Bolanos – Political Behavior
CHAPTER 6 – CONGRESS AT WORK
QUICK RECAP – WHO AM I?
Joe Biden – Vice President and President of the Senate
JOHN BOEHNER – SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
ERIC CANTOR – MAJORITY LEADER
DICK DURBIN – SENATE MAJORITY WHIP
HARRY REID – SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
MITCH MCCONNELL – SENATE MINORITY LEADER
STENY HOYER – HOUSE MINORITY WHIP
JOHN CORNYN – SENATE MINORITY WHIP
NANCY PELOSI – HOUSE MINORITY LEADER
KEVIN MCCARTHY – HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP
COMMITTEE SYSTEM

Legislative Committees – most important
organizational feature of Congress
 Consider
bills or legislative proposals
 Maintain oversight of executive agencies
 Conduct investigations
TYPES

Types of Committees
 Standing
committees: permanent bodies with
specified legislative responsibilities
 Select committees: groups appointed for a
limited purpose and limited duration
 Joint committees: those on which both
representatives and senators serve
 Conference committee: a joint committee
appointed to resolve differences in Senate and
House versions of the same piece of legislation
before final passage

Public Policy Areas for Committees
 Authorization
Committees – policy creation
 Appropriation Committees – spending
 Revenue Committees – taxing
 Housekeeping Committees – self-governing
tasks

Committee practices
Number of committees has varied; significant cuts
in number of House committees in 19995, and in
the number of House and Senate subcommittees
 Majority party has majority of seats on the
committees and names the chair
 Assignments

 House
members usually serve on two standing
committees or one exclusive committee
 Senators serve on two “major” committees and one
“minor”committee
Chairs are elected
Usually the most senior member of the committee is
elected by the majority party
 Seniority has been under attack in recent decades,
in both parties

SUBCOMMITTEE BILL OF RIGHTS OF 1970’S
CHANGED SEVERAL TRADITIONS:





A. House committee chairs are elected by secret
ballot in party caucus
B. No House member or Senator may chair more than
one committee
C. All House committees with more than twenty
members are to have at least four subcommittees
D. House and Senate committees gained larger staffs,
also House members
E.
House and Senate committee meetings were to be
open to the public, unless members voted to close them
Certain committees tend to attract particular
types of legislators
 a. Policy-oriented members are attracted to
finance or foreign policy committees
 b. Constituency-oriented members are
attracted to small business or veterans’
affairs committees
ADVANTAGES OF THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM
1. Policy specialization and content expertise of
representatives
2. Increased independence from lobbyists
3. Increased quality of oversight for
programs/agencies
4. Increased quantity of representatives involved on
an issue increases policy innovation
5. Increased opportunities for power positions,
increases motivation of members
DISADVANTAGES OF THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM
1. Weak leadership decreases decision making
2. Decreased external authority of institution because of
multiple committee jurisdictions, no clear voice on issue
3. Broad policy questions suffer because committees and
sub-committees differ in political orientation
4. Major policy initiatives are incremental, immobilized and
incoherent as a norm (healthcare)
5. Poor oversight of programs because representatives
get “captured” by special interests
NOW YOU DO SOME WORK!!!!

You will investigate one of the standing
committees of Congress.
 Mr.
Bolanos will assign you a committee to do
research on with a partner
 Go to Mr. B’s website and download the partner
project doc that is loaded on today’s date.
 Project is due Friday morning before class. You will
be presenting in class.
 You
will have today, tomorrow and Thursday night to
complete. Don’t whine, just work!
HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW: 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?

6 STEPS OF A BILL

Referral to committee


Hearings


Rules differ for House and Senate
Conference committee


Bulk of work done here
Floor considerations


Power to the chair
Markup


Committee makes a difference
Two houses work together
Presidential action
FIRST STEPS
A bill is a proposed law presented to the House or
Senate for consideration.
 A bill or resolution usually deals with a single
matter, but sometimes a rider dealing with an
unrelated matter is included.
 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 first reading.

