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Government - Unit 3, Chapter 10: Congress

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Zach White

on 11 November 2016

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Transcript of Government - Unit 3, Chapter 10: Congress

Chapter 10
The House of Representatives
The Members
of Congress
Personal and Political Backgrounds
The Job
Qualifications for House Members
Congressional Elections
The House of Representatives
Size, Election, and Terms
Qualifications for Senators
The National Legislature
Terms and Sessions
Bicameral Congress
The constitution grants all legislative Powers to Congress.
Congress=Senate+House of Representatives.
We have a bicameral legislature for three basic reasons.
The British Parliament had consisted of two houses since the 1300s.
Since our founding fathers were most familiar with the British system of government they used that system to set up the governments of the original 13 colonies.
The Framers created a legislative body with two houses in order to form a COMPROMISE between the New Jersey and Virginia Plans.
Smaller states wanted an equal voice (Senate) and bigger states wanted representation to be based on population (House of Representatives).
The Framers wanted one house to act as a "check" on the other and from overwhelming the other two branches of government.
The House is supposed to be the voice of the people while the Senate was meant to be the "cooling saucer" of democracy.
Each TERM of Congress lasts for 2 years.
The start of each 2 year term occurs on the third day of January of every odd-numbered year.
Within each term there are two sessions...so there is one session per year. A session is just the period of time during which Congress assembles to conduct its business.
Size: 435 members apportioned (distributed) among the States on the basis of their respective populations.
Each state is guaranteed at least one representative.
Term in office: 2 years and there is no limit on the amount of terms or the number of years an individual can serve.
The Constitution directs Congress to reapportion (redistribute) the seats in the House every 10 years when the census is given.
Every even-numbered year on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November there are elections for the House of Representatives.
Off-year or "mid-term" elections are held in between Presidential elections.
Presidential elections: 2016, 2020, 2024
Off-year elections: 2018, 2022, 2026
Today each of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives represents an average of about 650,000 people.
Historically, the party in-power loses seats during the off-year elections. So who will most likely lose seats in 2018?
Why do you think the party in-power usually loses seats in the off-year elections?
So how are members of Congress elected?
How would you elect members of Congress?
How could you make it the most fair and democratic?
All states follow the single-member district arrangement to elect representatives to the House.
Under the single-member district plan each state is broken up into districts. Each district gets to elect a single representative or member to the House of Representatives.
Each state legislature is responsible for drawing the congressional districts of its own state.
States generally draw districts based off of common beliefs, customs, way-of-living, etc. Also, each district must have close to an equal number of citizens which is around 650,000 people.
Do you think some state legislatures might take advantage of this system? How could they take advantage of it?
Only two real rules for drawing districts exist: there must be close to 650,000 people in each district and districts can't be drawn solely based off of race.
Gerrymandering: districts drawn to the advantage of the political party that control's the State's legislature.
Gerrymandering is a widespread practice today and is used to draw lines that favor one side over another in everything from U.S. House districts to school board districts.
Two strategies to gerrymandering:
Concentrate opposition in one or a few districts.
Spread the opposition as thinly as possible among several districts.
This is one of the biggest reasons why most politicians get reelected...only about 40 seats out of 435 seats are every truly up for grabs for either party.
Now it's your turn to draw some districts in a non-partisan (fair to all parties) AND a partisan way (clearly favors one party over the other).
Formal Qualifications to be in the U.S. House of Representatives:
Must be at least 25 years old
Must be a citizen of the U.S. for at least 7 years
Must be an inhabitant of the State from which he or she is elected.
While it is not a formal qualification, specifically written out in the Constitution, it has been a long standing custom that representatives must be from the district they are elected from.
There are informal qualifications for House members as well. (Just like there were for the President)
What are some examples of informal qualifications for the U.S. House of Representatives member from OUR district?
The Senate
Size: 100 members
Constitution states that the Senate "shall be composed of two Senators from each State."
The framers hoped that a smaller Senate would be more enlightened and responsible than the House. They wanted the Senate to balance out the House's quick reaction to events.
Originally, the Constitution provided that the members of the Senate were to be chosen by the State legislators. However, with the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913 senators have been picked through a direct election by the voters or constituents.
Senators are elected by the state at-large. This means that voters of a state get to vote for both of their Senators no matter where they live.
Term: 6 years and there isn't a limit on the amount of years or terms someone can serve as a Senator.
What is the advantage of not having term limits?
What are the disadvantages?
Constituents are the people and interests an elected representative represents. So you are the constituents of certain elected officials.
The Senate has a higher level of qualifications than the House. These requirements, as listed in the Constitution, are tougher because the Framers believed that the Senate should be more important and prestigious.
Qualifications for Senate:
Must be at least 30 years old.
Must have been a U.S. citizen for at least 9 years.
Must be an inhabitant of the State from which he or she is elected.
It is important to remember that as currently constituted Congress is NOT representative of the nation at large.
In the 114th Congress there were 271 millionaires out of 535 members...that's a majority!
Many Congress people have law degrees and virtually all members of Congress are college graduates.
Women and minorities make up a smaller portion of Congress than in the general population.
How do you think this affects the laws our Congress makes and their point of view on the issues?
Congresspeople serve the role of being a representative of the people. In this role the congressperson has a choice to make in how they represent their constituents.
Each question they face must be decided on its merits.
Conscience and independent judgement are their guides.
Trustees call issues as they see them, regardless of how their constituents might feel about the issue.
Delegates see themselves as the agents of those who elected them.
They believe that they should vote the way "the folks back home" would want.
They are willing to ignore their own views and those of their party's.
Partisans are most concerned with the views of their political party.
They feel duty-bound to vote in line with the party platform and the wishes of party leaders.
Studies on voting behavior of legislators show that partisanship is the most important factor influencing politicians' votes on important measures.
Politicos attempt to combine the basic elements of the trustee, delegate, and partisan roles.
They try to balance these often conflicting factors: their own views of what is best for their constituents and/or the nation as a whole, the political facts of life, and the peculiar pressures of the moment.
Those are some example of how politicians conduct themselves and act when on the job. Now we will move onto something that they actually do...
In every session of Congress, proposed laws (bills) are referred to committees in each chamber. As committee members, senators and representatives must screen those proposals.
These committees are specialized to help make Congress more efficient.
Senate Committee on Armed Services/House Committee on Armed Services
House Committee on Budget/Senate Committee on Budget
These committees craft bills and if they are passed through the committee then they will go to the floor of the Senate or the House to be considered by the entire Senate or House.
Senators and Representatives are paid about $165,000 a year.
They also get a great retirement package or pension and are given access to top-notch medical care.
Other perks include things like generous travel allowances to travel to and from their home districts several times a year, free postage, free office space in the capitol building, and a budget to hire a personal staff.
Full transcript