Congress Organization Bicameral Legislature Two houses make up the US Congress- the House of Representatives and the Senate. When Congress Meets Terms Congressional terms start on January 3 rd of odd- numbered years and last for two years. Sessions Each term has two sessions that last one year each and includes breaks. The modern day Congress meets from January till November/December. Congress remains in session until members vote to adjourn. Neither the House nor the Senate can adjourn without the approval of the other for more than three days. The President can all it back at any time for a special session. The House of Representatives Qualifications Must be: At least 25 years old A citizen for at least seven years A legal resident of the state that elects them. Death or resignation allows a governor to appoint a temporary representative until a special election can be held. Term of Office Elected to two-year terms in the November of even numbered years. This means every two years the entire House is up for reelection. 90 % reelection rate for members of the House Representation and Reapportionment The Census Every ten years the census is taken and the number of representatives is for each state is assigned in a process called reapportionment. Reapportionment Act of 1929 Limited House membership to 435 representatives Redistricting After each state finds out how many representatives it is to get the state legislature sets up congressional districts through a process known as redistricting. Legal Challenges Districts can be “rigged” to favor one group or another so issues have arisen that have had to be settled by the courts. Baker v. Carr –USSC case that said federal courts could decide conflicts over drawing district boundaries. Reynolds v. Sims –USSC case where it was ruled that apportionment must be done on a basis of population. Wesberry v. Sanders –USSC case where the courts ruled that the “one person, one vote” principle should apply and that all districts should have approximately the same population. Gerrymandering The idea that political parties in power in the state government draws boundaries to favor their political party. Leads to irregularly shaped districts. Packing –The drawing of lines so that the majority of one parties voters are in one district, making majority candidates in other districts more likely to win. Cracking –Dividing an opponents voters into several districts to weaken their voting base. The Senate Qualifications Must be: 30 years old Citizen of the US for 9 years Legal resident of the state they represent. Term of Office Elected in November of even numbered years to 6-year terms. Every two year 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection. Death or resignation allows a governor to appoint a new Senator to fulfill the term or hold a special election. Salaries, Benefits, and Privileges of the Congress Salaries The Congress set their own salaries- currently at about $136,700 (1998) Benefits Franking Privilege Congressmen receive free postage for official business- especially helpful come campaign time. Allowances Congressmen given money to pay for staff, trips home, and communications. Taxes Given income tax deduction for maintaining two residences. Retirement Eligible for pensions of $150,000 or more Privileges Congressmen are Free from arrest while conducting legislative duties. Free from lawsuit for anything said on the floor of the Congress Removal from Congress Exclusion Both houses may judge an elected officials qualification and refuse to seat them by majority vote. Punishment A majority vote can punish a member. Expulsion Can occur for a serious offense and with a two-thirds vote. Censure A vote for formal disapproval of member’s actions. The Members of Congress Who makes up Congress 535 voting members (100 Senators plus 435 Representatives) 5 delegates sit in the House who cannot vote 1 each from Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, America Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. Characteristics of Congressmen ½ are lawyers Typically white middle- aged males with an average age of 50+. Reelection Incumbents (those already in office) have a 90% reelection rate Why? Political Action Committees (P.A.C.’s) Raise substantial campaign funds for incumbents Gerrymandering Rigged district in an incumbents favor Visibility Better known to public Work They have the power to get things done for the voters.
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