C H A P T E R 11
Functions of Congress
2. Law making
3. Consensus building
4. Overseeing the bureaucracy
5. Policy clarification
6. Confirming by a majority vote presidential
appointees (for the Senate)
7. Investigating the operation of government
Two Houses of Congress
The Constitution creates a bicameral
legislature for three reasons:
Historical: The British Parliament consisted of two
houses since the 1300s, and many colonial assemblies
were similar in form.
Practical: A bicameral legislature was necessary to
compromise the Virginia and New Jersey plans of
Theoretical: The Framers favored a bicameral
Congress in order that one house might act as a check
on the other.
Representatives of the People
Senators and representatives are elected to represent
people. As legislators, they have four voting options:
Trustees believe that Delegates see themselves
each question they face as agents of the people
must be decided on its who elected them.
Lawmakers who owe Politicos attempt to
their first allegiance to combine the basic
their political party are elements of the trustee,
partisans. delegate, and partisan
Structure of the Congress
435 in House
25 qualifying age
7 Year residency
100 in Senate
6 yr. Term
30 qualifying ages
9 year residency
The date for the start of each new term has been set by the
Twentieth Amendment (1933) as “noon of the 3rd day of
January” of every odd-numbered year.
The Constitution provides that the total number of seats in
the House and is apportioned (distributed) among the States
based on population. Each represents roughly 750,000
Sessions of Congress
A session is the regular period of time
during which Congress conducts business.
• Congress adjourns, or suspends until the next session,
each regular session as it sees fit.
• If necessary, the President has the power to prorogue, or
adjourn, a session, but only when the two houses cannot
agree on a date for adjournment.
• Only the President may call Congress into a special
session—a meeting to deal with some emergency
The House has formal organizational meetings at the
beginning of each term to determine committee
membership and standing officers.
The Senate, because it is a continuous body, has fewer
organizational issues to address at the start of each term.
When Congress is organized, the President presents a
State of the Union message to a joint session of Congress.
This message, in which the President reports on the state
of the nation as he sees it, is given annually.
Congressional elections are held on the Tuesday
following the first Monday in November of each
Off-year elections are those congressional
elections held between presidential elections.
Incumbents have a 95% chance of re-election
Presidents party usually looses seats in off- year
elections Example: 2006 Exception: 2002
Article I of the Constitution directs Congress to
reapportion—redistribute—the seats in the House
after each decennial census.
As the United States grew in population, the
number of representatives in the House also grew.
The Reapportionment Act of 1929 set the
―permanent‖ size of the House at 435 members, and
provided for ―automatic reapportionment.‖
110th U.S. Congress
The 110th United States Congress was sworn in on January 4, 2007.
It will be in session through noon, January 4, 2009.
Totals are 233 Democrats and 202 Republicans in the U.S. House of
Representatives and 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and 2
Independents in the U.S. Senate.
1 from Vermont, junior, and one is Joe Lieberman
There are currently 4 TBD seats in the House…
The most underrepresented group by far in Congress is women
• THE AVERAGE AGE IN THE 110TH CONGRESS IS 57. THE AVERAGE AGE OF
HOUSE MEMBERS IS 55.9; THE AVERAGE AGE OF SENATORS 61.7.
• THE AVERAGE AGE OF FRESHMAN MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE IS 49.3 AND THE
AVERAGE AGE OF FRESHMAN MEMBERS OF THE SENATE IS 54.2
• THERE ARE 90 WOMEN IN THE 110TH CONGRESS, 74 IN THE HOUSE,
INCLUDING THREE DELEGATES, AND 16 IN THE SENATE.
• THERE ARE 10 WOMEN IN THE FRESHMAN CLASS OF THE HOUSE AND TWO
WOMEN IN THE FRESHMAN CLASS OF THE SENATE.
• THERE ARE 42 BLACK MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE. OF THESE, THREE ARE
FRESHMEN AND TWO ARE DELEGATES. THERE IS ONE BLACK SENATOR.
• THERE ARE 27 HISPANIC MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE, INCLUDING ONE
DELEGATE. OF THESE, ONE IS A FRESHMAN. THE SENATE HAS THREE HISPANIC
• The freshman class of the House has the first Muslim and the first two Buddhists to
serve in Congress. The rest of the class comprises 45 Christians and six Jews. Of the
Christians, there are 18 Roman Catholics, 17 Protestants, six nondenominational
Christians, three Greek Orthodox Christians and one Mormon.
