AP Government Chapter 12

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Those already holding office.


Activities of members of Congress that help constituents as individuals; cutting through bureaucratic red tape to get people what they think they have the right to get.

pork barrel

The mighty list of federal projects grants, and contracts available to cities, businesses, colleges, and institutions available in a congressional district.

bicameral legislature

A legislature divided into two houses.

house rules committees

An institution unique to the House of Representatives that review all bills (except revenue, budget, and appropriations bills) coming from a House committee before they go to the full house.


A strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation try to talk it to death, based on the tradition of unlimited debate.

speaker of the house

An office mandated by the Constitution. The Speaker is chosen in practice by the majority party, has both formal and informal powers, and is second in line to succeed to the presidency should that office become vacant.

majority leader

The principle partisan ally of the Speaker of the House or the party’s wheel horse in the Senate. The majority leader is responsible for scheduling bills, influencing committee assignments, and rounding up votes in behalf of the party’s legislative positions.


Party leaders who work with the majority leader or minority leader to count votes beforehand and lean on waverers whose votes are crucial to a bill favored by the party.

minority leader

The principal leader of the minority party in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

standing committees

Separate subject-matter committees in each house of Congress that handle bills in different policy areas.

joint committees

Congressional committees on a few subject-matter areas with membership drawn from both houses.

conference committees

Congressional committees formed when the Senate and the House pass a particular bill in different forms. Party leadership appoints members from each house to iron out the differences and bring back a single bill.

select committees

Congressional committees appointed for a specific purpose, such as the Watergate investigation.

legislative oversight

Congress’ monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy, performed mainly though hearings.

committee chairs

The most important influencers of the congressional agenda. They play dominant roles in scheduling hearings, hiring staff, appointing subcommittees, and managing committee bills when they are brought before the full house.

seniority system

A simple rule for picking committee chairs, in effect until the 1970s. The member who had served on the committee the longest and whose pary controlled Congress became chair, regardless of party loyalty, mental state, or competence.


A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. Most are composed of members from both parties and from both houses.


A proposed law, drafted in precise, legal language. Anyone can draft a bill, but only a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate can formally submit a bill for consideration.

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