[6] Congress.pdf

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Government and Politics
GVPT 170
Patrick Wohlfarth

[6] Congress Monday,October 14,2013 9:59 AM Institutions • Articles I, II, and III define the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches (respectively) • Formal powers of Congress are much stronger and more explicit • Judicial weakest • Executive is in between • History marked by the ebb and flow of power between branches Contemporary Congress: Overview 1. Occupies the center stage in domestic policymaking 2. Influence of electoral politics 3.The majority party & its leaders direct and dominate the action • Although meaningful differences between House & Senate • “leader controls agenda”- talk on Wed 4. Internal rules & organizational structures have a deliberate and critical effect on policymaking • Solving collective action problems 5. It is always easier to stop things from happening than to make things happen • primarily designed to block things • which is why we don't see often a large bill getting pass, always lots of veto in • blessing part - things shouldn't pass don’t pass / cursing part - things should pass don’t pass • people tends to dislike congress but like individuals • individuals might work hard to maintain self image • congress as a institution is slow Representation • Descriptive vs. Substantive • descriptive: e.g. white males disproportionally represented in the congress • substantive: how the political view of congress matches public view • Trustee vs. Delegate • what motivates congress? • members of congress: delegate - do what [a least a majority] their constituents want; trustee - do what individual constituents want Congressional Districts • House: 435 • 2-year terms • Representation = population-based • each representing roughly same number of people -Average district population roughly 711,000 (2010 Census data) • Senate: 100 • 6-year terms (staggered) • Representation = state-wide • representing - California: 37.3 million people; Wyoming: 568,000 people (2010 Census data) • These differences have consequences • term lengths - have influence on their motivations • size of their districts • ... U.S. House Districts need to make sure "each represents roughly same number" is always the case: population growth & migration across country etc. • Reapportionment: Determining state representation based on population • U.S. Census every 10 years "MD no change: MD's proportion of the population stay same but TX grow a large bit" - determining how many seats each state gets • Redistricting - district need to draw / revised after seat allocate so that each house member represents roughly the same number of people • one of the reasons: might be migration within a state • State-controlled • states retain this power, each state does it in a different way • A Few Primary Qualifications: • Equally Populated –Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) • Continuous Geographic Regions • has to be one singular region, connected • Compactness & Community Interests • compacted region than a thin line - hard to decide, subjective exercise! • Gerrymandering - draw district for some political purpose - courts tends to stay out of this ▯ - these things generally get over turned in court except racial gerrymander! • Partisan • a district max chances democrats gonna win in house • Incumbents • Racial (…unconstitutional) • Cracking vs. Packing - how to do gerrymander - computer software make engaging in gerrymander easier • e.g.you are democrat: crack, split up, diffusing republican so no majority likely republican voters in the district • e.g. pack all the republicans into one or two single district - that thin line run along highway (I-85?) obviously nobody lives along the highway so that is how you make the district continuous The Electoral System Members of Congress and president are elected separately. • Single-member, winner-take-all districts (plurality winner - whoever receives most votes) • Promotes two-party system • make it difficult for minority party to win • helps to reaffirm the two-party system • Makes drawing district boundaries critical • gerrymandering • district determines - people gets to decide - geographic region - subset of state • Promotes focus on local interests • people in that district elected you in - so you have responsible to them you care about their interest. • Individually responsive but collectively irresponsible…? meaning: for each seat in congress, there is separate race for each seat. serious individual election. 435 separate elections. Congressional Elections • Candidate-centered • Contrasts party-centered elections of 19th & early 20th centuries • local party bosses control the electoral process • Costly campaigns • House = 6-7 figures • Senate = 7-8 figures • Drop-off & Roll-off Effects • drop-off effect: smaller number of people go to vote during "midterm elections" no president on the ballot • roll-off effect: decent number of people just vote for president, no one else - lack of knowledge etc • Split-ticket voting • Often leads to divided government • vote different affiliates in different offices • not going to vote straight off one party. eg. democrat president, house vote republican • Incumbent advantages Why are incumbents successful? • Name recognition • voters more likely to vote for the person they know about • incumbents in the office bf so naturally have more name recog • Informational advantage • incumbents won before so they know the key points • Institutional advantage (ex: franking) • Franking-A policy that enables members of Congress to send material through the mail by substituting their facsimile signature (frank) for postage. • Casework/Constituency Service • people called the office when the have the problem, often time if you solved the problem they will be likely to vote you again • Credit Claiming • Campaign Money …In short, they are successful because they work hard at reelection. Congressional Organization and Procedure 1. The Legislative Process a. How a bill becomes law 2. Parties a. Procedural coalitions, electoral benefit i. help bargaining progress, easier to reach decision. overcome collective action problems 3. Committees a. Policy specialization, division of labor, & electoral benefit How Bills (Rarely) Become Laws •  Parties & committees • Exist to facilitate decision making • a bill roll from committee to house to senate •  The lawmaking process presents many opportunities to BLOCK legislation Basic Problems of Legislative Organization - Congress' problems • need for information • members in congress does not know everything in each area • so they need information from various sources • Coordination • can't have each 435 people all work for different purposes • there need to a way to coordinate and pass bill • Resolving Conflicts ….solving collective action problems! Legislative Organization •  Congress has developed two institutions to cope with these problems • Parties • Committees Why Two Parties? • Decisions formally made by majority vote • Powerful incentives for members to join & maintain permanent coalitions • Parties can serve individual & collective interests • E.g., Reelection • Legislative Rationale for Two Parties • Brand name • Party serve as a brand name for members in congress • rough indicator • party exists to promote the brand name, the label stands for sth for voters • Secure policy change • internal leadership in parties that organize members to rally votes, try to overcome the problem Resources of Majority Party Leadership • Controlling the Agenda – especially in House • what bill to consider • what bill go out for a vote (house) • if house leader does not want to put up a vote, if he decide to withhold it, he can • internal pressures is though present • Committee Assignments • party leaders • Campaign Money • some control of • Perks – offices, staff size, etc. ….in short, the majority party has tools to ensure loyalty….because parties help members reach individual and collective partisan goals • members want this to a large extent Party Organization in the House • Speaker of the House • Chief assistants: Majority leader & majority whip • Rules Committee • (main) tool of the majority party • Controlling proc
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