Congress Part 2
January 13, 2014
*Committees are very important.
• Remember, 4.5 pages of the Constitution dedicated to the Congress.
• Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution lists Congress’ powers
o So called, enumerated powers.
• To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.
• To borrow money.
• To regulate commerce with foreign nations and among states.
• To establish rules for naturalization (i.e. becoming a citizen) and bankruptcy.
• To establish a post office and post roads.
• To raise and support an army and navy and make rules for their governance.
o Civilian controls the military.
• Notable domestic policy powers
o Controls the purse.
Spend and regulate commerce
• Notable foreign policy power
o To declare war
When’s the last time? The President has the power to make war,
but cannot officially declare it. The last official time Congress
declared the US was at war was WWII.
Now they prefer to use the Authorization for the Use of Military
Force – not an official declaration of war, but allows the President
to say “do what you’ve gotta do” – not really committing, but still
allowing the country to function.
• The Necessary and Proper Clause
o Clause 18 of Article 1, Section 8
o “Elastic” clause
o If they can prove than an action is “necessary and proper,” Congress can
carry out any actions they see fit. This allows Congress to act on
something that could not have been foreseen by the founding fathers.
o E.g. McCulloch v. Maryland.
Congress set up a US bank. The state began taxing the bank (the
federal government). Congress took it to court, court agreed:
“Congress can do what it needs to do in order to function – state no
longer to tax.” Also, feds override the state.
House of Leadership
• Party caucus/conference
• 5 major positions in the House o Speaker of the House
Most powerful position – requires the most approval.
Second in presidential line of succession.
John Boehner (ROH)
• Chief administrative officer, spokesperson, and party
Truly powerful player
• Get to make all committee assignments (members, chairs,
and bills). Decide which legislation goes to committee,
who is on what committee (can stack certain committees),
• Set House agenda. When voting on bills, gets to decide if,
when, and how much time is allotted to bills brought to the
• Rules Committee
o When a bill is received, it goes to the Rules
Committee, who decides how many amendments
will be allowed, how much time is allowed for
debate, procedures for how Congress will act on the
bill. Therefore has a lot of influence over how a bill
o Favours majority party.
o House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor (RepublicanVA)
“Manage” the majority party.
Eyes and ears – keeps the Speaker informed.
o MajorityParty Whip
Kevin McCarthy (RepublicanCA)
Party discipline – members vote the way they’re supposed to.
9 deputy whips.
o Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi (DemocratCA)
“Manage” the minority party.
o MinorityParty Whip
Steny Hoyer (DemocratMD).
8 deputy whips.
• Similar in structure.
o Majority/minority leaders, whips
o No speaker
• Vice President o Tie breaker
• President pro tempore (more active functioning member of the Senate).
o Goes to majority party’s most qualified – longestserving member.
o Patrick Leahy (DemocratVT)
o Longest service
• Majority/Minority Leaders
o Real power
o Control the Senate’s agenda or calendar (what’s going to come up and
o Harry Reid (DemocratNV)
Majority Party Leader
o Mitch McConnell (RKY)
Minority Party Leader
o These positions are elected by a party caucus, just like the House.
Congressional Committee System
• “Workhorses for Congress”
• Real, substantive policymaking gets done in committees.
• “Center stage”
o They also have an afterthefact authority – make sure that the legislation
they have passed is carried out properly.
Where did the CCS come from?
• Unspecialized assembly (originally).
• Members in all realms of policy – jack of all trades, but master of nothing.
• Different interests and talents.
o Certain members wanted to spend more time on committees that
represented their interests (e.g. reps from farming states vs. focus on
military and economics).
• Division of labour.
o Now that there are specializing members, there can be a continued
representative role. With the committee system, they can participate in
national law making AND pursuing constituents duties and interests.
Types of Committees
• Standing Committee
o Permanent Status – THE committees.
o Policy jurisdiction
Defined by subject matter of legislation/policy content.
Bills can go to multiple committees (e.g. Obamacare – dealt with
healthcare, economics, insurance, etc.). o Subcommittees (House)
Serve their parent committee; whichever standing committee they
o Currently, 20 standing committees in both chambers.
• Select Committees
o Not permanent
o Ad hoc