Inta 1200

Topics: United States Congress, Legislatures, Elections Pages: 8 (978 words) Published: October 20, 2013


Roles of Congress


As Delegate: represent State, district

As Trustee: votes his conscience

Helps make the nations laws

As Member of Political Party

Role will depend on
Philosophical/ideological orientation
Influence of voters
Amount of Presidential and/or party pressure
Influence of colleagues
Influence of expert opinion

Local good different from national good, and members generally favor representing their local constituencies

Thus it is difficult for members to fulfill their collective responsibility of national lawmaking

This may explain why Americans hate Congress as a whole but love their own senators and representatives

Functions of Congress




Checks and Balances
Congress and Executive
President’s formulates policy (But can not introduce bills) Congress introduces & passes bills; president signs or vetoes President appoints cabinet, ambassadors, judges to federal courts Senate has “advise and consent” role

President represents national constituency
Congress represents district or state constituencies
Congress and the Judiciary
Congress sets up lower federal courts, determines salaries for judges, but once established, they can’t be cut Congress decides jurisdiction for courts to hear cases
Congress passes legislation that limits courts’ discretion to rule or impose sentences Congress makes the laws , the courts interpret them

Congressional elections

Politics of defining congressional districts

Reapportionment: a reallocation of congressional seats among the states every ten years, following the census

Redistricting: process of redrawing of district lines in states with more than one representative (carried out by state legislators or commission)

Gerrymandering: redistricting to benefit a particular group

Types of gerrymandering
Pro-incumbent gerrymandering

Racial gerrymandering: redistricting to enhance or reduce the chances that a racial or ethnic group will elect members to the legislature

Majority-minority districts after Voting Rights Act (1982)
Often deemed unconstitutional by Supreme Court

Partisan gerrymandering
Texas redistricting

Running for Congress

Who can run?
Age, citizenship, and residency qualifications

Why would anyone want this job?
Sense of duty, policy, ideology
Pay, perks, power
Down side: hard work, low job security, expensive

How Congress works: Role of Political Party

Political party usually plays a central role

Parties frequently vote in unison in Congress

Majority party controls leadership structure

How Congress works: Organization

House of Representatives

Speaker of the House: majority party leader, serves as the presiding officer of the House House Majority Leader
House Minority Leader
House whips


V.Pres or Pres Pro tempore presides in Senate

Majority and Minority leaders

Majority & Minority Whips similar to House

Leadership power depends on person and amount of power given by party members

Congressional Committees


Real work done here
Typically 2 dozen committees > 100 sub-committees
Most power in Congress – Chairman of Cmte/Sub-Cmte


more or less permanent
usually most important
each has several sub-committees
20 in House, 16 in Senate

Special or Select
appointed to explore subjects of extraordinary interest
e.g. intelligence, homeland security, hunger, ethics, aging

Members from both houses
e.g. Taxation, economic


Seats on Committees

As many as 50 could be on a committee
Apportioned according to ratio of party strength in each house Majority party gets chair

Who selects the Chair?

In early days of Republic: Chair picked on basis of loyalty

As party control weakened, seniority became the rule

Since 1971 seniority system under attack
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