The Legislative Branch (Congress) The National Legislature • The Legislative Branch – or Congress – is made of two bodies: • House of Representatives and Senate. • This means that Congress is bicameral – “bi” means two, and “cameral” means chamber. The National Legislature • Why did the founding fathers develop two houses? • One reason was because it is what they were used to from the British government. • Second reason is they wanted as many “checks and balances” as possible. The National Legislature • However, the third and most important reason was because it served as a compromise during the Constitutional Convention. • Remember – there was an argument as to how the states should be represented as votes. • Big states said it should be based on population – little states said it should be equal. The National Legislature • The Great Compromise created two houses in Congress – HOR and Senate. • House of Representatives gets reps based on state population. • Senate gets two reps from each state regardless of population. The National Legislature The National Legislature • Total – there are 435 members of the House of Representatives. • Total – there are 100 (50 states X 2 Senators from each state) members of the Senate. • How many total members of Congress are there? The National Legislature • Congress meets for two-year terms – 1st Congress met on March 4, 1789. • The 111th Congress began on January 3, 2009 and end on January 3, 2011. • The 112th Congress will meet on January 3, 2011, and end on January 3, 2013. The National Legislature • In each two-year term there are two sessions – one session per year. • When Congress begins a session it is called “convenes”, and it is called “adjourn” when it ends. • There are numerous “recess” periods in a session as well. The National Legislature • The President of the United States may call a special session during an emergency or a critical issue comes up. • This has happened 27 times in our nations’ history. • In 1933 President Roosevelt called an emergency session to deal with Great Depression. The National Legislature • President Roosevelt also called an emergency session in 1939. • The issue then was outbreak of war in Europe – the Nazis – and U.S. policy to sell weapons to England. • Many times the President “threatens” a special session to force Congress to compromise on an issue. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • What was the most important reason why the founding fathers decided on a bicameral legislature? • What is the difference between a term and a session of Congress? • How is a Congressional recess different from an adjournment? House of Representatives • Remember there are 435 members – with the state’s population determining how many members per state. • Every state must have at least on seat – or member. • Every 10 years, the HOR is reapportioned to recalculate how many members per state – never goes above 435 total though. House of Representatives • During the 1st Congress in 1789 there were 65 members in the House. • Every member in the House serves two-year terms. • This makes each member highly accountable for their actions and votes – always an election year upcoming. House of Representatives • There are no limits on how many times a member can be elected. • The election is always held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November on even numbered years. • Presidents serve four-year terms, so many times there are what is called “off-year” elections. House of Representatives • An “off-year” election is when the Presidency is not up for election, but members of the House are. • Usually, the political party of the President loses members in an off-year election. • Each member in the House represents their district from their state. House of Representatives • Because there are 435 members in the House, that means there are 435 districts in the U.S. • Districts are created very carefully – they have boundaries and borders. • Districts have to be near equal in total population. House of Representatives • Districts also have to be one piece – not bunches of pieces. • Every 10 years districts boundaries are re- drawn. • These rules lead to all different types of district shapes and sizes. House of Representatives • Re-drawing districts also brings “gerrymandering” into play. • Gerrymandering is named after former Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry in 1812. • Political parties in control of the state governments “gerrymander” district boundaries. House of Representatives • They re-form the districts with a strategy in mind to try to keep their members in office. • Gerrymandering is the reason why we see REALLY strange district shapes. • Arizona’s 2nd district is a great example of gerrymandering. House of Representatives • Anyone can become a House of Representatives member – you need to meet these simple requirements: –Minimum age of 25 years. –Minimum 7 years as U.S. Citizen. –Live in the state in which you represent. House of Representatives • However, other members of the House can reject you, punish you, or expel you based on a majority vote. • Brigham H. Roberts from Utah was rejected in 1900 for being a polygamist. • In 200 years, five members have been expelled. House of Representatives • It is extremely expensive to run a campaign in order to become a member of the House. • The average cost of a campaign is $1 million. • Also, once you are in, it is very hard to lose an election – 90% of the incumbents – or current members – lose an election. