Chapter 11
CONGRESS
Learning Outcomes
11.1 Explain the structure and powers of
Congress as envisioned by the framers and
enumerated in the Constitution.
11.2 Analyze the factors that affect the way voters
elect members of Congress
11.3 Describe the ways in which issues get on the
congressional agenda.
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Learning Outcomes
11.4 Differentiate among the types of
congressional committees and evaluate the
role of the committee system in the legislative
process.
11.5 Identify the leadership structure of the
legislative branch and assess the rules and
norms that influence congressional operations.
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Learning Outcomes
11.6 Appraise the components of the legislative
environment that affect decision making in
Congress.
11.7 Consider whether members of Congress
should vote according to the majority views of their
constituents.
11.8 Assess the elements that characterize
Congress as a pluralist or majoritarian system.
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The Origin and Powers of
Congress

The Great Compromise
 Created two separate legislative chambers
 Equal representation in Senate
 Proportional representation in House
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The Origin and Powers of
Congress

Duties of the House and Senate
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Declare war
Raise an army and navy
Borrow and coin money
Regulate interstate commerce
Create federal courts
Establish rules for naturalization of immigrants
“Make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper
for carrying into Execution and foregoing Powers.”
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The Origin and Powers of
Congress

Duties of the House and Senate
 House of Representatives
 Originate revenue bills
 Power of impeachment
 Senate
 Try impeachments
 Approve presidential appointments, treaties with foreign
nations and cabinet posts
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Electing Congress

The Incumbency Effect
 Frequent elections give voters chance to express
approval/disapproval with vote
 Redistricting - Census-based reapportionment
 Gerrymandering
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Name recognition
Casework
Campaign financing
Successful challenges
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Figure 11.1 Incumbents: Life is Good
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Figure 11.2 We Love Our Incumbents,
but Congress Itself Stinks
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Electing Congress

Whom Do We Elect?
 Elected: not cross-section of American society
 Most are upper-class professionals
 Around 47% are millionaires
 Women and minorities underrepresented
 Descriptive representation
 Racial gerrymandering
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The Millionaires’ Club
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Figure 11.3 Minorities in Congress
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How Issues Get on the
Congressional Agenda

Formal Legislative Process
 Starts with Introducing bill in House/Senate
 New issues reach agenda in many ways
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Highly visible event focuses national attention on problem
Presidential support may move an issue quickly
Interest group efforts
To enhance the image of a legislator
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The
Legislative
Process
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The Lawmaking Process and
the Importance of Committees
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Committees: The Workhorses of Congress
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Standing committees
Subcommittees
Joint committees
Select committees
Conference committees
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The Lawmaking Process and
the Importance of Committees

Congressional Expertise and Seniority
 Seniority
 Influence increases with seniority and expertise
 Committee leadership and organization is significant
 Public policy decision making takes place there
 Markup sessions
 Committee members work formally and informally to
reach consensus
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The Show Must Go On
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The Lawmaking Process and
the Importance of Committees

Oversight: Following Through on
Legislation
 Congress engages in oversight as extension of efforts
to control public policy
 Oversight performed in different ways
 Hearing
 Reports
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The Lawmaking Process and
the Importance of Committees

Majoritarian and Pluralist Views of
Committees
 Committee system enhances pluralism
 Majoritarian aspect as well
 Committees reflect ideological profiles of the two parties’
congressional contingent
 In formulating legislation , committees anticipate what
other legislators and senators will accept
 Party loyalty rewarded through committee assignments
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Leaders and Followers
in Congress

The Leadership Task
 Majority party leadership
 Speaker of the House
 Majority leader
 Majority whip
 Minority party leadership:
 Minority leader
 Minority whip
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The Johnson Treatment
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The Leadership Task
in the Senate

Rules of Procedure
 Rules in chamber based on parliamentary procedure
 Important Difference between two chambers
 House
 Rules Committee governs floor debate
 Senate
 Relies on unanimous consent agreements to set start and
length of debate
 Filibuster and cloture
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The Legislative Environment

Political Parties
 Parties are strong forces in legislative process
 Most significant reason parties are important
 Different ideologies
 Diversity exists but becoming more homogeneous
 Bargaining: Important norm in Congress
 Parties have become more polarized, compromise difficult
 Inability to compromise is a threat to majoritarianism
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Figure 11.5
Rising
Partisanship
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The Legislative Environment

The President
 Capitalize on popular election and speak for majority
 Chief legislator
 White House involved in writing and development of bills
 Congress allows president a leadership role in proposing
legislation but jealously guards power of Congress
 Congress often clashes sharply with president
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The Legislative Environment

Constituents
 People in legislator’s district or state are a crucial part
of decision-making process
 Legislators must consider
 Voters interests
 Degree to which they should follow constituency preferences
 Constituents’ influence contributes to pluralism
 Geographical basis of representation in Congress
 Push and pull Congress in different directions
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Constituents Strike Back
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The Legislative Environment

Interest Groups
 One of the four external sources of influence on
Congress
 Constituents influence Congress via interest groups
 Represent the population’s groupings
 Vocational
 Regional
 Ideological
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The Dilemma of
Representation

Presidents and Shopping Bags
 Members of Congress live in two worlds
 World of presidents
 World of constituents
 Criticized for being out of touch with constituents
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The Dilemma of
Representation

Trustees or Delegates?
 Trustees
 Vote their conscience, obligated to consider constituent
views but not to vote according to views if they think they
are misguided
 Role more likely in larger, national interest issues
 Delegates
 Vote represents majority view of constituents
 Must be prepared to vote against personal preference
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Pluralism, Majoritarianism,
and Democracy

Parliamentary Government
 Government power in hands of majority party
 Power concentrated in legislature
 No separation of governmental power
 Usually one house or have second, weaker chamber
 Usually do not have a court that invalidates acts
 Checks on government action are few
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Pluralism, Majoritarianism,
and Democracy

Pluralism Versus Majoritarianism in
Congress
 Modern Congress characterized by both pluralism and
majoritarianism
 Growing partisanship in Congress represents a trend
toward greater majoritarianism
 To a degree, voters recognize difference between parties
and vote on that basis; increasing majoritarianism will
constrain pluralism in Congress
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