Political Science Review Ch. 12- Congress

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Congress "The People’s Branch"

Created by the Founders to be the center of policymaking. It was the 1st Article of the Constitution created. It is congress that makes laws; not the President or Supreme Court. A formal gathering of representatives, or the United States legislative body made up of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Qualification for becoming a member of the House of Representatives?

Minimun age: 25 years old U.S Citizenship: At least 7 years Length of Term: 2 years # Representing each state: 1-53 per state (depending on the states population). Constituency: Local

Qualification for becoming a member of the Senate?

Minimun age: 30 Years old U.S Citizenship: At least 9 years Length of Term: 6 years # Representing each state: 2 per state Constituency: Local and Statewide

What does Article 1, Sec 8 establish?

It establishes the specific powers and authorizations of our US Congress.

What do Congressional Members do?

They Work hard to bring jobs back to their home district. When they bring federal grants and contracts to their home district and constituents, they help their chances for reelection.

What is it called when jobs are brought back?



They are formidable reelection machines.

Why do Incumbents win 90% of the time?

The most important of these is constituency service: tak- ing care of the problems and requests of individual voters. Through such services and through regular newsletter mailings, incumbents seek to establish a "personal" relationship with their constituents. The success of this strategy is evident in the high rates of re-election for congressional incumbents: as high as 98 percent for House members and 90 percent for members of the Senate in recent years.

When Incumbents win and are expected to win, what is that called?

"sophomore surge"—the tendency for candidates to win a higher percentage of the vote when seeking subsequent terms in office.

What kind of Legislature is the United States Congress?

A Bicameral Legislature. All states have a bicameral legislatures, expect one Nebraska! Nebraska is a unicameral legislature.

How do bills become laws?

What are the Machinations? From the house to the Senate, to the Committees, to the white house, and the president can accept or Veto it.


It is the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.

Logrolling In how bills become laws

A legislative practice whereby agreements are made between legislators in voting for or against a bill; vote trading. An agreement between two or more members of Congress who have nothing in common except the need for support.

Earmarks In how bills become laws

A congressional directive that funds should be spent on a specific project.


Can congress stop one? YES! its called a cloture. It is a part of the Senate.

Congress has oversight, which means?

They can oversee the running of government. Congress can "hold" appropriations and appointments.

Who is the "face" of Congress?

Anglo-Men, because they are overrepresented.

What different roles do the House and the Senate play in Impeachment?

It is the House that would bring a charge of impeachment. It is the Senate that tries the case.

Why must Congress appropriate the seats in the House?

Due to the Census, It is up to the state legislatures to redistrict those seats, which brings up the question of Gerrymandering.


The manipulation of electoral districts to serve the interests of a particular group is known as gerrymandering. It is the apportionment of voters in districts in such a way as to give unfair advantage to one racial or ethnic group or political party.


Each member of the Congress’s primary responsibility to its district. The residents in the area from which an official is elected.


Having a legislative assembly composed of two chambers or houses, distinguishing from Unicameral (which is having just one chamber).


A representative who votes according to the preferences of his or her Constituency.


A representative who votes on what he or she thinks is best for his or her constituency.

Sociological Representation

A type of representation in which representatives have the same racial, gender, ethnic, religious, or educational backgrounds as their constituents; It is based on the principle that if two individuals are similar backgrounds, character, interests, and perspectives then one can correctly represent the other’s view.

Agency Representation

A type of representation in which a representative is held accountable to a constituency, and can be fired if he or she fails to represent that constituency properly. This is an incentive for good representation when the personal backgrounds, views, and Interests of the Representative differ from those of his or her constituency.

The three factors related to the US electoral system that affect who gets elected and what they do once in office are?

1st: factor concerns who decide to run for office and which candidates have an edge over others. 2nd: is that of incumbency advantage. 3rd: the way congressional districts lines are drawn can greatly affect the outcome of an election.


Is holding the political office for which one is running. Incumbency plays a very important role in the American electoral sys- tem and in the kind of representation citizens get in Washington. Once in office, members of Congress gain access to an array of tools they can use to stack the deck in favor of their re-election. The most important of these is constituency service: tak- ing care of the problems and requests of individual voters.

Term Limit

Legally prescribed limits on the number of terms an elected official can serve.Supporters of term limits argue that such limits are the only way to get new faces into Congress.


Every 10 years, state legislatures must redraw congressional districts to reflect population changes. Because the number of congressional seats has been fixed at 435 since 1929, redistricting is a zero-sum process; in order for one state to gain a seat, another must lose one. The process of allocating congressional seats among the 50 states is called Apportionment.


