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The National Legislature

An overview of the US Congress for 11th grade government
by

chris klosterman

on 5 March 2013

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Transcript of The National Legislature

The National Legislature 1.What is the most basic function of Congress?

To legislate which means to make laws. 2.Why did the framers of the Constitution create or choose a bicameral legislature?

Historical: The British Parliament is a bicameral legislature and much of our law is based on British law

Practical: Had to develop a compromise between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan

Theoretical: Each chamber would serve as a check
on the power of other one 3.What is a term of congress?

2 year time period of Congress. It begins and ends in January of odd numbered years. Congress numbers its terms from the start of our constitution and we are in the ____ congress right now. 4.What is a session of Congress?

A one year period. Sessions begin and end in January. Each term is made up of two sessions. 5.What is a special session?

A meeting called by the President to deal with a pressing issue such as a national emergency. Has only been done 26 times and is not really needed today because Congress goes nearly year round. The House of Representatives

1. What is the current size of the House of Representatives? 435



2.How is this number determined? By Congress.
The current number was set by a law in 1929. 3.How are seats in the House apportioned?
By population of each state. As a general rule, each representative represents over 700,000 people

4.What is the decennial census
To count the number of people in the US and re-distribute seats in the House based on changing population patterns in the US Compare the size of
districts near heavily
populated areas
like Columbus with
rural areas like NW
Ohio. 5. What are the four major provisions of the Reapportionment Act of 1929?

1.Permanent size of House of Representatives is 435
2.After the census the Census Bureau determines the number of seats of each state
3.The President sends it to Congress
4.If, after 60 days the plan is not rejected it becomes effective 6. What is an “off year” election?

Election on the even year between Presidential elections. Also known as “mid-term” elections because it is in the middle of a President’s four year term.

7. What is a single member district?

District in which the voters determine the representative for their district. 8. How does this differ from an at large district?
Representatives are picked by winner take all for the whole state. This is done in states with 700,000 or less people. 9. What is Gerrymandering?
To manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party. Often done during redistricting which is done by state legislatures who draw congressional district boundaries after reapportionment – every ten years after the census is taken. The Senate
1. What is the current size of the US Senate? 100

2.How is this number determined? US Constitution states that each state gets two senators 3.How were Senators originally chosen and how are they chosen today?

Chosen by state legislatures until the 17th Amendment in 1913. This amendment allowed voters in each state to directly elect their senators. 4.How long is a senator’s term? Six years

5.Why is the Senate called a continuous body?
All seats of the Senate are never up in one election. 1/3 of senators are up for election every two years. Therefore 2/3 of the Senate is always made up of members with two or more years of experience. 6.What are the three constitutional qualifications for members of the Senate?
-30 years old
-Citizen of US for 9 years
-Must be an inhabitant of the state from which they are elected 7.When compared to the House of Representatives why is the Senate known as the “upper house”?
-Smaller body
-Longer terms
-Larger constituencies
-Older membership
-More prestige/power
-Higher visibility in the media A key difference between the House and the
Senate -- and it was set up this way by the
writers of the constitution -- is that the House
is supposed to be faster to act, more responsive to the needs of the people (thus the two year terms & minimum age of 25). The senate's six year terms give Senators "distance" between many of their votes and the next election and senators are older and more thoughtful than the younger House membership The Declaration of War against Japan after Pearl Harbor
required a special session because most Representatives and Senators had gone home for Christmas Congressional Districts in the United States The 113th Congress Red = two GOP
Blue = two Dem
Purple = one each
green = independent 10. Constitutional requirements for a member of the House of Representatives.

-at least 25 years old
citizen of the US for 7 years
resident of the state from which they are elected 1.Describe the average member of Congress. White male in his mid 50s

2.What are some things that member do as part of a congressional committee?
-Screen proposed bills and decide which ones will go to the floor for a vote
- oversight – oversee agencies of executive branch to make sure they are working efficiently





3. Explain how a member of Congress votes or acts as the following:
Trustee: vote on a bill based on its merit
Delegate: vote on what is in the best interests of the “folks back home”
Partisans: vote the way their party believes is best
Politicos: attempt to combine all of the above in the way they vote 4. What are some of the fringe benefits for members of Congress?
- travel allowance
- tax deductions
- generous pension plan
- free postage
- cannot be arrested while in session unless for a felony, treason, or breach of peace












1.Explain how the speech and debate clause gives a congressperson a “cloak of legislative immunity”
For the most part, they can say whatever they want while working & not have to worry about being sued.
Full transcript