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Module 3 Notes (Legislative Branch)

by: Savannah Tucker

Module 3 Notes (Legislative Branch) PS 101

Marketplace > University of Kentucky > Political Science > PS 101 > Module 3 Notes Legislative Branch
Savannah Tucker
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About this Document

These notes cover Module 3 of PS101 (The Legislative Branch), they include vocabulary with identification question samples as well as the articles.
American Government
Stephen Voss
Class Notes
PS101, Voss, political science, American Government




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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Savannah Tucker on Friday January 29, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PS 101 at University of Kentucky taught by Stephen Voss in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see American Government in Political Science at University of Kentucky.


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Date Created: 01/29/16
Monday, February 1, 2016 The Legislative Branch Module 3 3.0 Introduction to Module 3 - The Legislative Branch 3 Branches of Government Legislative Branch - The Congress, the “first branch”, divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. The primary lawmaking institution in the U.S. The Executive Branch - Lead by The President, includes his aids and the much broader federal bureaucracy. Federal bureaucracies carry out the execution of the laws that the legislative branch passes. The Judicial Branch - Lead by the Supreme Court, includes lower courts as well. Establishes the Constitutionality of the laws passed by Congress when they are challenged, responsible for interpreting the law. Each branch has different governmental functions (Separation of Powers). A system of Checks and Balances allows each branch to refuse abuse from the other branches. Ex. The Presidential Veto, Impeachment, seeking advise and consent for Presidentially elected officers. The U.S. is often described as Separate Institutions Sharing Power rather than Separation of Powers. Anti-Federalists - wanted sharper separation of powers to prevent a tyrannical branch, advocating for a stronger Legislative branch that was closer to the people. Framers - worried that the legislative branch would be too close to the people and law making would be swayed by political spasms and impulse (not a popular opinion today). 3.1 Institutional Structure Congress is divided into two chambers (the House and the Senate), making it bicameral. 1 Monday, February 1, 2016 The Senate, the upper chamber, treats every state equally, allowing 2 seats to each state (parallels the British system) 6 year terms, staggered elections. Expected to represent the entire state. Originally chosen by the state legislature, but now the 17th Amendment instituted direct election of senators by the constituents they represent. The senate, with their equal representation protects the rights of smaller states. Senate attracts wealthier and better educated people than the House does. They must represent a much larger and more diverse group of people. The House of Representatives Every state must have at least one seat. The seats in the house are divided according to the results of the ten year Census. Larger states are able to block legislature more easily. The states are divided into congressional districts and each district elects their representative. It is known for being closer to the people. Redistricting can be used to the advantage or the disadvantages of the representatives. 3.2 Historical Background on the Congress Many government systems throughout history have had some kind of “congress” or legislative bodies, even in totalitarian dictatorships. In the Middle Ages monarchs often had advisory councils because they needed advice from a group of leaders or they needed broad support for something. They often didn’t even assemble them though. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 cemented the idea that the British had the right to legislative representation. The crown was passed to William of Orange and his wife, Mary, who did not have absolute power and had to abide by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Their previous king, James II, had taken action without the approval of parliament and oppressing those who did not agree with him. British Government was based off of class systems, so not every vote was really equal. Some groups of people such as farmers and townspeople received virtual representation. The American colonies received no representation and protested “taxation without representation”. The war for independence was based off of this idea. 2 Monday, February 1, 2016 After the war was won the Americans devised a legislative branch that could respond directly to the needs of the people. They would hold frequent elections. They wanted it to have a lot of power as well but not so much as it did as the only branch in the Articles of Confederation. A system of checks and balances would keep it in check. 3.3 The Internal Division of Labor There has always been a split in congress between liberals and conservatives. Many political scientists consider legislative outcomes from a perspective known at median- voter theory (the idea that an outcome is decided by the middle of the road legislators. The outcome of a bill, if the views of the House and the Senate are not identical, will be some kind of compromise. The Senate can stop debate of a bill and it can be thrown out if a filibuster occurs. In the House it is still difficult to get a bill passed because there are so many members (435) from a wide variety of districts. It is very easy for things to go awry, so in order to a actually get things done they developed an internal division of labor. 