TYPES OF BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
THE BILL IN COMMITTEE


Discharge Petitions
Most bills die in
committee, pigeonholed,
or put away, never to be
acted upon.
If a committee
pigeonholes a bill that a
majority of the House
wishes to consider, it can
be brought out of
committee via a discharge
petition.


Gathering Information
Most committees do their
work through several
subcommittees— divisions
of existing committees
formed to address specific
issues.
Committees and
subcommittees often hold
public hearings or make a
junket (trip) to gather
information relating to a
measure.
COMMITTEE ACTIONS
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
form.
4. Report the bill with
5. Report a committee bill.
unfavorable recommendation.
SCHEDULING FLOOR DEBATE

A bill is placed into one of five calendars before going
to the floor for consideration:
1.
The Calendar of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of
the Union
2. The House Calendar
3. The Calendar of the Committee of the Whole House
4. The Consent Calendar
5. The Discharge Calendar

Before most measures can be taken from a
calendar, the Rules Committee must approve that
step and set a time for its appearance on the floor.
THE BILL ON THE FLOOR
Committee of the Whole


The Committee of the Whole includes all members of the
House, however, they sit as one large committee and not as
the House itself.
When the Committee of the Whole resolves itself, the Speaker
steps down and another member presides. General debate
follows.
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.
VOTING ON A BILL
T h e re a re fo u r m e th o d s o f ta k in g a flo o r
v o te in th e H o u s e :
1 . D u rin g v o ic e v o te s th e S p e a k e r
c a lls fo r th e “a y e s ” a n d th e n th e
“n o e s .”
2 . In a s ta n d in g v o te , m e m b e rs in
fa v o r o f fo r a n d th e n th o s e o p p o s e d
to th e b ill ris e a n d th e n a re c o u n te d
b y th e c le rk .
3 . O n e fifth o f a q u o ru m ca n d e m a n d 4 . A ro ll-c a ll v o te m a y b e d e m a n d e d
a te lle r v o te , in w h ich th e S p e a k e r
b y o n e fifth o f th e m e m b e rs p re s e n t.
n a m e s tw o te lle rs , fo r a n d a g a in s t,
a n d m e m b e rs p a ss b y e a c h o n e to
b e c o u n te d .
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.
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
The major differences between House and Senate rules
regard debate over measures.
As a general matter, 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.
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.


The Cloture Rule
Rule XXII in the Standing
Rules of the Senate deals
with cloture, or limiting
debate
If at least 60 senators
vote for cloture, no more
than another 30 hours
may be spent on debate,
forcing a vote on a bill.
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 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.

THE PRESIDENT ACTS
T h e C o n s titu tio n p ro v id e s fo u r o p tio n s fo r th e
P re s id e n t w h e n h e re c e iv e s a b ill:
1 . T h e P re sid e n t m a y sig n th e
b ill, a n d it th e n b e co m e s la w .
2 . T h e P re sid e n t m a y v e to th e
b ill, o r re fu se to sig n it. T h e
P re sid e n t’s ve to ca n b e
o ve rrid d e n b y a tw o -th ird s vo te
o f th e m e m b e rs p re se n t in
e a ch h o u se .
3 . If th e P re sid e n t d o e s n o t a ct 4 . A p o c k e t v e to o ccu rs if
u p o n a b ill w ith in 1 0 d a ys o f
C o n g re ss a d jo u rn s w ith in 1 0
re ce ivin g it, it b e co m e s la w .
d a ys o f su b m ittin g a b ill a n d
th e P re sid e n t d o e s n o t sig n it.
T h e b ill th e n d ie s.
Line Item Veto – What is it, has it been used by a president, and
is it constitutional? – that is your homework
6.3 – ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
How are bill assigned to a committee? How can
referring a bill to a particular committee instead of
another affect its fate?
What happens during committee hearings? Why do
committees need markup sessions, and what occurs
during them?
How are floor debate rules established in the House
and in the Senate?
What can the president do with a bill after receiving it?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having
committee hearings open to the public?
6.3 ANSWERS
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
By the speaker of the house and the senate president
officer; Bills can be assigned to committees that are more
or less likely to approve them.
Members hear testimony and debate the features of a bill;
markup decides the exact wording of a bill and its specific
features.
By the house rule committee and a set of general rules in
the senate.
Sign the bill, veto it, not sign it while Congress is in session,
in which case the bill becomes law; pocket veto it; line-item
veto sections of the bill
Should have the need for an informed public and the
dangers of giving away classified information.
37
6.4: Congress and the Public Good
IDENTIFY / DEFINE:
Pork barrel spending – unnecessary
funds acquired for awarding projects
and grants from the government to a
member’s home district.
 Home district – state or district in
which a senator or house member lives.

