Congress & the Legislative Process

Report
Congress & the Legislative
Process
Founders’ Intentions
Most powerful branch of government
It is Article I: 18+ expressed powers
Representative assembly
Accessible to the people
Constitutional Powers of
Congress
Establish and maintain the armed forces
Declare war
Raise taxes and borrow money
Spend money for the general welfare
Regulate interstate commerce
Do what is "necessary and proper“
The specific natures of each
chamber…
House requirements



Twenty-five years of age
Seven years of citizenship
Two-year term
Senate Requirements



Thirty years of age
Nine years of citizenship
Six-year term
House Structure




Centralized and relatively organized
Less debate
Restricted access to the floor
Individual members have limited power
Functions


Originate all revenue bills
Agents of local interests
Senate Structure
More regional and national in concerns
and constituencies
The “elite” house of the legislature (Senators appointed by state
legislatures until Seventeenth
Amendment) (1913)
More deliberative: no time limits on
speaking
Filibuster: speak as long as they want
to oppose an action (subject to cloture)
Congressional Compositions
(106th Congress, 1999-2001)
Congressional roles / functions
Instrument for policy
Perform constituency service (intervene on
behalf of citizens, help with other requests –
capitol tours, tickets to viewing gallery, flags,
etc)


Patronage activities provide direct service
to constituents (i.e. pork barrel)
Reward contributors
Congressional roles / functions
(cont’d)
Oversight:
Investigations, hearings.
Budgeting / fiscal roles:
War funding; Ways and Means
Committee;
Congressional behavioral
tendencies
Members of Congress are motivated by
re-election
Distributive tendency: pork-barrel
legislation funds local work projects to
bring federal money to the states
(earmarks)
Committee System
Core of Congress where bills are considered

Committees allow members to specialize
in policy areas and become experts
Congressional division of labor achieved
through committees

Committee chairs act as "gatekeepers“
Standing committees have fixed membership,
officers, rules, staff, and offices



Majority party sets rules and chooses officers.
Majority party always has most committee
members; minority party has some.
Jurisdiction is defined by subject matter of
legislation.
Internal structure: types of
committees
Standing committees: permanent; important topic
Conference committees: House/Senate differences in
same bill; at end of process
Joint committees: House/Senate on a common topic
Select committees: temporary; set for a special
purpose.
Examples of committee
jurisdictions
Farm subsidy bills go to Agriculture
Committee
Highway bills go to Transportation
Committee
GI Bill benefits go to Veterans’ Affairs
Committee
How A Bill Becomes Law
Bill Is Introduced in
The Senate
Bill Is Introduced in
The House
Referred to Senate
Committee
Referred to
Subcommittee
Referred to House
Committee
Could be more than
one: multiple
referral
Referred to
Subcommittee
Changes Voted on
by Full Committee
Changes Voted on
by Full Committee
Full Senate Debate
and Vote
Full House Debate
and Vote
Conference Committee
Senate Approves
House Approves
If the President signs the bill, it becomes
public law

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