…… and Congress at Work
Congress Convenes
• January 3rd, at noon. (Odd # years).
• House of Representatives:
– A clerk calls to order and checks for
newly elected Representatives. Are they
– Members to be: Choose the Speaker of
the House. S/he will take an oath of
office and then swear in the rest of the
What else happens on Opening
• The House elects…..
– A clerk
– A Sergeant at Arms
– Doorkeeper
– Post Master
– Chaplain
• Adopt rules and organize the
So, we know about the House…
now what about the Senate?!?
• Not as extensive as the House.
– Why? They are a continuous body.
• Only 1/3rd new/re-elected members each
• New or re-elected members are just sworn in
• Vacancies are filled
Presidential: State of the Union
• Mr. P outlines the administration’s
plans and policies.
– May make a few suggestions and
recommendations on legislation.
• Why does he do this? Because it’s in
the Constitution! Mandated Speech in
Article 2, Section 3.
Speaker of the House
• Nancy Pelosi
• Has 2 duties:
– Keeps Order
– Presides over all
• Allowed to vote and
debate on any
– Rarely do… except when
there’s a tie… then they
are required to.
• The most influential
person in the House.
Pelosi in Action…
• Nancy Pelosi and
the Health Bill…
President of the Senate
• Mr. VP Joe Biden
– In the Constitution that
the President of the
Senate is the VP of the
United States.
• Votes in case of a tie.
• Recognize members.
• If absent-President Pro
Tempore presides over
the Senate…. (they are
voted on by the Senate
and a member of the
Majority Party).
Biden in Action… (not sure what
Floor Leaders.....
• In the House and Senate have a majority and
a minority floor leader… and their chosen by
party colleagues.
– Whips???? Assistant floor leaders. Make sure
party members are voting the way they are
supposed to be… “Whip” into good, obeying
party members
• The Party Caucus: Closed meetings of each
party in each house… they deal with:
– Party organization
– Selection of Floor Leaders
– Committee Membership
Committee Chairpersons
• Decide…..
– When their committees will meet
– Which bills they will consider
– Whether or not to hold public hearings
– What witnesses to call upon
Seniority Rules
• Unwritten rule or “custom”
• Most important posts are awarded
according to terms of service….
– Are you serious?!?
Seniority Rule
• Criticisms….
– Ignores Ability.
– Discourages young
– Encourages constant
re-election of “stale”
• Defenders…
– Ensures experience
in key posts.
– Minimizes conflict
within the party.
Standing Committees
• The permanent groups to which all
similar bills are sent.
• House has 19 standing committees;
Senate has 17 standing committees.
– House members can only serve on one.
– Senate members can serve on two.
• Speaker of the House and President of
the Senate decide where to assign a bill.
Which appropriate committee?
– Example: For any taxes  Ways and Means
House Rules Committee
• Police Authority of the House of
• Manages the flow of bills for the full
house by scheduling their
• In the Senate… Majority House Leader
takes on this role.
Select Committees
• Special groups… set up for specific
purposes… for a limited period of time.
• Members appointed by Speaker of the
House or President of the Senate.
• Usually chosen to conduct special
– Example: Senate Watergate Committee 1973.
– What was that guys name again? Which President?
» O that’s right…. Nixon!
Joint Committees
• Members of Both Houses make these
committees up.
– Judiciary, Budget, Small Business,
Veteran’s affairs.
• Typically permanent groups that serve
on a regular basis.
Conference Committees
• A bill has to be passed in identical
form by both the Senate and the
House….before it can go to the
• A bill can pass in different forms
during the first phase.
– Conference committees are created to
iron out the differences on the bills.
– Compromise bill is created.
How a Bill Becomes a Law…
Bill Simulation Activity
Bill Simulation Steps
• Assign Roles
– 4 total committees
• 2 for House
• 2 for Senate
– Two readers (1 for bill one, 1 for bill two.)
– Speakers for bill one—3
– Speakers for bill two—3
Simulation Continued
• Bill is read to class
• Split into four groups
– Talk about the bills for 2-5 minutes.
• Conduct hearings
– Speakers testify about the bill.
– Committee members ask one question of each
– Vote on whether or note to proceed with the bill.
• Mark up time.
– Meet for 5 minutes to revise the bills to your
Simulation Continued
• Reconvene
– All house members come together
– All Senate members come together.
– Each side introduces their versions.
• Floor consideration (yay/nay)
– If bill doesn’t pass… it dies.
– If it does pass… on to the Conference
Committee we go.
• Conference Committee
– Nominate/vote on members (two from each
– Work out the differences on the passed bills.
Simulation steps continued
• Vote again
– Conference Committee has one bill.
– If it passes, it goes to the President who
Pocket Veto
Ignore it 10 days, and it automatically passes.
How a Bill becomes a
Law…(House style)
• 1st reading
• Goes to a committee and then a
• Reviewed
• Back to full committee
Report favorably
Amend it
Totally redo it
Pigeonhole (refuse to report it)
• Placed on the calendar for floor debate
House… passing a bill
• Read a second time
• Floor debate…. With a very strict time
• Voting
Voice vote
Standing vote
1/5 quorum asks for a teller vote
Role-call vote
• Read a 3rd time and signed by Speaker
• Sent to Senate President
A Bill in the Senate…
• Bill read
• Given title
• Referred to a Committee.
– Called to floor by Majority Leader
• Floor Debate…. Unlimited
– Filibuster… only in the Senate
– Cloture Rule…. Take 4/5 to end a filibuster
• Conference Committee: smoothes out
differences between the House and the Senate
• Goes to Mr. P

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