How do party leaders exert power in Congress?

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  • Created on: 25-05-14 19:32
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How can a majority leader exert power in Congress?
What is a majority leader?
· In both houses, there is a majority and minority leader for each party
· They are elected by their respective party members in both houses at the
start of a new legislative session
· In both houses, majority and minority leaders:
· Act as day to day "director of operations"
· Hold press briefings to talk about their respective houses
· Act as a liaison between the House/ Senate and the White House
· The Senate Majority leader plays a key role in bringing bills to debate
· The House majority leader plays a key role as second to the House Speaker
· Since the 1980s, the power of majority leaders has been grown
· Reinforced by the 1994 Contract with America by the Republicans-
nationalised midterm elections
· Further, party votes have become more common- eg Republican opposition
to Obama's Stimlus Bill
How can a Majority Leader exert power?
· By ignoring seniority in assigning committee chairmanships, though this rarely
· Monitoring progress of a favourable bill and imposition of timetables for its
completion, for example Reid announced his support for the Employment
Non Discrimination Act, preventing people being discriminated against
because of their sexual orientation when seeking employment
· Working with House Rules Committee members to help design bills more
favourable to the majority, eg preventing hostile amendments
· Promises to committee members if they support a bill- for example, promises
to help fund campaigns, helping to further them in their careers (eg senior
positions, cabinet members etc) and promising funds for a specific directive
· However: committee members can still receive pressure from other areas;
the administration (eg President), constituents or pressure groups (as part of
Iron Triangles)
Limits to party control
· In 2010, 30 Democrats voted against the Afforable Care Act (Obamacare)
· There was divisions between Speaker Boehner and House Republicans over
some fiscal legislation
· Also in the Senate, party control is weaker, because of a variety of reasons:
· Their length of tenure (6 years at the least)
· No "House Speaker" equivalent
· Smaller number of members, therefore there is less need for rules of
procedure and are more willing to negotiate
· Also- represent a whole state and are not subject to gerrymandered districts
as House reps are


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