Week 7 10/17/2013
Fiorina – Chapter 10; Rourke – Chapter 11
Congress is bicameral – consists of 2 chambers.
• Upper chamber – 100 members = senate.
o 2 senators/state.
o Typically more difficult to have senators stay as long as the representatives in the
House. As such, Senate elections are more interesting.
• Lower chamber – 435 members = house of representatives. Growing over the years. 1911
– limited the # of representatives.
o Not written in the Constitution. Done every 10 years after the US census. Based on the
size of state/population. Even the smallest state is entitled to at least 1 member.
o Places more importance on internal organization.
o Democratic party controlled House – 19541994; 20062010
o Republican party controlled House – 19942006; 2010now.
Now House has appeared more Republican.
Speaker of the house – constitutional officer.
• Selected by the house majority party.
o Decides who would sit on al house committees, chair them.
o Speakers ruled. Controlled the floor of the chamber.
Majority leader – next in line to the Speaker.
• Dayday operations.
Whips – group of around 24 members who serve as links between leaders and the parties rank & file.
Senate leadership is simpler than House.
VP is the president of the Senate.
• Has Constitutional right to break ties.
Unanimousconsent agreements – all senators with an interest in proposals agree to them.
Specify terms of debate.
o Amendments, how long they will be debated, etc.
Filibuster – lack the voters to win a floor fight, keep talking until the other side gives up. Cloture – motion to end a debate. 60 votes required.
• Problem: difficult to pass notions unless a party has 60 seats.
Rules committee – one that sets the rules that guide the debate, determines whether & when the
measures to full house of representatives to vote.
• Decides the time allotted to debates.
Senate Finance Committee.1
Uninformed voters often choose candidates on the basis of party image & performance.
• As such, members of parties are willing to tolerate constraints imposed by their leadership.
• Members who receive campaign contributions from party leaders naturally feel some obligation
to support those leaders.
Most of the Congress work is done through committees.
• Standing committees – fixed memberships & jurisdictions.
• Select committees – temporary committees created to deal with specific issues.
o Committees fall in 3 levels of importance:
1. Rules, appropriation, energy & commerce, and ways & means are highest.
The last 3 affects nearly everything the government does.
2. Second level deals with nationally significant policy areas.
Agriculture, armed services, homeland security.
3. Governmental housekeeping committees & ones w/narrow policy jurisdiction.
• Parties customarily choose committee chairs based on seniority – longest continuous service.
Distributive theory – members choose committees relative to their districts.
• Logrolling – membership gets first crack at legislation, other members of the chamber go
along with the committee in exchange for similar deference on bills they have shaped.
Informational theory – committees primarily serve a knowledgegathering function.
• Members are uncertain about the outcomes that proposed laws will produce.
Caucus – groups of members w/shared interests cross party, committee & chamber lines.
Passing a statue requires going through 2 chambers, support of members of 2 political parties &