Chapter 6

Section 1- How Congress is organized?
How Congress is Organized
–Bicameral: Legislature divided into two houses.
–Resulted from WHAT COMPROMISE?
 The House
 435 members, 2 year
terms of office.
 Initiates all revenue
bills, more influential
on budget.
 House Rules
 Limited debates.
 The Senate
 100 members, 6 year
terms of office.
 Gives “advice &
consent”, more
influential on foreign
 Unlimited debates.
Census – population count every 10 years
Gerrymandering – oddly shaped districted designed to increase votes
How Congress is Organized
The House
– Lead by Speaker of the
House - elected by House
– Presides over House.
– Major role in committee
assignments and legislation.
– Assisted by majority leader
and whips.
The Senate
– Formally lead by Vice
President pro tempore – “for
the time being”
Really lead by Majority
Leader- chosen by party
Assisted by whips.
Must work with Minority
Majority party – the party to which more than half of the members belong to
Minority party – other party
How Congress is Organized
 The Committees and Subcommittees
 Four types of committees:
Standing committees: permanent committees and continue their work
form session to session
Joint committees: includes members of both Houses
Conference committees: resolve differences in House and Senate bills.
Select committees: created for a specific purpose for a limited time.
 Getting on a Committee
Members want committee assignments that will help them get reelected,
gain influence, and make policy.
New members express their committee preferences to the party leaders.
 Getting Ahead on the Committee: Chairs and the Seniority System.
The chair is the most important position for controlling legislation.
Chairs were once chosen strictly by the seniority system.
Now seniority is a general rule, and members may choose the chair of
their committee.
Compare and Contrast: Draw this Chart! Fill it
out as you read! Turn it in at the end of class!
House of
Powers of
Types of
Section 2- The Powers of Congress
Legislative Powers
 Expressed powers – “Congress shall have the Power…”
 Implied powers – Necessary and Proper Clause gives
Congress the power to do anything it deems “Necessary and
Proper” to carryout its expressed powers
 Not stated explicitly
 Clause is also known as the Elastic Clause
 Taxing and Spending
 Authorization bills – $ allowed (how much money is
authorized for that program to spend)
 Appropriation bills - $ actually given to that program
 Regulating Commerce - trade
 Foreign Relations and Treaties – only Congress can declare
Nonlegislative Powers
 Powers that do not relate to “law-making”
 Approving presidential appointees into high positions
 House has the sole authority to impeach
 Oversight and Investigation: important to ensure
Executive branch is carrying out the laws appropriately.
Limits on Power
 Things Congress may NOT do:
 Writ of habeas corpus - cannot stop prisoner form going to
court to know why he or she is being held
 Bills of attainders – cannot pass laws that punish a person
without jury trial. WHAT AMENDMENT!?
 Ex post facto laws – cannot make something a crime after it
is committed.
Categorizing Information: Draw this Chart! Fill
it out as you read! Turn it in at the end of class!
Powers Denied
Section 4 – How a Bill becomes a Law
(Yes… we skipped Section 3!)
Types of Bills
 Two Types of Bills
 Private Bills: concern individual people or places
 Public bills: apply to the entire nation and general
matters like taxation, etc.
 Congress considers many resolutions (formal
statements of opinions from lawmakers)
 Joint resolution – come from both the House and the
Senate, and usually do become laws if the president
signs it.
From a Bill to a Law
Usually start as an idea, presented either by a person or by special
interest groups (organizations made up of people with a common
interest that are trying to influence government decisions)
 Bills are given a number
 Bill #231 in the Senate would be S.231 and in the House would be H.R.
STEP 2 - Committee Action
 The Committee Chair decides whether to consider the bill or ignore it
 Usually controlled by Standing Committees... They can:
1. they can pass it without changes
2. mark it up with suggestions
3. replace it with an alternative
4. ignore it and let it die out
5. kill it by a majority vote
STEP 3 – Floor Debate
 After the Committee action they are ready to be considered by the full House and
 Senate usually goes in the order they are submitted
 In the House, the RULES COMMITTEE is like the “traffic cop” and determines the order
 The Senate allows riders (amendments that are unrelated to the bill) to be attached to it
 Senate can also filibuster
 A filibuster can be ended f ¾ of the members vote for cloture. After this no one can speak
for more than an hour.
STEP 4 – Voting on a Bill
 Three types of votes
 Voice vote: “yea” or “no”
 Standing vote: those in favor stand to be counted
 Roll-call vote: a voice vote but in order as they are called
 Both the Senate and the House must pass a bill in identical form before it becomes a law
if not it is sent to a Conference Committee and gets voted on again.
STEP 5 – Presidential Action
 The president can do any of 4 things:
 Sign the bill and make it a law
 Veto it (refusing to sign it)
 Ignore it for 10 days and then it automatically becomes a law
 If the bill is getting passed close to the end of the Congressional Session, if the president
ignores it during the last 10 days of the session it is called a pocket veto and does not get
Sequencing Chart
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5

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