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AP GoPo - Congress

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Conor Thomas

on 24 January 2014

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Transcript of AP GoPo - Congress

AP GoPo - Congress
Comparing to Parliaments:
How do you join Congress or a parliament?
P= convince party leaders to put your name on a local ballot
C= primary election. Parties are not nearly as powerful in picking candidates
What does this mean about the makeup of each?
What do you do when you are a member?
P= follow party lines, since that determines who is in power
C= represent your district first, then party
Who has more power?
Structure of Congress
In a Parliament, the only major kind of organization is the party.
Not true for Congress! But party structure is still important.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
Introducing a Bill:
any member of Congress can do it
most are public bills- general concern in the country
The President CAN NOT introduce legislation, although he will often get his ideas into bills drafted by members of Congress
Congress can also pass resolutions:
simple resolution- settle rules for either house
concurrent resolution- procedural matters
both don't need presidential approval, and aren't law
joint resolution- expression of congressional opinion that is signed by the president.
it is basically a law
Reducing Power and Perks
Pork-barrel legislation:
bills that give a benefit to constituents of the district where the bill's author is from.
this is done to try to win votes for re-election.
Many criticize Congress for focusing on these pork-barrel types of legislation, instead of moving quickly on issues of national importance.
Franking Privilege:
members of Congress are allowed to send free mail if they use their facsimile signature (like a photo-copied signature)
they often use this for campaigning, instead of keeping citizens informed on the progress made by Congress
Bipartisan Congressional Accountability Act of 1995:
Put in place so that Congress could be held accountable to the same laws as everyone else.
Basically, Congress creates the special Office of Compliance which would enforce laws on Congress.
This was an issue before, since allowing the executive branch to enforce laws over Congress would have skewed the power structure
Post-9/11 Congress
The 9/11 Commission was formed after the attack and recommended to make changes in Congress.
Most of these changes involved how Congress would oversee the Dept of Homeland Security and other intelligence-gathering agencies do their job.
Is this OK?
Found in Article I
What are they?
lay and collect taxes
borrow money
regulate commerce
coin money
establish post offices
create lower courts
make rules for citizenship
declare war
raise an army
make laws that are "necessary and proper"
History of Congress:
Why did the founders pick a congress and not a parliament?
And then why did they make the congress have two houses?
The founders also made Congress have weak leadership so that individual representatives could have more power. But this makes Congress act slower.
extremely complicated history, involving different periods of who was more powerful (Speaker, committee chairmen, and indiv. members
Powerful Speakers- Thomas B. Reed (late 1800s), Joseph G. Cannon (early 1900s), and Newt Gingrich (mid-1990s)
Problem- whether or not to be big, or give more power to individual members
Different problems-
How to elect senators, and filibusters
popular election of senators was demanded in the early 1900s (17th amendment)
Filibusters were very common by the end of the 1800s, but it was curtailed early in the 1900s with "Rule 22."
Vice President = President of the Senate
President pro tempore:
chosen by majority party
only presides over Senate when VP is absent
Majority Leader:
chosen by majority party
schedules the business of the Senate
can go first in any floor debate
Minority Leader:
chosen by minority party
works with majority leader
Majority and Minority Whip (two total, just like leaders):
helps his/her party leader round up party members for important votes, keeps leader informed on party member's opinions, and keeps track of who will vote which way in important votes
SENATE (cont'd):
Policy Committee:
one for each party
helps party leader schedule business and what bills the party should focus on
Steering Committee (DEMOCRATS ONLY) and Committee on Committees (REPUBLICANS ONLY):
assigns Senators to the standing committees (this comes up later)
very important for new senators, since it shapes their career
There are MANY considerations when picking all of these positions. Things like ideology, region, popularity, TV, favors, etc. are important.
Leadership is more powerful in the House
Speaker of the House:
elected by majority party
presides over the House and can use their power to increase their party's power
deciding who can speak on the floor
deciding which committees get what bills
deciding if a motion is relevant
appoints members of certain committees
controlling who gets patronage jobs
Majority and Minority Leaders
Majority and Minority Whips
Policy Committees
Steering Committee (Dems); Committee on Committees (GOP)
congressional campaign committees to help party members win election (or reelection)
Strength of Party Structures:
A party is strong when the party leaders can get the party members to vote together on Congress's rules and structures.
