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What are the exclusive powers of the Senate?

  • Confirm presidential appointments
  • Ratify treaties
  • Try cases of impeachment
  • Elect vice-president if Electoral College is deadlocked
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What are the exclusive powers of the HoR?

  • Initiate money bills
  • Impeachment
  • Elect president if Electoral College is deadlocked
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What are the concurrent powers of congress?

  • Pass legislation
  • Override the presidential veto
  • Initiate constitutional amendments
  • Declare war
  • Confirm a newly appointed vice-president
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How many members in the House of Representatives?

States are represented proportionally with 435 members

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How many members in the Senate?

  • States are represented equally (2 per state) so 100 members
  • In 2013 there were 52 ex-house members in the senate
  • In 2012, 12 House members ran for the Senate, 6 Reps. and 6 Dems. 1 Rep. and 5 Dems. won.
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Is the Senate more prestigious than the House?


  • Senators represent the entire state whilst House members only represent a Congressional district e.g. Schiff 28th Congress of California is 1/435, Feinstein represents whole state 1/100
  • Senators serve longer terms
  • Senators are only one of one hundred e.g. Schiff - 2 year term, Feinstein - 6 year term
  • Senators are more likely to chair a committee or sub-committee or hold some leadership position
  • Senators enjoy greater name recognition state-wide and even nation-wide
  • The senate is seen as a recruiting pool and launch pad for presidential and vice-presidential candidates e.g. six Senators and two former ran for president in 2008
  • Senators enjoy significantly exclusive powers
  • House members frequently seek election to the Senate e.g. 2012 there were 52 former House members in the Senate
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Is the Senate more prestigious than the House?


  • Both houses have equal power in the passage of legislation - Congress's key function
  • Both houses must approve the initiation of constitutional amendments
  • Members of both houses receive equal salaries
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What factors affect congressional member's votes?

  • Political party
  • Constituents - representation to keep them happy
  • The administration - persuasion by the members of the executive branch
  • Pressure groups
  • Colleagues and staff - so many votes that Congressmen have to rely on eachother for information
  • Personal beliefs e.g. such as abortion or capital punishment
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What is pork barreling?

  • Pork-barrel projects are added to the federal budget by members of the appropriation committees of Congress
  • This allows delivery of federal funds to the local district or state of the appropriation committee member, often accommodating major campaign contributors
  • To a certain extent, a member of Congress is judged by their ability to deliver funds to their constituents. 
  • The Big Dig was a project to relocate an existing 3.5-mile (5.6 km) section of the interstate highway system underground. It ended up costing $14.6 billion, or over $4 billion per mile. Tip O'Neill (D-Mass), after whom one of the Big Dig tunnels was named, pushed to have the Big Dig funded by the federal government while he was the Speaker of the House
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What are standing committees?

  • Exist in both houses
  • Permanent, policy-specialist committees
  • Typical Senate committee - 18 members
  • Typical House committee - 30-40 members
  • Party balance is in the same proportion as that which exists within the chamber as a whole
  • 113th Congress Dem. majority in the Senate, and Rep. majority in the House
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What are the functions of standing committees?

  • Conduct the committee stage of bills in the legislative process
  • To conduct investigations within the committee's policy area
  • In the Senate they begin the confirmation process of numerous presidential appointments - only a recommendatory vote but rarely overturned
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What is the House Rules Committee?

  • One of the standing committees but performs a different function
  • Prioritises bills  coming from the committee stage on to the House floor for their second reading
  • A vital role due to the sheer number of bills in the queue
  • Much smaller and skewed to the majority party e.g. 2013 9 Reps. and 4 Dems.
  • Chair of this committee is considered one of the most influential posts in Congress
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What are conference committees?

  • Ad hoc and only set up to consider one particular bill
  • Reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the same bill
  • Members are drawn from each house
  • Likely to draw a final version of the bill
  • Power is checked as one house may refuse to sign the changes
  • Rarely used nowadays as there are other ways to resolve issues
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What are select committees?

  • Known as 'special' or 'investigative' committees
  • Nearly all are ad hoc
  • They are set up when either the investigation does not fall within the policy area of one standing committee or it's too time consuming for a standing committee
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Committee chairs

  • Those who chair standing committees are always drawn from the majority party in that chamber e.g. 2013-14 all Senate chairs - Dem. all House chairs Rep.
  • The seniority rule - a rule stating that the chair of Congressional standing committee will be the member of the majority party with the longest continuous service on that committee
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What is the legislative process in Congress?

  • First reading
  • Committee stage
  • Timetabling
  • Second reading
  • Third reading
  • Conference committee
  • Presidential action
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What is a filibuster?

  • A device by which an indicidual senator, or group of senators, can attempt to talk a bill to death by using delaying tactics
  • A three-fifths vote is reguired to a end a filibuster
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