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The Legislative Branch

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Elizabeth C.

on 4 November 2015

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Transcript of The Legislative Branch

The Legislative Branch
What is it?
Outlined in Article 1 of the constitution
Also known as Congress
Job of this branch = to make laws
Laws passed by majority
Based on a representative form of government
Congress is made up of two representative bodies (Bicameral structure)
House of Representatives
House of Representatives
Largest house of Congress with 435 members
Number of representatives a state has is based on population
1 representative ~ 700,000 people
Calculated based on census
California = 53 Representatives in the House
Elected by the people

Smaller than the House with only 100 members
two members per state
Term for Senator is 6 years
Senate is considered a continuous body because every 2 years, only 1/3 of members are re-elected
Three levels of Senators: freshman, midterm, and veteran
Senator requirements:
Must be at least 30 years old
Must be a citizen of the U.S. for 9 years and live in the state they represent
There is no limit to the # of terms one may serve
Senate Leadership (Cont)
Senate Leadership
President Pro Tempore
While VP is President, the actual leader is the President Pro Tempore
VP breaks ties
Elected by the Senate
Leading member of the majority party
Mostly ceremonial without much power
House of Representatives (cont.)
Term for representative is 2 years
Representative requirements:
Must be at least 25 years old
Must be a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years and live in the state they represent
There is no limit to the # of terms one may serve
House of Representatives has the sole power to begin impeachment
House Structure
I. Delegated (expressed) Powers
There are four types of delegated or expressed powers:
II. Implied Powers
These are powers not stated specifically in the Constitution, but are based off the expressed powers
Needed to support the expressed powers
Granted under the Elastic Clause (aka "Necessary and Proper Clause")
Gives Congress authority to pass laws it deems necessary and proper
Ex: minimum wage

Congress is granted three different categories of power:
Delegated (Expressed)
The majority of these powers can be found in Article I, Section 8 of the constitution.
When does Congress meet?
Congress begins its meetings on January 3rd every odd year @ noon
Meets for 2 year terms
Every term is numbered (current term = 114th)
Congress meets in different chambers on opposite sides of Capital Building in Washington DC
A record of all meetings is published in the Congressional Record, held in the Library of Congress
III. Non-Legislative Powers
removal of federal officiasl such as President, VP, or court justices
Amending the Constitution
Oversight function
investigating the executive branch and its administration
Authorization Bill:
when a law is passed, no money can be spent until Congress passes an Authorization Bill which states the budget
Delegated - Fiscal
Levying and collecting taxes
to pay debts and provide for the well-being of citizens
Borrowing money
borrow against its credit to finance a war or pay for government program
Coining and printing currency
Establish standards for weights and measures
Delegated - Trade
Regulate foreign and interstate trade
Keeps states from dealing individually with foreign countries
Delegated - Military
Establish a military
Organization and establishment of military laws
Power to declare war
"Power to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the U.S."
Delegated - Other
Establish rules for citizenship
Maintain post office
Laws for copyrights and patents
Establish federal court system
Speaker of the House
Majority Leader
Minority Leader
Minority Whip
Majority Whip
House body
House Leadership
Speaker of the House
Always majority party
Rules on questions of procedure
Presides over debates and keeps order
Interprets and applies rules
Refers bills to committees
Signs all bills and resolutions passed by House
Often doesn't vote - but will in a tie
follows VP in line to Presidency
represents "more of the people"
elected by House + Majority party
House Leadership (cont.)
Majority & Minority Leaders
Also known as Floor Leaders
Help plan legislative program
Carry out decisions of their party (majority or minority)
Steer the floor through debates
Think of them as the masterminds
Note: Majority Leader is Speakers top assistant