Districting and apportionment
The Constitution gives Congress the right to apportion
representatives and Congress has given state legislatures
control over the drawing of their respective congressional
Subject to a governors veto, state legislatures draw the
district lines for the House of Representatives
Party in control of the state legislature traditionally draws the
lines to enhance its own political fortunes, which is called
State legislatures are free to draw congressional districts as
they wish, subject to some constitutional limitations
Each district must be equal in population, or as equal as
possible (Westbury v. Sanders decision -1964) redistricting
occurs once a decade, after each national census
One man, one vote
Cannot be done along racial lines
Districts and Gerrymandering
Under the single- Districts that have unusual
member district shapes or even defy
arrangement, the voter’s description have sometimes
in each district elect one been gerrymandered.
of the State’s Gerrymandering refers to the
representatives. act of drawing congressional
The general-ticket districts to the advantage of
the political party that controls
system, no longer in use, the State legislature.
provided that all of a
State’s seats were filled
Size, Election, and Terms
The Constitution says that the Senate ―shall be composed of two
Senators from each State.‖ Today’s Senate consists of 100 Senators.
Originally, the Constitution provided that senators were chosen by the
In 1912 the Seventeenth Amendment was passed and called for the
popular election of senators.
Senators serve for six-year terms.
The Senate is a continuous body, meaning that all of its seats are
never up for election at the same time.
ONLY 1/3 of the Senate is up for re-election every 2 years
Senators have more diverse policy interests than do members of the
Serve on more committees,
Are more likely to wield power in their state parties
The Senate is a more open, fluid, and decentralized body now than it
used to be. More clout
Filibustering is only allowed in the Senate.
Senate = direct influence of the President
Today, senators and representatives are paid a salary of $165,200 a year.
The franking privilege allows members of Congress to mail letters and other materials
postage-free by substituting their facsimile signature (frank) for the postage.
The Constitution says that Congress fixes its own ―compensation.‖ Therefore, the only
real limits to congressional pay are the President’s veto and fear of voter backlash
against a pay increase. (27TH AMENDMENT = takes affect next term)
Limited by veto and voters
FRINGE BENEFITS =
1. Tax deduction for two residencies
2. Travel allowance
3. Free and best heath care
4. Amazing pension plan
5. Offices and office staff
6. Gym, pool, cars, etc.
Members of More importantly, the
Speech and Debate
Congress are Clause (Article I,
immune from arrest Section 6, Clause 1)
for non-criminal protects
offenses while representatives and
senators from suits for
engaged in libel or slander arising
congressional from their official
Powers of Congress – Chapter 11
The most powerful branch?
Three types of Power: expressed, implied, inherent
Expressed Powers: Article 1 section 8 lists 27!!!
Congress controls the $$$$$$ of government
Congress is the part of government that taxes the people (16th Amendment)
The govt. collected over 3.5 trillion in taxes in ’06 = $3,500,000,000,000 +
May not tax exports but imports are ok
Deficit financing – govt. spends more than it takes in in a given year
and therefore borrows to make it up
Govt borrows from countries, and selling of bonds
Debt = over 10 trillion and about 90% is owed to Americans
Congress has power to regulate foreign and interstate business
Gibbons v. Ogden = broad definition of ―commerce‖
Provides us with a uniform currency, works with Federal Reserve
Bankruptcy Power – new laws
This is a concurrent power but most cases heard in federal courts
Foreign Relations Powers
Shares these with the president
8 of expressed powers deal with war and national defense
Congress ONLY has power to declare war
Congress advocates all $ for foreign policy
War Powers Resolution – 1973
On the heels of the Vietnam War – technically not a war
This gives Congress the power to restrict the use of American forces
in combat areas where war does NOT exist
It has rendered totally ineffective
President must report deployment within 48 hours
60 day deployment limit before approval from Congress
Congress has a tough job here: want to look patriotic
Other Expressed Powers
Control rules and regulations of naturalization – give to states
Establish post offices, routes, crimes
Weights and measures – approved metric system in 1866
Copyrights and Patents
Power to acquire and dispose of territories: eminent domain
Creates lower courts, approves judges
Defines federal crimes and sets punishments
Implied Powers = Necessary and Proper Clause
Also called the Elastic clause or the convenient and useful clause
McCulloch v. Maryland: 1819 Chief Justice John Marshall
Gave broad definition to necessary and proper
Gave federal govt. more powers using the supremacy clause
Congress must justify anything it does but with the vague terminology of
the Constitution and since they define justification it allows them to do
Nonlegislative Powers – Inherent
Constitutional Amendments – proposal by 2/3
House chooses if tie in electoral college(twice)
Impeachment = bring charges against
House does it, Senate tries cases then decides on removal, C.J. presides
Appointments – all major pres. Ones by ½ vote exception: staff
Treaties – Senate must ratify by 2/3 vote
Investigatory Power = used to gather information for legislation, expose
