C H A P T E R 12 Congress in Action C H A P T E R 12 The Federal Court System SECTION 1 Congress Organizes SECTION 2 Committees in Congress SECTION 3 How a Bill Becomes a Law: The House SECTION 4 The Bill in the Senate Chapter 12 SECTION 1 Congress Organizes •What are the roles of the presiding officers in the Senate and the House? •What are the duties of party officers in Congress? •How are committee chairmen chosen, and what is their role in the legislative process? Congress Convenes • New terms begin every two years on Jan. 3rd of odd numbered years. Each new term follows the general election in November. Next is January 2015. • 30,000 men and women work for the legislative branch and it costs $4 billion per year to finance its operations • On opening day, rules are adopted and roles are set. In the House, the Speaker of the House is chosen by the majority party. • Beginning new terms in the House is more complicated than in Senate because all of the 435 members are elected every two years whereas the Senate is 1/3 of its 100. The Speaker of the House •The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives and the acknowledged leader of the majority party. •The Speaker names the members of all select and conference committees, and signs all bills and resolutions passed by the House. “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers…” Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 No member may speak until he is recognized by the Speaker. He interprets and applies rules, refers bills to committee, puts motions to a vote. John Boehner (R) The Presiding Officers The President of the Senate •Article I of the Constitution makes the Vice President the President of the Senate. Today, the VP spends most in executive branch assisting Prez. •The President of the Senate cannot cast votes on legislation. He's not a member of the Senate and can only vote to break a tie. VP: Joe Biden “The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President…” Article I, Section 3 •The president pro tempore, the leader of the majority party, is elected from the Senate. He follows the Speaker of House in presidential succession. Usually senior member of majority party. Patrick Leahy (D) Floor Leaders and Whips • The Party Caucus “party conference” is a closed meeting of the members of each party in each house. • The caucus picks floor leaders and committee members • Next to the Speaker of the House, the floor leaders are the most important officers in Congress. • Floor leaders are legislative strategists. They try to carry out the decisions of their parties’ caucuses and steer floor action to their parties’ benefit. Each is also the party spokesman. • Each chamber has a majority floor leader (more powerful) and a minority floor leader. • Each floor leader in both chambers is assisted by party whips. Majority whips and minority whips are assistant floor leaders. • Whips serve as a liaison – a two way link between the party’s leadership and its rank and file members and help arrange and track voting and member attendance. They are the second-ranking members of the party leadership. Majority and Minority Leaders Senate House of Representatives Whip = Whip = Richard Durbin (D) Harry Reid (D) Kevin McCarthy (R) Eric Cantor (R) Whip = Whip = Mitch McConnell (R) John Cornyn (R) Nancy Pelosi (D) Steny Hoyer (D) Committee Chairmen and Seniority Rule Committee Chairmen Seniority Rule •The committee chairmen •The seniority rule, an are the members who head the standing committees in each chamber of Congress. unwritten custom, holds that the most important posts will be held by those party members with the longest records of service in Congress. •The chairman of each of these permanent committees is chosen from the majority party by the majority party caucus and make all important decisions about the committees work. •The head of each committee is often the longest-serving member of the committee from the majority party (controversial). Composition of 113th Congress Section 1 Review 1. The presiding officer of the House of Representatives is (a) the President. (b) the Speaker of the House. (c) the majority whip. (d) the president pro tempore. 2. What is the main duty of party whips? A. whip the floor leaders into shape B. provide committees with important information C. assist the floor leaders and serve as liaisons between members and its leadership D. Give floor leaders important information from the Vice President SECTION 2 Committees in Congress •How do the standing committees function? •What are the duties and responsibilities of the House Rules Committee? •What are the functions of joint and conference committees? “Congress is a collection of committees that comes together periodically to approve one another’s actions.” - Representative Clem Miller (D., Calif.) “Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.” - President Woodrow Wilson • The House and the Senate are both so large and the business they must complete is so vast that most of the work in Congress is done in Committee. Standing Committees •Standing committees are permanent panels in Congress to which bills of similar nature could be sent (ex: Education, Budget, Armed Services). •Most of the standing committees handle bills dealing with particular policy matters, such as veterans’ affairs or foreign relations. • The fate of most bills is decided in committee rather than the floor of either house (too many to bring all bills to floor). Chapter 12, Section 2 Permanent Committees of Congress 1 3 4 Chapter 12, Section 2 The House Rules Committee and Select Committees •The House Rules Committee •The Rules Committee decides whether and under what conditions the full House will consider a measure. Lots of competition to get on this committee. •This places great power in the Rules Committee, as it can speed, delay, or even prevent House action on a measure. The Select Committees •Select committees are panels established to handle a specific matter and usually exist for a limited time. •Most select committees are formed to investigate a current matter – Senate Watergate Committee, bug infestation in Pacific Northwest, etc. Joint and Conference Committees •A joint committee is one composed of members of both houses. •Examples of joint committees include the Joint Economic Committee, the Joint Committee on Printing, and the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress – used to make it easier since they pass the same bills so often. •A conference committee—a temporary, type of joint body— is created to iron out differences between bills passed by the House and Senate before they are sent to the President. A bill MUST be passed in identical form in both houses before it is sent off to the President. Section 2 Review 1. The House Rules Committee (a) establishes codes of conduct. (b) determines when and under what conditions the full House will consider a measure. (c) oversees the execution of bills once they are passed into law. (d) determines which members of the Senate may vote on a measure. 