The process of redrawing election districts and redistributing legislative representatives; this happens every 10 years to reflect shifts in population or in response to legal challenges to existing districts.


The resources available to higher officials, usually opportunities to make partisan appointments to offices and to confer grants, licenses, or special favors to supporters.

Pork Barrel (or pork)

Appropriations made by legislative bodies for local projects that are often not needed but that are created so that local representatives can win re- election in their home districts.

Private Bill

A proposal in Congress to provide a specific person with some kind of relief, such as a special exemption from immigration quotas.

The building blocks of Congressional Organization are?

Include the political parties, the committee system, congressional staff, the caucuses, and the parliamentary rules of the House and Senate.


A gathering of House Republicans every two years to elect their House leaders; Democrats call their gathering the caucus.

Caucus (political)

A normally closed meeting of a political or legislative group to select candidates, plan strategy, or make decisions regarding legislative matters.

Speaker of the House

The chief presiding officer of the House of Representatives; the Speaker is the most important party and House leader, and can influence the legislative agenda, the fate of individual pieces of legislation, and members’ positions within the House.

Majority leader

The elected leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives or in the Senate; in the House, the majority leader is subordinate in the party hierarchy to the Speaker of the House.

Minority Leader

The elected leader of the minority party in the House or Senate.


A party member in the House or Senate responsible for coordinating the party’s legislative strategy, building support for key issues, and counting votes.

Standing Committee

A permanent committee with the power to propose and write legislation that covers a particular subject, such as finance or agriculture.

Select Committees

Are (usually) temporary legislative committees set up to highlight or investigate a particular issue or address an issue not within the jurisdiction of existing committees.

Joint Committees

A legislative committees formed of members of both the House and Senate.

Conference Committees

A joint committees created to work out a compromise on House and Senate versions of a piece of legislation.


The ranking given to an individual on the basis of length of continuous service on a committee in Congress.

Staff Agencies

Legislative support agencies responsible for policy analysis.

Caucuses (congressional)

Associations of members of Congress based on party, interest, or social group, such as gender or race.


A proposed law that has been sponsored by a member of Congress and submitted to the clerk of the House or Senate.

How a Bill becomes a Law (picture)

The first step in getting a law passed is drafting legislation. Members of Congress, the White House, and federal agencies all take roles in developing and drafting initial legislation. Bills can originate in the House or the Senate but only the House can introduce "money bills," those that spend or raise revenues. The framers’ in- serted this provision in the Constitution because they believed that the chamber closest to the people should exercise greater authority over taxing and spending. The bill is then officially submitted by a senator or representative to the clerk of the House or Senate and referred to the appropriate committee for deliberation.

Committee Makeup

The session in which a congressional committee rewrites legislation to incorporate changes discussed during hearings on a bill.

Closed Rule

A provision by the House Rules Committee limiting or prohibiting the introduction of amendments during debate.

Open Rule

A provision by the House Rules Committee that permits floor debate and the addition of new amendments to a bill.


A tactic used by members of the Senate to prevent action on legislation they oppose by continuously holding the floor and speaking until the majority backs down; once given the floor, senators have unlimited time to speak, and it requires a vote of three-fifths of the Senate to end a filibuster. "Once a senator is granted the floor, Senate rules permit him to speak for as long as he wishes. Although "talking filibusters" are rare today, in 2013 Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke continuously for 13 hours about the legality of potential drone strikes on U.S. soil."


The president’s constitutional power to turn down acts of Congress; a presidential veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.

Pocket Veto

A presidential veto that is automatically triggered if the president does not act on a given piece of legislation passed during the final 10 days of a legislative session.

Party Unity Vote

A roll-call vote in the House or Senate in which at least 50 percent of the members of one party take a particular position and are opposed by at least 50 percent of the members of the other party.

Roll-Call Vote

A vote in which each legislator’s yes or no vote is recorded as the clerk calls the names of the members alphabetically.


The amounts of money approved by Congress in statutes (bills) that each unit or agency of government can spend.

Executive Agreement

An agreement, made between the president and another country, that has the force of a treaty but does not require the Senate’s "advice and consent".


The formal charge by the House of Representatives that a government official has committed "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors". How to take someone out of Office!


A rule or process in a legislative body aimed at ending debate on a given bill; in the U.S. Senate, 60 senators (three-fifths) must agree in order to impose a time limit and end debate.


The effort by Congress, through hearings, investigations, and other techniques, to exercise control over the activities of executive agencies.

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