questionable activities, or oversee executive agencies. Done frequently
in the form of a hearing. Can be govt. or other persons
Office of Independent Counsel was created to investigate president only
Minority Leader: John Boehner (Oh)
Minority Whip: Roy Blunt (Mo)
Speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi (Ca) 1st woman
Majority Leader: Steny Hoyer (Md)
Majority Whip: James Clyburn (SC)
President of the Senate = Vice President Cheney ONLY tie-breaking vote
Minority Leader: Mitch McConnell (Ky)
Minority Whip: Trent Lott (Miss)
President Pro Tempore: Robert Byrd (WV)
Majority Leader: Harry Reid (Nev)
Majority Whip: Dick Durbin (Ill)
The House of Representatives
The Speaker and other leaders
The Speaker is formally elected by the House yet is actually
selected by the majority party; the Speaker directs business on
the floor of the House, and is very influential
The Speaker names the members of all select and conference committees,
and signs all bills and resolutions passed by the House. Also assigns
bills to committees
The majority leader assists the Speaker by helping plan party strategy,
conferring with other party leaders, and trying to keep members of the
party in line
The minority leader does the same for the other party
Whips assist each floor leader, serving as liaisons between the house
leadership of each party and the rank-and-file
The House Rules Committee
Helps regulate the time of floor debate for each bill as
well as limitations on floor amendments
Closed rule versus open rule
They are the traffic coppos of Congress
Permanent Committees of Congress
Ways and Means Committee
The House Committee on Ways and Means is the
oldest standing committee in Congress. It was
created in 1789 and has jurisdiction over
legislation, methods, and means of raising revenue
for the use of the government. In addition to
legislating, the Committee exercises broad
oversight authority over economic policy,
international trade, welfare, Social Security,
Medicare and health care policy.
Staffers draft bills, conduct research, and do much of
the legislative negotiating and coalition building, often
influencing legislative decisions.
• Partisan voting has increased; party differences are stronger
over domestic, regulatory, and welfare reform measures than
over foreign policy or civil liberty issues.
• Very strong partisan differences in Clinton’s impeachment
(98% each way).
Interest groups – Lobbyists work for them
• In addition to their roles as financiers of elections, they
• They can mobilize grassroots activists to lobby Congress.
The First Steps
A bill is a proposed law presented to the House or Senate for
The clerk of the House numbers each bill, gives it a short title,
and enters it into the House Journal and the Congressional
Record for the day. With these actions the bill has received its
The bill is sent to the appropriate committee to be discussed,
debated and defended or opposed.
Hearings, riders and changes
Often sent to a subcommittee
90% of all bills never make it out of committee
When a subcommittee has completed its work on a bill, it
returns to the full committee. The full committee may do
one of several things:
1. Report the bill favorably, with a ―do pass‖ recommendation.
2. Refuse to report the bill. 3. Report the bill in amended
Pigeonhole -> discharge petition form. RIDERS
must occur within 30 days
4. Report the bill with 5. Report a committee bill.
unfavorable recommendation. Start all over again
Changing a Bill
Additions that are unrelated to the original bill
New bridge for Madison County on Iraq military spending bill
These riders are often referred to as pork barrelling or just pork
Bringing home the bacon to make your constituents gleeful
Convincing compadres to vote with you on your pet bill and promise to
return the favor: quid pro quo
MONEY bills must originate in the HOUSE
Filibuster and Cloture
Filibuster The Cloture Rule
A filibuster is an attempt to Rule XXII in the Standing
―talk a bill to death.‖ Rules of the Senate deals
A senator may exercise his with cloture, or limiting
or her right of holding the
floor as long as necessary, Cloture votes may end the
and in essence talk until a filibuster (16 signatures,
measure is dropped. three-fifths vote, 1 hour per
Used to delay Senate senator), 60 senators vote
for cloture, no more than
proceedings in order to
another 30 hours may be
delay or prevent a vote
spent on debate, forcing a
Two-speech rule per day vote on a bill.
Any measure enacted by Congress must have been
passed by both houses in identical form.
If one of the houses will not accept the other’s version
of a bill, a conference committee is formed to iron out
Once a conference committee completes work on a
bill, it is returned to both houses for final approval. It
must be accepted or rejected without amendment.
Nothing new but changes are okay…
The President Acts
The Constitution provides four options for the
President when he receives a bill:
1. The President may sign the 2. The President may veto the
bill, and it then becomes law. bill, or refuse to sign it. The
President’s veto can be
overridden by a two-thirds vote
of the members present in
3. If the President does not act 4. A pocket veto occurs if
upon a bill within 10 days of Congress adjourns within 10
receiving it, it becomes law. days of submitting a bill and
the President does not sign it.
The bill then dies.
The Party Caucus
The party caucus is a closed meeting of the members of each party in
each house which deals with matters of party organization.
The Floor Leaders
The floor leaders are party officers picked for their posts by their party
The party whips assist the floor leaders and serve as a liaison between
the party’s leadership and its rank-and-file members.