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • What are the qualifications to become a member of the House of Representatives – could you be a member for Missouri? How about Mr. Pagel? Why or why not? • Why do politicians gerrymander districts? • How long do members of the House serve? The Senate • There are 100 total members of the Senate – 50 states X 2 per state = 100. • The Senate is viewed as more esteemed and more important than the House. • Before 1913, Senators were chosen by the state governments – since 1913 they are voted in by the citizens. The Senate • Senators are elected during the same elections as House members in November. • Each state can have only one Senate seat up for election at a time. • This means that only 1/3 of the Senate is up for election at once. The Senate • Senators serve 6-year terms and there is no limit on how many times they can be elected. • For example, Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia has served since 1958. • Notice that their terms are longer (6 to 2 years) then the House members. The Senate • The Senate was set up this way to counter the knee-jerk reactions of the House. • House members are always worried about the next election – their votes can be “moody”. • Senators have a “cushion” of 6 years and are able to look at the “bigger picture” of an issue. The Senate • Senators are more well-known than House members. • Many Presidents have been former Senators – like Obama. • The qualifications to become a Senator are also different. The Senate • Senators must be: • 30 years old. • A U.S. Citizen for at least 9-years. • Live in the state in which they serve. The Senate • Just like the House, it is very expensive to run a campaign to become a Senator – millions of dollars. • Incumbents win most elections – part of this is credited to name recognition. • Also, just like the House, an elected Senator can be rejected by 2/3 majority vote. The Senate • Senators can also be expelled by 2/3 majority vote for breaking rules. • Since 1797, 15 Senators have been expelled – 14 of these came during the Civil War from southern Senators. • In 1995, Bob Packwood, Republican from Oregon resigned because he would have been expelled. • • YOUR TURN TO WRITE • How are the qualifications for a Senator different from a House of Representatives member? • How much of the Senate is up for election at one time? • Why do you think Senators are considered more prestigious then House members? Members of Congress • Who are the members of Congress – where do they come from, and what are they like? • The average members is male, white and in his 50s. • Of the 535 members, 95 are women, 42 African-American, 25 Spanish, 7 Asian. Members of Congress • 1/3 of the House members are lawyers, ½ of the Senate members are lawyers. • Almost all 535 members have advanced degrees – meaning higher then a bachelors. • Several members are millionaires, and 1/3 of Senators were once House members. Members of Congress • In other words, the Legislative Branch (Congress) is not an accurate cross section of the American population. • Instead they represent the upper-middle class population. • Some people feel this makes Congress “out of touch” with “normal” Americans. Members of Congress • Senators and House members both receive $174,000 salary per year. • However, there are also other fringe benefits they receive as well. • They receive breaks on taxes because they are forced to own two homes. Members of Congress • They also receive travel allowances – or money to travel with. • Congressional members also receive full medical benefits for themselves and their families at reduced prices. • When they retire, they also receive a pension – or yearly income until they die. Members of Congress • Other benefits include “operating costs” to hire workers to run their offices. • They receive a franking privilege – allowed to use the postal service free of charge. • They also receive free parking on Capitol Hill and free airport parking. Members of Congress • But, all of these benefits come with a heavy burden on representing thousands of people. • Members are required to use their votes to make decisions for our country. • In this role, members choose their vote in a variety of ways. Members of Congress • Some members choose to vote as delegates – based on what they believe their people want. • Some members choose to vote as trustees – or base their decisions on their own morals and values. • Some members choose their vote as partisans – or base their choice on what the rest of their party does. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • Why do some Americans feel Congressional members are “out of touch” with “normal” Americans? • List and explain at least three benefits that Congressional members receive. • What is the best role for a Congressional member – delegate, trustee, or partisan? Congressional Powers • Review – Congress has three kinds of power: Expressed, implied and inherent. • Expressed power is written word for word in Constitution. • Implied power is hinted at from expressed powers. Congressional Powers • Inherent power is power our country has because it is a sovereign nation. • There are 27 expressed powers given to Congress in the Constitution. • Congress has the power to regulate – or control – Commerce in America. Congressional Powers • Commerce is defined as the buying and selling of goods or services. • Congress also has the expressed power to tax in order to charge money on people or property to raise money. • Taxes are also used to protect American industry, and our health. Congressional Powers • Our government usually spends more money then it takes in which leads to defecit spending. • Because of this, Congress also has expressed power to borrow money. • Borrowing money leads to an increased national debt. Congressional Powers • Congress has the expressed power to print money and control currency. • Congress also is given the expressed power to regulate bankruptcy for businesses or individuals. • Congress is given expressed power to declare war on other foreign powers. Congressional Powers • Congress has the power to regulate copyrights – which gives a person protection over their creative work. • Congress has the power of eminent domain – to take private property for public use. • Congress can impeach the President of the United States. Congressional Powers • The House impeaches – which means to bring charges against the President. • The House only needs a majority vote to impeach – and then it goes to the Senate for trial. • To convict the President and “kick him out” – the Senate needs a 2/3 vote. Congressional Powers • No President has ever been convicted – but Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached. • Richard Nixon may have been convicted, but resigned before impeachment vote took place. • The Senate also has power to ratify treaties, and approve President appointments. Congressional Powers • However, just because a power is not expressed in the Constitution, does not mean that Congress cannot obtain it. • Remember the Elastic Clause – which is in the Constitution and gives Congress the power to expand their powers to fit any situation. • The Elastic Clause is the basis for implied powers. