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Current congressional makeup
Presidency controlled by Democrat
112th Congress controlled by:
- House: Republicans
- Republican: 244
- Democrat: 191
- Senate: Democrats
- Republican: 47
- Democrat: 51
- Independent: 2
A bicameral legislature
Reapportionment of the House every 10 years
Minimum requirements for seeking office
- Enumerated powers in Section 8:
- Declare war
- Collect taxes
Legislators as rational actors
Three activities of legislators
legislators want to be reelected, and they advertise, credit claim, and take positions to ensure this (Mayhew).
Maintain visibility to constituents through frequent trips home and mailings (e-mail)
Let people know what you’ve done
Service to individuals in their district.
- Casework: specifically helping constituents get what they think they have a right to.
- Pork Barrel: federal projects, grants, etc. made available in a congressional district or state.
- Portray selves as hard working, dedicated individuals
- Take public stands on issues
Higher chance of winning
Those already holding office, who typically win reelection
Incumbency advantage; and reasons for
Legislators perform the three activities well
Party Identification: Most incumbents already represent the majority party in their district
Weak Opponents: Most opponents are inexperienced in politics, unorganized, and underfunded
|Defeating incumbents; and ways how|
- Scandals or other complications in office weaken the incumbency advantage
- Often, the incumbent will withdraw and leave a seat “open”
- A legislator may be “drawn out” of their district
- She now represents a new set of voters
- They may face massive voter retaliation
- More likely for senators than representatives
Legislators must spend money to win reelection
- But spending lots of money does not guarantee a win
- More money spent equals more competitive race
- Open seats are most expensive
- Candidates “run scared”
Political Action Committees do not “buy” candidates
Congressional organization; house v. senate
- Incumbents winning provides stability in Congress.
- But, it makes it more difficult to change Congress through elections.
- Term limits may force member turnover
- Increase instability in Congress
- Disadvantageous unless Congress limits itself
- Besides, most disapprove of Congress, even though they typically approve of their member
Congressional leadership; names
- Speaker of the House: elected by members, and of majority party
- Speaker presides over House, and has major role in committee assignments and legislation.
- Officially led by Vice President.
- Really led by Majority Leader: chosen by party members.
- Must work with Minority leader.
Four types of committees:
Standing committees: committees handle different policy areas.
Joint committees: few policy areas, made up of House & Senate members.
Conference committees: resolve differences in House and Senate bills.
Select committees: created for a specific purpose.
Standing committees; task and type
- Committees work on 11,000 bills every year.
- Committees hold hearings on legislation.
- Committees serve as a cue or voting reference for other members.
- agriculture, nutrition and, forestry
- armed forces
- Banking, housing, and urban affairs
- Commerce, sciece, and tranceportation
- energy and natural resources
- enviroment and publc works
- foreign relationships
- health labor education and pention
- homeland security, and govermant affairs
- rule and administration
- small business and entrepreneurship
- veterans affairs
- House Committees
- armed services
- Education and labor
- energy and commerce
- financial services
- foreign affairs
- homeland security
- house administraion
- natural resources
- Oversight and govermental reform
- science and technology
- small business
- standards of official coduct
- transportation and official infastructure
- veterans affairs
- ways and means
Oversight involves hearings and other methods of pressuring the executive branch into action.
As size of government grows, oversight grows too.
- Bill is introduced, committee action(subcommittee,committee,rules committe), floor action(full house) ,president decides.
Bill is introduced, committee action(subcommittee,committee,leadership), floor action(full senate) ,president decides.
Four factors that influence legislators’ votes
Presidents,Approval, bargaining, leadership, speeches, to succeed in congress president most win several battles in each house, presiental veto.
- Party and ideology.
- Interest groups
|Party polarization and effects|