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.