House Leadership (cont.)
Majority & Minority Whips
Assist floor leaders
Inform members of important bills coming for vote
Get members to vote
House Leadership (cont.)
Other Important Roles
Chief Administrative Officer
day-to-day admin support, payroll, food services
maintain public records, prepares documents, leads house through Speaker election
Sergeant at Arms
Chief law enforcement
leads prayer
Senate Structure
President/ President Pro Tempore
Majority Leader
Minority Leader
Minority Whip
Majority Whip
Senate body
Majority Leader
most influential
speaks for the Senate
First on the floor
Minority Leader
Power depends on how well they get along with majority leader
Plan legislative strategies
carry out decisions of their party
steer the floor
Senate Leadership (Cont)
Majority & Minority Whips
assist floor leaders
inform members of important bills coming for vote
get members to vote
Impeachment is the act of formally accusing an official of crimes or serious misconduct
According to the constitution, officials can be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes"
Power to impeach lies in the House with the Judiciary Committee
Senate conducts the trial by acting as the jury
Judge = Chief Justice
Needs a 2/3rds vote to be impeached and removed from office
What is a Filibuster?
Only used in Senate during unlimited debate
Tactic used to delay or block legislation
Dutch for "pirate"
Became popular in 1850's
Talking a bill to death
Ex: Re-reading names over and over
In 1917 Senators adopted rule 22 at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson
Allowed Senate to end debate with 2/3 majority vote
In 1975, Senate reduced number of voters from 2/3 to 3/5, or 60 out of 100
Cloture = vote to end filibuster
Another tactic:
Christmas tree bill = add amendments called "riders" to a bill
Committees were created to divide up the work (bills) of Congress
Members of Congress serve on 3-5 different standing or select committees
Different types of committees are:
Standing committees
Select committees
Joint committees
Conference committees
Standing Committees
Stand from one Congress to the next
Bills in different policy areas
Each has subcommittees
subcommittees help standing committees investigate/research a bill
Senate: 16
House: 20
Select Committees
Temporary committee appoint for limited/specific purpose
Joint Committees
Temporary committee made up of both House & Senate
Conference Committees
Temporary committee made up of both House & Senate when both put through similar bills
Purpose is to find an acceptable compromise of the bill
What's a Caucus?
Unlike a committee, a caucus is an informal group
Meet to discuss issues or advocate a political ideology
How A Bill Becomes A Law
Interests Groups
A bill is a proposed law presented to the House or Senate for consideration
There are two types of bills:
Public: apply to the nation as a whole
Private: apply to certain places or persons
Concurrent resolution:
Passed when Congress wants to make a statement without passing a law (Ex: asking pres. to return bill before he signs/vetoes)
Joint resolution:
Requires Presidential approval and has the force of law (Ex: declare war/ temporary exceptions to existing laws)
First Steps
Bill is placed in Hopper
Clerk reads it out loud "first reading"
Clerk assigns the Bill a title and number
Ex: H.R. 12
Bill is sent to a Standing Committee
Senator introduces a bill.
Bill is assigned a title and number
Ex: S. 12
Bill goes to the floor for debate
Next Steps: House
Most bills die in committee (standing/sub)
Results of committee:
1. Pass
2. Refuse to report (known as Pigeonhole)
Discharge Petition: In rare cases, a discharge petition may force the bill out of committee and onto House floor after 30 days
3. Report after amending "mark up"
4. Unfavorable recommendation; House to kill Bill
5. Report an entirely new bill
Next Steps: House
Bill is then sent to Rules Committee, where rules are set for debate of the Bill on the floor
Ex: time limits
"Gag rule": when Rules Committee sets very short time limits and allows no amendments
Bill goes to Committee of the Whole for second reading, debates, and amendments
Since Constitution requires a quorum (majority), the Committee of the Whole is called
100 members represent the House as a whole
Bill then goes to the House for limited debate
Debate - House
House debate is limited
Representatives can only speak for an hour
Speaker can end talking at any point
Amendments may be offered
Bill send to vote
Voting - House
Four options available:
pass as written (send to other house for consideration)
table or kill bill
send back to committee
offer amendments
Methods of voting
voice vote - yeas and nays
standing vote - stand and are counted
teller vote - two tellers count reps as they pass between them. Use is rare.
roll-call vote - names called; yeas and nays
Senate - Debate
Unlimited debate & few set rules
Christmas tree bill
Bill sent for vote
pass as written (send to other house or consideration)
table or kill
send back to committee
offer amendments
Conference Committee
Recall: made up of both House and Senate
Formed to find a compromise on two versions of a bill
After conference committee finds compromise, sent back to both House and Senate for final vote
If both House and Senate agree, sent to President for signature
President Signature
President may:
allows bill to become a law without action (10 days)
pocket veto
Pocket veto
If president gets bill within 10 days, he does not have full 10 days to consider it.
Can pocket, or ignore, the bill
Veto may be overridden by two-thirds vote of each house
Gridlock - when executive & legislative branch can't agree
Influences on Voting
Party Membership
Constituent's views (those they represent)
Personal Views
Pork barrel - "Bring home the bacon"
project specific to lawmakers' home district
Logrolling - lawmakers support each others bills
Controversial Issues
Seniority System
giving key positions of committee chair to person of majority party who has served longest
People stay in Congress
Experience vs. new ideas
unequal distribution
dividing voting districts to give party advantage
An interest group is an organized collective of people with an explicit and primary political agenda
Basically groups of people who want something from the gov
Other names:
special interests, pressure groups, lobbyists, non-governmental orgs.
Formation of Interest Groups
Interest groups have formed in waves throughout American history
1st Wave:
1840s and 1850s; groups formed around abolitionism (pro and con slavery groups)
2nd Wave:
1910s and 1920s; economy changing with move from rural to urban. Business groups & labor unions (most of which exist today)
3rd Wave:
1960s and 1970s; human rights/quality of life issues such as abortion, civil rights, environment, etc
Disturbance Theory
Theory for why Interest Groups form
Something happens to cause a class of people to form an organized group to lobby the gov (Ex: war, drought)
Then an opposing groups organizes against this one.
Ex: Farmers want higher prices for crops; consumer group wants lower grocery prices
Why do people join?
Purposive reasons
people agree with the purpose of the group
Material reasons
people get some type of economic benefit from group membership (labor union)
Solidarity reason
people join to be around like-minded people
Who joins?
Most group have high incomes, high levels of educations, free time, and interest in politics
Types of Interest Groups
Economic Interest Groups
Social and Equality Groups
Public Interest Groups
Economic Interest Group
Groups that organize to lobby the gov for private economic benefits (little trouble attracting members).
Business Groups and Trade Associations (specific part of the business community)
Labor Groups (labor unions)
Agriculture Groups
Professional Groups
Social Action and Equality Groups
Focus on social change and equality issues that promote civil liberties and civil rights
Ex: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Ex: National Organization for Women (NOW)
Public-Interest Groups
Groups that work for the best interest of the public and not just members of the group
Issues include: clean air and water, women's rights, pro and anti-gun groups

Interest Group Tactics
Letter writing, political pressure by calling, publishing newsletters,making campaign contributions
Actively or publicly supporting a candidate or party
PACs (political action committees; raise money and donate to parties/candidates)
turn to courts
Ex: Sue to enforce Clean Air Act
Full transcript