This is more difficult in the Senate, since leadership is weaker there.
Party Unity:
There used to be much more bipartisan voting in Congress.
Since the early 1990s, votes have usually been strictly along party lines.
The people are unimodal, but Congress is bimodal.
Why is it like this?
primary elections have lower voter turnout, so the most ideological candidates get through.
voters follow Congress, so they become more ideological
seniority plays a role
these are groups of congressmen designed to advance their ideological, economic, or regional interests
NOT THE SAME as caucuses in elections
these are growing, and rival party groups in Congress
Many congress members join to show their constituents what they are working for
CBC (Congressional Black Caucus)
Blue Dog (conservative Dems)
New Democrat (moderate Dems)
Tea Party (fiscally conservative Republicans)
Republican Study Committee (conservative Republicans)
Committee Structure
Committee organization is almost certainly the most important of the different organizational structures in Congress.
This is where the work gets done.
Most congressional power comes from chairing one of these committees.
Types of committees:
standing committees:
legislate in a certain area
select committees:
made for a limited time
have a very specific purpose
joint committees:
have both senators and representatives as members
conference committees:
have both senators and representatives
created to resolve differences b/w both houses on a piece of legislation
Committees are usually split by party based on the percentage split in that house.
Standing committees are the only ones that can send a bill to the full house.
Most members of the House serve on two standing committees, unless he/she is on an "exclusive" one (Appropriations, Ways and means, Rules). That is their only one.
Each senator can be on two major, and one minor committee.
Important Rules:
committee chairmen picked by secret ballot
can't chair multiple committees
most committee meetings are public
These rules give more power to individual members at the expense of party leaders.
the power has shifted back and forth b/w allowing more individual power (more debating and talking) and more centralized power (quicker deliberation and legislation)
Increased greatly in size and complexity during the 20th century
they spend most of their time answering mail, sending out info, meeting with constituents, etc.
staff members now do some actual legislative work, since the process has become so complicated
a bigger staff means that a bigger staff is needed to run the no larger staff
Congress is more individualistic, since having big staffs means members don't need to converse directly
Staff Agencies:
Some staffs work for Congress as a whole, not for individual members
CRS- Congressional Research Service: looks stuff up
GAO- General Accounting Office: researches money spent by gov't organizations
CBO- Congressional Budget Office: tells Congress about what effects may happen from different programs
Study by Committees:
the Speaker or the president of the Senate assigns bills to committees
It is an important power of the Speaker to be able to choose which committee gets which bill
All bills involving taxes have to originate in the House
Most bills die in committee
Multiple Referral- when a bill goes to more than one committee. this is now gone. pros and cons of this?
Sequential Referral- the Speaker can send a bill to another committee. is this better?
Committees "mark up" the bill- make changes, etc.
A bill goes forward only if the majority of that committee votes so
If the bill dies in committee, only a discharge petition can save it
the whole house votes to revive the bill after a petition is signed
In the House, the Rules Committee can do the following:
Closed Rule- strict time limit on debate and no amendments on the floor
Open Rule- amendments can be made on the floor
Restrictive Rule- some amendments, but not others
Floor Debate - The House
most bills are discussed by the "Committee of the Whole" aka whoever is there
A quorum is needed for business to happen (100 members for the Committee of the Whole, or 218 for the whole House)
The Committee of the Whole then refers the bill to the House (itself)
In this House debate, no riders (extraneous additions) are allowed
A quorum call (roll call to see if the required votes will be there) can be made at any time
Floor Debate - The Senate
The Senate is much more unrestricted:
no time limits, no irrelevance stopped, riders are allowed, etc.
For cloture, 16 senators must sign the petition, and 60 must vote for cloture
It is much easier to filibuster now
Double-tracking can be used- moving on to other matters whilst a bill is being filibustered
Dems just used the "nuclear option" to change the vote required from 60 to 51 to stop a filibuster on presidential nominations
Methods of Voting:
voice vote- yea or nay
division vote- standing up
teller vote- yeas and nays pass by a teller
roll-call vote- say yea or nay when your name is called
same, except no teller vote
Conference Committees are necessary if both houses pass different versions of the same bill.
Conf. Com. usually favor the Senate's version.
If the pres. vetoes the bill, it goes back to its house of origin.
If both houses have a two-thirds roll-call vote to override the veto, then the bill becomes law.
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