Congress at Work - Kent City School District

Report
Congress at Work
Chapter 7
Chapter 7 Section 1
How a Bill Becomes a Law
Legislation

Bills

Resolution
Types of Bills

Two types

Private
Individual people or places
 Ex. Claims against government or person’s
immigration problem (Black Farmers)


Public
General matters and apply to the entire nation
 Controversial because the touch many people
 Ex. tax cuts, health care, civil rights

Types of Resolutions

Make policy on unusual or temporary matters
 Three kinds


Simple: matters affecting only 1 house of Congress
and is passed by that house alone
Joint: passed in same form by both houses



force of law when signed by president
Constitutional amendment
Concurrent: actions of both houses; law not needed

Ex. adjourning Congress
Earmarks aka Pork Barrel Projects
Way that members of Congress specify
that some part of a funding bill will go
toward a certain purpose
 Pet projects that appeal to constituents

Rider
Attached to a bill likely to pass
 Provision on a subject other than the one
covered in the bill
 Can cause a president to veto a bill

Why so few bills become law
Bill creation long and complicated
 Sponsors must be willing to compromise
 Introduced as a symbolic gesture


Show support for a policy, attract media
attention, satisfy a group of supporters
How a Bill Becomes a Law (185)

Introduced



House: drops bill in hopper near clerk’s desk
Senate: formal presentation after recognition
Title, number (H.R. 1), printed, distributed (1st
reading)


Ideas from citizens, interest groups, executive branch
Drafted by legislators, their staffs, lawyers for
Senate/House committee, interest groups
How a Bill Becomes a Law

Committee Action
Bills sent to committee that deals with their
subject (143)
 Chairs send bill to sub-committee
 Reject (ignore or “die” or “pigeonhole”)
 Kill (majority vote)
 Rewrite
 Amend
 Recommend for adoption as is

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Committee Hearing
When decision to act is made
 Listen to testimony from experts on the bill’s
subject
 Gather information
 Can be used to influence public opinion for
or against bill
 Focus public attention on issue
 Outside groups influence bill

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Committee Hearings

Use of internet
Interactive hearings using expert witnesses
 Broadcast hearings, give chance for email
questions
 Report status of bill on individual web pages
 Make info available in second language

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Markup Session
After hearings
 Go section by section through bill
 Decide on what changes, if any, to make
 Majority vote of committee required to
change

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Reporting a bill
After changes committee votes to kill or
report bill
 Send to House or Senate for action
 Sent with a committee report to explain
actions, describe bill, list major changes and
give opinions


Recommendations: pass or unfavorable (why?)
How a Bill Becomes a Law

Floor Action

Debate/Amend
Amendments added to bill (unless closed)
 2nd reading


Types of Amends
Major changes
 Correct typographical errors
 Slow bill’s progress
 Kill bill

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Voting on bill
Quorum: majority of members present
 3rd reading
 Vote

Voice “aye” or “no”
 Standing or division to count “ayes” or “nos”
 Roll call: alpha order
 Electronic (1973)

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Final steps

Bill must pass both houses in identical
forms


Conference committee
Presidential action
Sign to become law
 Keep bill for 10 days without signing, if Congress
in session it becomes law
 Veto
 Pocket veto (last 10 days of session)

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Congressional override of veto


2/3 vote in each house = law
Line Item Veto
Reject specific lines of a bill while accepting
the rest
 Unconstitutional

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Registering Law
Bill becomes law and registered with National
Archives and Records Service
 Labeled private or public
 Numbered (Ex. PL105-187)
http://www.archives.gov/


Tracking Legislation on the Internet



THOMAS http://thomas.loc.gov/
Congressional Quarterly www.cq.com
Roll Call http://www.rollcall.com/
Taxing and Spending Bills
Chapter 7 Section 2
Making Decisions About Taxes

Most of government revenue is from
taxes
Revenue-income from taxes
 Taxes-money that people and businesses
pay to support the government

House of Representatives and
Revenue Bills
Has exclusive power to start all revenue
bills
 Almost all work on tax law occurs in the
Ways and Means Committee

Decides whether to go along with
presidential requests for tax cuts or
increases
 Makes rules for who will pay how much tax


Influences tax deductions for parents or benefits
for businesses
House of Representatives and
Revenue Bills

Tax bill used to be debated under closed
rule
Forbids amendments to bill from the floor
 Only members of Ways and Means had
direct hand in writing bill


1973: amendments from floor allowed
Senate and Revenue Bills
No closed rule
 Amendments allowed



Perception of more special interest
influence
Committee on Finance deals with tax
matters
Appropriating Money
Appropriation-approval of government
spending belongs to Congress
 Congress must pass laws to appropriate
money


Approve spending before departments and
agencies of executive branch can spend
money
How Congress Appropriates Money

Two-step procedure

Authorization Bill: sets up federal program and
specifies how much money can be appropriated for
it


Ex. bill to build recreational facility in inner cities; limit of
$30 million can be spent per year; administered by Dept of
Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD)
Appropriation Bill: when request is made to receive
money that was authorized to run federal program

Ex. HUD requests money that has been authorized for rec
facilities
How Congress Appropriates Money

Each year president presents budget to
Congress


Congressional Budget Office
Appropriations committee creates own
appropriations bills

May only partially award grant of money

Ex. Only $15 million award for rec facilities. HUD
will have to ask for more money next year
The Appropriations Committee

House and Senate have committees

12 subcommittees
Department heads and program directors
answer questions about their budgets in
hearings
 Explain why they need money
 Return yearly to request money
 Federal program familiarity

Relationships and favor to certain agencies
 Special-interest influence

Uncontrollable Expenditures
Appropriations committees do not have
voice in all current spending
 Earlier laws dictate certain spending

Ex. Medicare, Social Security
 Entitlements: social programs that entitle
individuals to a certain program or monetary
benefit

Chapter 7 Section 3
Influencing Congress
Influences on Lawmakers

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Temperament: risk taker or safe
The nature of the issue
Congressional staffers
Rank
Elections
Visit to District
Messages from home
Surveys and Polls
Key Supporters
Chapter 7 Section 4
Helping Constituents
Handle Problems
Constituents



Casework
Response to variety of
requests
Why help?
District/State



Public Works Legislation
 pork barrel/earmarks
Logrolling
Winning grants and contracts

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