38
39
40
CONGRESS AND THE PUBLIC GOOD
 Objectives:
 Do
special interests obstruct Congress in
promoting the public good?
 What is the main criticism of the committee
system, and how does it affect the public
good?
 What role does Congress play in promoting
the public good?
41
INFLUENCE OF SPECIAL INTEREST

Influence of special interests on Congress and
the public good:
Interest groups – critics say that interest
groups use campaign donations and
other tactics to control members of
Congress.
 Although congress members usually
share the views of interest groups that
contribute, they often vote against the
views of interest groups.

42
HOME DISTRICTS

Influence of special interests on Congress
and the public good:
Home Districts – To gain votes from
their constituents, members of
Congress sometimes acquire funds
for unnecessary projects (pork-barrel
spending)
 Often not the best use of taxpayer’s
money

43
POWER OF THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM
 Committee
System:
 committees unrepresentative of Congress
or the whole country
 concern that the system results in laws
promoting narrow, local interests
 Many people concerned that committees
have too much influence on congressional
decisions and investigations
44
COMMITTEE SYSTEM
 Committee
System continued
However, many believe Congress serves
the public good by providing a forum in
which constituents’ local concerns are
addressed
 Congress only one part of the process
45
OTHER COMMITTEE INFO

Several forces weaken committees’ ability to
force narrow, locally oriented policies on
Congress as a whole
1. members with many different view points are
assigned to key committees
 2. committees generally not dominated by one
viewpoint
 3. Most committee assignments are based more
or less proportionally on a party’s representation in
Congress.
 4. Committee’s recommendations are not always
followed by the full House or Senate.

46
VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
 Local
concerns represented in Congress
are checked and balanced by the judicial
and executive branches; president,
government agencies and federal courts
have influence
 Judicial branch defends the minority’s
interests and constitutional rights
47
6.4 REVIEW
1.
2.
3.
4.
Why do some critics believe that interest groups and home
districts keep legislatures from promoting the public good?
Are these criticisms justified? Explain your answer
Are Congressional committees unrepresentative of national
concerns? Explain your answer
Whom does Congress represent that no other branch of
government represents? How does Congress differ from
other branches of government in this way? Why is this
representation essential to promoting the public good?
Why do you think that some congressional reformers spend
much of their time attacking instances of pork barrel
spending even though it accounts for only a tiny % of the
federal budget? Should members of Congress spend more
time passing legislation and performing their duties rather
than opposing pork barrel projects? Explain your answer.
6.4 REVIE ANSWERS
1.
2.
3.
4.
Interest groups can use campaign donations to gain
influence over members of congress and demand
unnecessary government spending. (Discuss both sides of
the argument before reaching a conclusion)
Students should discuss the differences in committee
membership and local and national concerns.
Congress is the one branch that represents local concerns.
Members of the executive branch focus on representing the
nations majority opinion, while the judicial branch protects
the nations minority opinion. (Discuss the importance of
local concerns)
Discuss the arguments of the role of pork barrel projects
and expressing local concerns.