Chapter 9 Part 1… How Laws are made: Congress at Work Usually

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Chapter 9 Part 1… How Laws are made: Congress at Work
Usually something drastic has to happen for the President and Congress to accomplish a lot
1987 Stock Market Drop due to budget increase
1930’s Great Depression
Legislation during this time period once took as little as 8 hours to pass laws to help the people
There are over 20,000 bills and resolutions introduced during each session of Congress, and only a
handful make it out. This is their story…
Who Originates bills?
Bill: what a law is called when it’s first introduced.
Usually these are started by
Private groups and/or citizens
The executive branch
Congress and their committees
Written in exact specific legal language, every line numbered to easily find items
Very rare for a bill to not be changed without moving on
What is the role of committee staffs?
Typical day for a Congressman
Attend committee meetings, greet visitors, answer mail, debate issues
Staffs
Bills usually go through one or more standing committee, equipped with a staff
Help lawmakers write and evaluate legislation
Sometimes even this team isn’t enough to research a topic (foreign relations), so they turn
to others to help them
What do they really do?
Research: collect data to be analyzed
Draft Bills: help with the technical jargon that makes up a bill
Investigate
Interview witnesses, come up with questions to ask, analyze statements
Expertise: over complex matters
What is the role of the lobbyist?
Pressure groups playing the political game are called lobbies
What they do…
Promote economic ($) interests
They often give money to campaigns
Limited to how much a group can give, so they form multiple groups called PACs
(Colbert)
Draft new legislation
Expert Testimony
Apply Pressure
How they lobby…
Communications- flood phones, emails, personal visits
Contributions- “Money is the mother’s milk of politics”, so keep your candidate healthy
Social contacts- entertaining and nights on the town
Sanctions- punishment (no $ or support someone else)
Demonstrations- protest marches, picket lines, dumping milk (irony from earlier?)
Form Alliances- join other groups to get what they want
Should “lobby” be considered a four letter word?
Small percentage of lobbyists do so corruptly since 1995 (or else they’ve just gotten better at it)
(Lobbying Disclosure Act, have to file reports every 6 months, give up names of clients,
fees, issues they lobby for or against)
What happens when a bill is introduced?
Process
Representative who introduced it signs it
Assigned a number (different from the house to the senate)
Introduced by an announcement
Sponsored by the person who introduced it
Referred to Committee
Whittle down the number of bills introduced and refine the content of those that live
What happens to the bill when it’s in the committee?
Pigeonholed
Set aside in the committee and never addressed again
Chairman doesn’t like the bill
Lobbyists put pressure to make it disappear
Committee members ask it to be pigeonholed
Hearing Process
Hearings are used to gather information about a bill
Best chance to debate a bill is during this time, hard to change after it’s become a law
Usually open to the public, unless sensitive matters (like national security)
Daily schedule of hearings is published in the D.C. paper
Minor bills may last for a few hours, major bills may last for months
Purpose of Hearings
Information of all points of view
Propaganda to sell the bill
Safety valve to release tension and solve differences over bills
Partisanship
Loyalty to your party even if you feel they are wrong about a bill
They control the fate of a bill by giving it to subcommittees, scheduling hearings, or selecting witnesses
Executive Sessions
AKA: Markups- where the bill gets examined and changed line by line before it goes to the floor
Committee Report
Release the committee’s vote on the bill and summarizes the evidence
If they don’t report the bill, it is usually dead, but not always
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