2. A conference committee is formed to (a) iron out differences in bills passed by the House and Senate before they are sent to the President. (b) hold press conferences. (c) appoint Supreme Court justices. (d) determine rules for debate. SECTION 3 How a Bill Becomes a Law: The House •What are the first steps in introducing a new bill to the House? •What happens to a bill once it enters a committee? •How do House leaders schedule debate on a bill? •What happens to a bill on the House floor? •What is the final step in passing a bill in the House? The First Steps •10,000 measures are introduced in the House and Senate during each term. Fewer than 10% become law. •A bill is a proposed law presented to the House or Senate for consideration. •Most bills do not originate in Example bill – assigned a number and sent off to committee Congress, but rather in the Executive Branch, from interest groups, or private citizens. Congress introduces the bills. Chapter 12, Section 3 Only the House Can Introduce Revenue Bills • According to the Constitution: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.” – Article I, Section 7, Clause 1 • If revenue bills originated in the Senate, it could have been considered “taxation without representation.” Why? • ALL other bills, dealing with any other topic, can be introduced by either house of Congress. Hint: How were Senators originally elected? The Bill in Committee Discharge Petitions Gathering Information •Most bills die in committee, •Most committees do their •If a committee pigeonholes work through several subcommittees— divisions of existing committees formed to address specific issues. “pigeonholed,” or put away, never to be acted upon. a bill that a majority of the House wishes to consider, it can be brought out of committee via a discharge petition. •Committees and subcommittees often hold public hearings or make a junket (trip) to gather information relating to a measure (ex: subcommittee on Crime might visit federal prisons, Forest Subcommittee might go to Northern CA to study refuge Example of Committee and Subcommittee For Instance, a Senator may belong to the: Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the following subcommittees: • Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit • Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support • Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms Committee Actions The Bill on the Floor Committee of the Whole – Expedited Process •The Committee of the Whole includes all members of the House, however, they sit as one large committee and not as the House itself. Most measures are done in this committee. Only 100 members needed as opposed to 218 in full House. Allows bills to be considered faster, and without all of the rules of the full House. Debate •Severe limits are placed on floor debate due to the House’s large size. •Majority and minority floor leaders generally decide in advance how they will split the time to be spent on a bill. •Rules prohibit a member from holding the floor for more than 1 hour. Voting on a Bill There are several ways of taking votes. The most common is “yes” or “no.” The Speaker of the House will take yes or no votes on a proposed bill. Once a bill has been approved at second reading, it is engrossed, or printed in its final form. It is then read for a third time and a final vote is taken. ***At this point, it can be sent to the President if passed in identical form in the other house of Congress. If not, it must go through the whole process again. SECTION 4 The Bill in the Senate •How is a bill introduced in the Senate? •How do the Senate’s rules for debate differ from those in the House? •What is the role of conference committees in the legislative process? •What actions can the President take after both houses have passed a bill? Introducing a Bill and Rules for Debate Introducing a Bill •Bills are introduced by senators, who are formally recognized for that purpose. •Proceedings are much less formal in the Senate compared to the House. Rules for Debate •Unlike the House of Reps, Senators may speak on the floor for as long as they wish. •This freedom of debate allows for the fullest possible discussion of matters on the floor. Strom Thurmond – 24 hour filibuster because he was against the Civil Rights Act. Filibuster and Cloture Filibuster •A filibuster is an attempt to “talk a bill to death.” •A senator may exercise his or her right of holding the floor as long as necessary, and in essence talk until a measure is dropped (Can’t vote if still debating and could vote against if they bore enough people into leaving). Cloture: limiting debate in the Senate. 60 member vote required. Put in place to kill filibuster. Seldom used, but there in case. Limits debate to 30 hours max. Then must be brought to final vote. Conference Committees •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, a temporary joint committee of both houses is formed to iron out the differences. •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 in the exact same form. The President Acts The President can either veto or approve a bill. If he approves, it becomes a law. If he vetoes the bill, it goes back to Congress. If Congress passes the vetoed bill by 2/3 vote in both houses, it becomes a law. 1 2 3 Chapter 12, Section 4 Section 4 Review 1. A filibuster is (a) a tool used by senators to speed up the process of passing legislation. (b) the name for a bill once it is signed into law. (c) a delay tactic in which a bill is talked to death. (d) an executive privilege that allows for the amending of passed bills.