Congress
House & Senate: Differences in
Representation
• Bicameral System: Two Chambers
– Each state has two senators
– Representation in the House determined by state
population
– Predicated on different models of representation
• Senate: states, with long terms
• House: districts, with short terms
House & Senate: Differences in
Representation
• Senate: 100 Senators
– Originally selected by state legislatures
– Six year terms
• House of Representatives: 435 Members
– Elected by districts
– Two year terms
House & Senate: Differences in
Representation
• How representatives “represent”:
– Sociological Representation: Representative shares
characteristics, background and interests with
constituents
– Agency Representation: Representative has
incentives to act in the constituents’ interests
House & Senate: Differences in
Representation
• Sociological Representation
House & Senate: Differences in
Representation
• Representatives as Agents: Legislators learn
about the interests of constituents
• Parties almost never ask a member of
Congress to vote against constituent interests
The Electoral Connection
• Who gets elected?
– Incumbency advantage
– Districting and gerrymandering issues
The Electoral Connection
• Incumbency Advantage
– Members of Congress have an array of tools to
keep them in office
• Constituency services
• Name recognition and title
The Power of Incumbency
The Electoral Connection
• Redistricting
– The vast majority of incumbents in safe seats
come from districts where the majority of voters
are from the same party as they are
– The critical election in these districts is the primary
– Gerrymandering: Redrawing legislative district
boundary lines to provide political advantage or
disadvantage
Results of Congressional
Reapportionment
The Electoral Connection
• Direct Patronage
– Pork barrel spending
• Earmarks
– Patronage
• Some local and state elected officials have jobs to offer
to constituents
– Constituent services
– Private bills
The Electoral Connection
The Organization of Congress
• Majority party controls leadership and shapes
agenda
– Speaker of the House is the leader of majority
party
– Both parties also elect a majority leader, a minority
leader, and a whip
– Parties determine which of their members sit on
various committees
Party Leadership in the Senate
Majority Party Structure in the House of
Representatives
Majority Party Structure in the
Senate
The Organization of Congress
• Committee System
– Standing committees
– Select committees
– Joint committees
– Conference committees
The Organization of Congress
• Standing committees are permanent and are
where the majority of legislation is written
The Organization of Congress
The Organization of Congress
• Select Committees
– Formed temporarily to focus on a specific issue
• Cannot present bills to the chamber
• Bring attention to a specific subject
The Organization of Congress
• Joint Committees
– Formed from members of both Chambers
– Gather information
– Cover issues internal to Congress
The Organization of Congress
• Conference Committees
– Temporary joint committees
– For a bill to become a law, the same wording of
the bill must be passed by both chambers
– Conference committees are formed to write the
final wording when both chambers pass similar
bills that need to be reconciled
The Organization of Congress
• The number of seats the minority party has on
a committee is roughly proportionate to the
seats it has in the House, but at an
unfavorable rate.
• Seniority determines committee assignments
– Chairs can be removed by the party caucus
– Chairs are term-limited
The Organization of Congress
• Congressional Staffers
– Members of Congress need staff who are experts
in specific fields and also staff to help constituents
• Over 11,500 staff in DC and district offices
• Another 2,000 staff for committees
How a Bill Becomes a Law
How a Bill Becomes a Law
• A bill is a proposed law that has been
sponsored by a member of Congress and
submitted to the Clerk of the House or Senate
• The bill is given a number and assigned to a
committee, which typically refers it to a
subcommittee
• Bills taken seriously are given a hearing
Rules of Lawmaking Explain How
a Bill Becomes a Law
How a Bill Becomes a Law
• The House rule determines how much time is
allocated for floor debate.
• The debate time is divided equally between
those for the bill and those against the bill.
• The Senate allows for unlimited discussion,
requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster via
cloture.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
• Once a bill clears in one chamber, it is sent to
the other, where the process starts over.
• If both chambers pass the same wording, the
bill is sent to the president.
• If not, both chambers create a conference
committee.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
• The President is given ten days to veto a law.
– Vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in
each chamber.
– Pocket veto: If there are less than tens days left in
the Congressional calendar and the president
does not sign the bill into law, it dies and must
begin again from scratch in the next session.
How Congress Decides
• There are a number of influences on members
of Congress.
• Constituents
– Legislators take constituents seriously if they
believe it will affect their support at the next
election.
How Congress Decides
How Congress Decides
• Interest Groups
– Can supply legislators with information about
pending bills
– Can make donations
– Do they represent the interests of constituents?
How Congress Decides
• Party Discipline
– Congress has become bitterly partisan since the
1990s
How Congress Decides
• Party leaders have some tools at their
disposal:
– Leadership PACs
– Committee assignments
– Access to the floor
– The whip system
– Logrolling
– Presidency
Beyond Legislation
• Oversight
– Congress is expected to oversee the activities of
the Executive Branch in order to ensure funding is
spent properly and laws are enforced.
Beyond Legislation
• Advice and Consent
– Senate must confirm top-level executive
appointments, ambassadors, and federal judges
– Must also approve all treaties
Beyond Legislation
• Impeachment
– If high officials are thought to have committed
“Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and
Misdemeanors,” they can be impeached.
– The House acts as a grand jury.
– The Senate conducts the actual trial.
Public Opinion Poll
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is
handling its job?
a)
b)
c)
d)
Strongly approve
Approve
Disapprove
Strongly disapprove
Public Opinion Poll
Do you approve or disapprove of the way your member
of Congress is handling his or her job?
a)
b)
c)
d)
Strongly approve
Approve
Disapprove
Strongly disapprove
Public Opinion Poll
Do you believe we should have term limits for
Members of Congress?
a) Yes
b) No
Public Opinion Poll
Do you believe state legislatures should consider the
racial makeup of a district when redistricting?
a) Yes
b) No
Public Opinion Poll
Do you think it is important that the demographics of
Congress represent the social, racial and economic
demographics of the country?
a) Yes
b) No
Public Opinion Poll
When members of Congress cast a vote, which of the
following factors should typically most influence
their decision?
a) The interests of the country as a whole
b) The interests of their district or state
Public Opinion Poll
Which of the following do you believe should be the
most influential factor in the voting decisions of
members of congress?
a) The preferences of their constituents
b) The preferences of the President
c) The preferences of the Members’ Party
Leadership
d) The members’ own ideology
Chapter 9: Congress
• Quizzes
• Flashcards
• Outlines
• Exercises
wwnorton.com/we-the-people
Following this slide, you will find additional
images, figures, and tables from the textbook.
Differences between the House and
the Senate
The Social Composition of the U.S.
Congress
Party Discipline
Get Your Representatives in
Congress Working for You
Debate
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House & Senate: Differences in Representation