Congress

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the structure of congress

  • bicameral- House of Representatives, the Senate
  • one of the compromises devised by the Founding Fathers at the Philadelphia convention
  • some delegates to the convention wanted the states to be equally represented in the legislature
  • others wanted representation to be proportional to population
  • in the lower house the states would be represented proportionally to their population
  • in the upper house the states would be represented equally
  • kept both the states with large populations and those with small populations content

house of representatives

  • lower house
  • 435 members
  • represent a congressional district
  • serve 2 year terms
  • must be at least 25 years old
  • must be a US citizen for at least 7 years
  • must be resident of state they represent

senate

  • upper house
  • 100 members
  • represent entire state
  • serve 6 year terms
  • must be at least 30 years old
  • msut be a US citizen for at least 9 years
  • must be resident of state they represent
  • some delegates wanted to see the legislature directly elected by the people
  • others thought the legislators should be indirectly elected
  • the founding fathers decided that the House would be directly elected and the Senate would be indirectly elected by state legislatures
  • continued until 1914- 17th amendment introduced direct elections for the senate
  • whole of the house is elected every 2 years
  • senators serve 6 year terms with 1/3 being up for re-election every 2 years
  • in the House, each state has a certain number of members proportional to its population
  • the number of representatives for each state is reapportioned after each 10 yearly census
  • except in states that have just one representative, each member represents a sub division of the state known as a congressional district

the composition of congress

gender

  • women have been persistently under-represented in congress
  • 1992- democrats tried to focus on this issue; declared it the year of the woman; doubled the number of women in congress in one election
  • gains in the last decade have been rather more modest
  • majority of women in both houses are democrats- tends to attract the female vote
  • 2016- 83 women in the House, 21% of the senate
  • 62/83 women representatives were democrats
  • 21/83 women representatives were republicans
  • senate- 21 women, 16 democrats, 5 republicans
  • women are under-represented in the pool of recruitment from which members of congress are commonly drawn
  • 2017- 24.8% of state legislators were women
  • only 13 states have more than 30% women state legislators
  • 16 states where women make up less than 20% of state legislators

race

  • representation by race is much better in the House than in the Senate
  • federal courts have allowed states to draw congressional district boundaries to create districts that are likely to return a representative from an ethnic minority group
  • the redrawing of district boundaries following the 1990 census clearly boosted African-American representation in the House
  • 2017- all the african-american representatives were democrats
  • 2005-08- Barack Obama of Illinois was the only african-american senator
  • january 2017- 3 african-american senators
  • low levels of representation in state legislatures

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