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • How can you tell if a Congressional power is expressed? • What happens after the President is impeached by the House of Representatives? • What clause in the Constitution sets the basis for implied Congressional powers? How A Bill Becomes Law - House • To become a law, a proposed bill usually starts in the House of Representatives. • A bill can be introduced in a variety of ways – citizens demands, President recommendation, Congressional idea. • Each proposed bill is turned into the clerk and given a title and a number. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • For example, “H.R. 3,410: A bill to provide…” • After it is given a number and a title, the bill is entered into the House Journal and the Congressional Record. • The Speaker of the House reads the bill and refers it to the correct standing committee. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • Every member in Congress serves in a committee – a small group that is responsible for certain functions of our country. • The standing committee’s chairman – or leader – refers the bill to a subcommittee. • That subcommittee researches the bill to determine its worth. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • After the subcommittee is done researching the bill they turn in their information to the standing committee. • The chairman then reports the bill back to the House in one of 5 ways. • 1. Reports the bill favorably – meaning he recommends it. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • 2. Does not report the bill – called pigeonholing – most bills die this way. • 3. Report the bill in an amended form – just changing parts of it. • 4. Report the bill unfavorably – recommends it not be approved. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • 5. Reports a committee bill – a completely new version of the bill. • After the bill is reported the House Rules Committee schedules time for debate on the floor. • Bill is read aloud for the entire House and each section can be debated. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • Each member is given 5 minutes to debate parts of the bill – and changes are voted on. • After the bill receives floor time it is engrossed – or printed up one final time and read aloud again. • The bill is then voted on for the final time – if 2/3 vote for it then it is approved. How A Bill Becomes Law - House • An approved bill is signed by the Speaker of the House and it is hand carried to the Senate side of the Capitol Building and placed on the President of the Senate’s desk. • Remember – once a bill passes in the House it still must receive 2/3 approval in the Senate. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • Explain how important standing committees are to the law making process in our government. • What happens to most bills that our proposed in the House of Representatives? Use the correct term. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • All approved bills from the House of Representatives must also be approved in the Senate. • The rules for debating a bill in the Senate are much different than the House. • Remember the Senate is considered more prestigious then the House. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • Senators are allowed to debate a bill on the floor for as long as they want. • There are very few rules regulating Senator debate methods. • For instance, Senators have used filibusters in the past – tactic to talk a bill to death. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • In 1935 Huey Long, Democrat from Louisiana talked for 15 hours to stall from being approved. • There is no regulation on what you talk about in the Senate either. • Long read the Washington D.C. phone book and his favorite recipes. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • Strom Thurmond, Republican from South Carolina talked for 24 hours trying to block a Civil Rights law. • Filibusters go on today – but usually they are team efforts. • There are some rules to help prevent filibusters. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • Senators must stand the whole time they are speaking – no sitting, no leaning. • Also the Cloture Rule – if 60 Senators vote “yes” to it a Senator can only have 30 hours to speak. • The Senate must approve the identical version of the bill that the House apporved. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • If the Senate wants changes made the bill must be referred to a conference committee. • Conference committee is made up of House and Senate members and their job is to create a compromised version of the bill. • The compromised version must be passed by both House and Senate. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • If a bill survives and is approved by 2/3 House and Senate then it is sent to President for signature. • President can do four things with the bill. • 1. Signs it – bill officially becomes a law. How A Bill Becomes Law - Senate • 2. Vetoes the bill – rejects it and Congress can override with 2/3 vote in House and Senate. • 3. Not sign it – after 10 days the bill becomes a law. • 4. Pocket Veto – not sign it, and if Congress adjourns before 10 days is up then the bill dies. YOUR TURN TO WRITE • What is the purpose of a conference committee? • What is the purpose of a filibuster? • What are the four actions the President can take with an approved bill from Congress?
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