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Flashcards in Congress Deck (53)
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Which article of the Constitution established the legislative branch?

Article I of the Constitution established the legislative branch.


How is the number of representatives allotted to each state?

The number of representatives in the House as a whole is capped at 435, and each state's representation in the House is in proportion to its population. Each state has at least one representative. The census, taken every 10 years, allows for reapportionment of the number of representatives to the states.

California has the most representatives with 53, and several states only have one representative.


How often must representatives stand for election?

Each member of the House of Representatives stands for election every two years. 

While senatorial elections are also held every two years, only a third of the Senate stands for election every two years, and senators are elected to six-year terms. 


What are the three qualifications to be eligible for election to the House of Representatives?

To be a member of the House, one must be:

  1. 25 years old
  2. an American citizen for seven years
  3. a resident of the state he/she represents

Not every state requires (but it is traditional) that the representative live in the district which he/she represents.


How many members are in the Senate?

There are 100 senators, and each state has two. The vice president, who presides over the Senate and casts any necessary tie-breaking vote, is not considered a member of the Senate.


What are the three qualifications to be eligible for election to the Senate?

To be a member of the Senate, one must be:

  1. 30 years old
  2. an American citizen for 9 years
  3. a resident of the state he/she represents


How often do senators stand for election?

Senators stand for election every six years, but only 1/3 of the Senate stands for election every two years.


How did the 17th Amendment modify senatorial elections?

The 17th Amendment provided for Senators to be elected by the people directly.  Prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913, Senators were elected by their state legislatures.

The Founding Fathers established indirect elections as a check on factions; but the amendment passed out of fears that the process had become corrupt.


When may the vice president cast a vote in the Senate?

The vice president may only cast a vote in the Senate in the event of a tie. 


incumbency effect

The incumbency effect refers to the advantage enjoyed by current officeholders in running for reelection against their opponents.

Incumbent advantages include name recognition and easier access to campaign resources such as campaign workers, monetary funds, and group endorsements.


term limits

Term limits restrict the number of terms an existing office holder may serve. While the 22nd Amendment limits the president to two consecutive terms, members of Congress do not have term limits.

The Supreme Court has held that absent a congressional amendment, term limits may not be passed into law.


What congressional duties does the Speaker of the House perform?

The Speaker of the House is the House's most powerful member. As the leader of the House's majority party, the speaker:

  • refers bills to committees
  • controls floor debate over bills
  • assigns members to committees


The _____ _____ _____ is typically the longest serving Senator of the majority party.

President Pro Tempore

The role of the President Pro Tempore is largely ceremonial, but the person is third in line to the presidency.


What role does the House and Senate majority leader fulfill?

The House majority leader is the Speaker of the House's primary assistant. Generally, the majority leader is responsible for management of the House committees and for maintaining the House floor's legislative calendar, but the majority leader's role can vary based upon the leadership style of the Speaker of the House. 

The Senate majority leader serves many of the same functions in the Senate, although he/she also has direct control over his/her party.


What roles do the House and Senate majority and minority whips play?

The majority and minority whips manage their respective parties' legislative programs on the House and Senate floor. The whips' primary task is to make sure that all party members are present to vote upon important measures. 


What role is typically fulfilled by the House and Senate minority leaders?

The House and Senate minority leaders serve as the spokespersons of the minority party in the House or Senate. 

The minority leader's main role is to spearhead the effort to retake majority control of the House or Senate. Efforts range from stalling congressional debates, promoting the party's agenda, and providing campaign assistances.


In the House and Senate, what bodies typically perform most of the day-to-day work?

Committees perform most of the Congress' day-to-day work and handle specific duties (rather than the general duties of the Congress as a whole).

Not all the House and Senate committees mirror each other; for instance, only the House has a committee on Natural Resources, while only the Senate has an Indian Affairs committee. 


How is membership on a given congressional committee determined?

Committee membership is determined by the percentage of each party's membership in their respective houses. Deference is given where possible to the interests of committee members' districts (e.g. congressmen for Alaska may serve on the committee overseeing fisheries).


In the House, which committees assign members of their party to other committees?

In the House, Democratic Party members are assigned to various committees by the Steering and Policy Committee of the House Democratic Caucus.

For the House Republican Conference, this function is carried out by the Republican Steering Committee.


Each House and Senate committee is headed by a chairperson, who is typically the majority party's longest serving member of the committee. What does this individual do?

The chairperson is typically responsible for managing floor debate when one of the committees' bills is presented. The chairperson assigns members to sub-committees within the committee and determines which witnesses to call during committee hearings.


What is a standing committee?

A standing committee is a permanent House and/or Senate committee that is responsible for a specific area of foreign and domestic policy. Examples of standing committees include Agriculture, Defense, and Budget.


What are select committees?

Select committees are congressional committees established for specified purposes. As an example, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming existed from 2007-2011.


joint committees

Joint committees are composed of members of both the House and the Senate and are convened for a special purpose. 

During the Civil War, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was established to investigate the conduct of several Union generals and was composed of four senators and four representatives.


What role do conference committees play in the lawmaking process?

Since bills passed by the House and Senate may contain varying language and provisions, conference committees are joint committees that resolve differences between bills. After a perfected bill is created, the conference committee returns it to the House and Senate for a final vote.


What function does the House Rules Committee have?

Controlled by the Speaker, the House Rules Committee establishes the rules under which a bill is presented to the House. The Rules Committee can limit the number of amendments from the floor and the time for debate. 

Since the Rules Committee can limit the time for debate, filibusters cannot take place in the House. In the Senate, however, there is no committee on rules or debate time limits. Only in the Senate are filibusters possible.


In the congressional context, what are caucuses?

Caucuses are informal congressional groups formed by legislators who share similar beliefs and goals. There are a wide variety of caucuses, ranging from the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children to the Congressional Black Caucus.


The congressional practice of sending mail without affixing a stamp is known as the _____ _____.

franking privilege

In practice, the franking privilege is not absolute. Congressional members have a limit on the amount of mail they may frank, and the frank is only to be applied to official business.


Members of Congress enjoy what two immunities?

Members of Congress cannot be:

  1. arrested while engaged upon official business
  2. sued for slander for remarks made in a Congress


What role does each branch of Congress play in the impeachment process?

The House of Representatives may vote to impeach the president or other official for committing "bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors."

The Senate determines whether or not to remove a government official by holding an impeachment hearing, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


In the event no presidential candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, what role does the House of Representatives play?

Pursuant to the Constitution, if no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives chooses the new president from among the top three candidates.

The Senate performs the same function, if no candidate receives the majority of the electoral votes for vice president.