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Congress: The House of Representatives & The Senate

Basic Questions ­ Page 180 in Book
1. What is the structure of Congress?
2. What is the makeup of Congress?
3. What powers does Congress possess?
4. How do the House and Senate compare in terms of power and prestige?

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Can be more about political pointscoring than effective
o Answer
Congress can be either a watchdog or a lapdog depending
largely on whether government is united or divided. When
government is divided, Congress tends to use its powers of
scrutiny to as full an extent as possible, via Congressional…

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o Senator figures
63 Average age
75 Hold advanced degree
25 Been in military
54 Lawyer
16 From academia
24 Roman Catholics
13 Jewish
James Madison stated that a Representative needs to be wise
and intelligent, with a love of justice and the people, rather than
be the same skin…

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Elect VicePresident if electoral college is deadlocked
Concurrent powers
Pass legislation
Override the President's veto (twothirds majority from
both required)
Initiate constitutional amendments
Declare war
Confirm a newly appointed VicePresident
o Which house is more powerful?
Leadership in Congress
House speaker
o House speaker ­ John Boehner
o Elected by…

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Congressional committees
o "Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, while
Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work" ­Woodrow
Wilson, 1885
o The committee system: a conglomeration of many types of
committees which perform legislative and investigative functions ­ it
is only in committee rooms that members…

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Select committees ­ can be known as `special' or `investigative'
committees almost always ad hoc (set up for a specific issue) set up when
standing committees don't cover the policy area that needs investigating
Committee chair ­ the chairs of standing committees seniority rule states
that the chair of the…

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Jobs/government posts
Constitutional threats (no new schools for you!)
o Personal beliefs/ideology
o Constituents and opinions thereof
o Political party
Rise in partisan politics since the 90s
Not important
Conservative Democrats, Liberal Republicans
Parties have no carrots or sticks
Groups within parties (such as the Blue…

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Controversial topics will influence you to vote with
Not important
`Pork barrel politics' ­ something for constituents
Models of Representation
Trustee model ­ act in the common good and national interest (don't have to
do what the people want e.g. Iraq war ­ instead do what is believed to…

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Committees can have the final chance to influence which version of the bill is
passed on to the President makes it a potentially very powerful role in the legislative

However, there are arguments against the importance of committees in the
legislative process as well. First of all, the House…

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expertise of standing committees, particularly in conjunction with the power to
subpoena relevant information and testimony, makes them a formidable force when
used correctly for oversight.

Furthermore, Congress can be very effective at oversight when there is divided
government ­ i.e. the party controlling the executive is not the party…


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