guaranteed at least one
House member.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• The exact apportionment
among the states is
determined by a national
census of the population
that is required by the
Const., every ten years.
• As a result of the 2010
census, MA., lost a
congressional seat. The
umber went from 12 to
11.
• Some states gained seats.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• The process by which Congress reallocates seats based
on population is called reapportionment.
• While census figures dictate how House districts are
apportioned across the nation, each state determines
where those districts lie within its own boundaries.
• State legislatures nearly always control this
redistricting process, subject to final approval by the
governor.
• The majority party in the legislature often draws the
new map to increase the number of House districts
that is own candidates are likely to win.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• In extreme cases, this
process is known as
gerrymandering, after
MA., Gov., Elbridge
Gerry who approved a
redistricting plan that
created a salamandershaped district drawn
for distinctly partisan
purposes following the
1810 census.
•
•
•
•
•
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
Most redistricting attempts to
protect the incumbent.
Partisan gerrymandering, except
in the most extreme cases, is
entirely legal.
The US Supreme Court has ruled
that only a plan that eliminates
the minority party’s influence
statewide is unconst.
State legislatures may also draw
districts in which a majority of
voters are members of a minority
groups.
Racial gerrymandering is legal
unless the leg., considered only
race and ignored traditional
redistricting concerns.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• The principle of equal representation does not apply to
the Senate.
• Because each state has two senators regardless of
population, the Senate represents constituencies that
are more rural, white, and conservative than would be
the case of the one-person, one-vote norm applied to
Senate elections.
• Such disparities make the Senate the most
malapportioned elected legislature in the democratic
world, giving the advantage to residents of the smaller
states.
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
WHERE REPS., AND SENATORS ARE
ELECTED
• Political scientists have concluded that the size of
a state’s population affects senate-constituent
relations, fund-raising and elections, strategic
behavior within the Senate, and ultimately policy
decisions.
• Some have suggested that this apportionment
situation in the Senate will have to be addressed
in the future.
• But the prospects of changing the two-senatorsper-state constitutional rule are highly unlikely in
the near future.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATE CONGRESS
• The framers made two critical decisions early
in the Const. Conv.
• First, they agreed to create a legislature as the
first branch of govt.
• Next, they divided that leg., into two
chambers –the House and Senate.
• By doing this, the framers created one of the
most important obstacles to making laws.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• Worried about the tendency for the leg.,
branch to dominate the govt., they diluted the
power of Congress by creating two chambers
as little connected as the nature of their
functions and common dependency on the
society as will admit.
• Not only would Congress be balanced by
presidency and judiciary, but it would be also
be balanced against itself.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF
CONGRESS
• Bicameralism remains the
most important
organizational feature of
the US Congress.
• Each chamber has its own
place to meet in separate
wings of the Capitol Bld.,
• Each has its own offices
for its members on
separate ends of Capitol
Street.
• Each has it own
committee structure.
• Each has its own rules for
considering legislation.
• Each has its own record of
proceedings – even
though the records are
published together as the
Congressional Record.
• Each sets the rules
governing its members.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF
CONGRESS
• Bicameral legislatures
were common in most
of the colonies.
• The framers believed
that the arrangement
was essential for
preventing strongwilled majorities from
oppressing individuals
and minorities.
• JM, in Federalist # 51,
– “In order to control the
legislative authority, you
must divide it.”
– Although the 17th
Amendment (1913)
provided for direct
election of senators, the
two chambers remain
very different. (See
Chart)
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• Defenders of
bicameralism point to its
moderating influence on
partisanship or errors in
either chamber.
• Bicameralism insures that
many votes will be taken
before a policy is finally
approved.
• It also provides more
opportunities for
compromise among
legislators.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF
CONGRESS
• Article I, Section 8 gives
Congress the power
– To tax
– To collect debts
– To provide for the
common defense and
general welfare of the
people
– Borrow money
– Regulate foreign
commerce, interstate
commerce
• More powers:
– Coin money
– Establish post offices
and postal roads
– Establish the lower
courts of the judiciary
– Declare war
– Raise army and navy
– Regulate immigration
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• Just in case the list was
not enough to allow
Congress to do its job, the
framers gave Congress
the catchall power to:
– “make all Laws which shall
be necessary and proper
for carrying into Execution
the foregoing Powers
vested by the Constitution
in the Government of the
United States, or in any
Department or Officer
thereof.”
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• This clause is
sometimes called the
elastic clause because it
stretches to cover much
of what Congress might
do.
• The Const., also gives
Congress complete
authority to set its own
rules for its
proceedings.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• The Const., also gives
Congress the power of
impeachment.
• The Const., stipulates
that the grounds for
impeachment are the
commission of “High
Crimes and
Misdemeanors” – these
are not clearly defined.
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• The House sits to determine
whether or not an official’s
actions reach the level of
impeachable offences, and if so,
it can impeach by a majority vote.
(Indictment)
• The Senate sits as a court to
decide if the impeached official
should be convicted and whether
the nature of the offense
warrants removal from office.
• A 2/3 vote is needed to convict;
thus a minority of just 34
senators can block the conviction
of an impeached official.
• How many impeachments have
we had? How many convictions?
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
• House Leaders:
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–
–
–
The Speaker
Majority Leader
Minority Leader
Whips
• Senate Leaders:
– Majority Leader
– Minority Leader
– President of the Senate
(VP)
– President Pro Tempore
– The Party Caucus
– The Party Caucus
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS: THE
COMMITTEES
• The majority of
• There are 20 Standing
Congressional work is done
through the members
committee work.
• All members are part of
several committees and
subcommittees.
• Membership on a
committee is chosen by the
party leadership.
• Reps and Sens., give a list of
committees they wish to
serve on.
•
•
•
•
Committees in each
chamber.
Each of these standing
committees have several
subcommittees.
There are also Special or
Select Committees.
There are also Joint
Committees.
Conference Committee
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGREES: THE
COMMITTEES
• Of all the committees
the Standing
Committees are the
most durable and
important.
• Committees also have
oversight and
investigative
responsibilities.
• There are 4 types of
Standing Committees
• Types of Standing
Committees:
–
–
–
–
Authorizing
Appropriations
Rules/Administration
Revenue/Budget
THE STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF THE
UNITED STATES CONGRESS: JOBS
• House and Senate
members have
essentially two jobs:
– Representatives: House
(3) Senate (2)
– Lawmakers
• To help them carry out
their jobs Reps., and
Senators have a
– DC Staff
– District/State Staff
– Committee Staff
HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW
HOW TO KILL A BILL
• There are several ways a bill can be “killed” before it becomes law:
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–
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The House subcommittee and its chair
The chair of the House standing committee
The House Rules Committee
The majority of the House
The Senate subcommittee and its chair
The Senate standing committee
The majority of the Senate
The floor leaders in both chambers
The Hold
The Filibuster (cloture 16/60)
Disagreement in the Conference Committee
The President’s Veto
CRITICISMS OF CONGRESS
• Criticisms of Congress are easy to recite, if only by
paying attention to what members of Congress say
about their own institution. Members long ago figured
out that Americans love their own incumbents but
have a steady distrust of Congress as a whole.
• The criticisms:
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–
–
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Congress is inefficient
Congress is unrepresentative
Congress is unethical
Congress lacks collective responsibility
– ARE THESE FAIR CRITICISMS?

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