1. Congressional Committee System 2. The political Party Caucuses and Leadership 3.3.1 The Committee System Pieces of legislation are not considered by every member of congress, instead they are delegated to different congressional committees and then congressional subcommittees (not many make it back from these committees). Most are standing committees. Chambers also form temporary select committees. Somethings joint committees are set up between both chambers, often ending in a conference committee. The parties select their committee members, usually with congressmen with more seniority sitting in the more desirable committees. The rest are usually put into committees that are dealing with issues that are specific to their districts, causing selection bias. If a committee passes a bill that the entire House doesn't support the House majority can sign a discharge petition, calling the bill up for consideration. The House minority 3 Monday, February 1, 2016 can amend a bill that it doesn't like. Neither of these ensure that the majority is represented. Many bills die in committee because the congress does not have time to assess a bill in its entirety on the floor. The House’s Rules Committee can impose restrictions on time that a chamber takes to consider a bill, making it widely considered the most powerful committee. Some members of congress decide to defer to other congressmen in areas of their specialization in exchange for similar difference to their own decisions. (Give a little, get a little; You agree with me now, I’ll agree with you later). The committee system often feeds the idea that very little gets done in congress because it promotes counter-majoritarian outcomes. 3.3.2 Party in the Legislature Though political parties are not in the Constitution, they influence the allegiance of congress members. Liberals identify with the Democratic party and Conservatives identify with the Republican party, independents identify with whichever party whose ideology matched up with their own. When a party controls a chamber, they “caucus” together to select who will lead the body, but they do this before they even know who will being the ruling body. Sometimes one seat really can make a big different when one of the chambers if one party is close to having a supermajority. There have been two recent cases where one seat has made the difference. 1. Republican Scott Brown was elected in a special election of a seat previously held by liberal Ted Kennedy. Before the election the Democrats had a party-line vote, but after they lost their filibuster-proof majority. 2. In 2000, The Senate had equal representation of each party, when this happens the tie is broken by the Vice President who serves as President of the Senate. Knowing that many moderate Republicans disagreed with many of the Bush administration’s policies, the Democrats looked to flip a Republican so that they could take control of the Senate, which they did until 2002. The dominant majority in the House is frustrating because being the Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful legislative positions. The Senate is a lot more moderate because of their large constituencies, so it is often a lot less cut throat. 4 Monday, February 1, 2016 3.4 A focus on Gridlock and Polarization The main cause of gridlock is ideological polarization, meaning that we have two very extreme parties with a small amount of moderates. These two very different ideals make it extremely difficult for congress to come to any compromise. This did not happen all at once rather following historical developments. Congressional Districts from which the House is elected have very little diversity compared to an entire state, making them more likely to support representatives with more extreme ideals. 1950s - 1980s - Southern white voters became Republicans and Southern black voters became Democrats. Vocabulary Separation of Powers - an act of vesting the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government in separate bodies. Relevance - This description of how the branches of government operate is a simplified version of the truth. Many political scientists refer to it as Separate Institutions Sharing Power. Veto - a constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a law-making body. Relevance - The President reserves the right to veto any law passed by Congress as a check on the legislative branch. In return it can be overruled with enough support from Congress. Advise and Consent - Phrase found in Article II, Section 2, Clause. of the United States Constitution describing the Senate's role in confirming presidential appointments and ratifying treaties. Relevance - Advise and Consent is a legislative check on the executive branch. All presidential appointees and treaties must be approved by congress. Impeachment - the presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house, trial to be before the upper house. Relevance - Impeachment is a legislative check on the the other two branches in which the official is accused by the House and tried by the Senate. Separate Institutions Sharing Power - A more popular description of the American Government Branches among Political Scientists meaning that rather than the system 5 Monday, February 1, 2016 having separate powers altogether, they share the same powers with checks and balances on the other branches allowing them to work together without one branch taking over the other two. Direct election - representatives are elected by the people and not by another group of legislatures. Relevance - Originally, members of the Senate were elected by the House of Representatives, but it undermined the authority that the Senate was suppose to have so the 17th Amendment was put in place stating that direct election would be used instead. Constituents - the group of people a representative represents. Relevance - The group that elects a representative can vary. It is extremely important, the groups of constituents for the House is much smaller than that of members of the Senate, making the representatives much closer to the people. This is what makes it so much harder to be elected to the Senate. Congressional Districts - electoral constituency that elects a single member of a congress. Relevance - Congressional districts of each state elect members of the House of Representatives. They can be used to the advantage or disadvantage of the representatives. They are redrawn after every 10 year Census. Glorious Revolution of 1688 - the passing of the crown to William of Orange and his wife Mary, who took the thrown under constitutional limits and adopted the English Bill of rights and a constitutional monarchy in Britain. Relevance - Under James II, who was an absolute monarch, the British people were oppressed and not given the rights they felt they deserved, they were not represented in Parliament and James acted without Parliament approval anyway. The Glorious Revolution cemented the idea that the British citizens had the right to legislative representation. Absolute Monarch - form of government where the ruling monarch has complete rule over his or her people. Relevance - Under this form of government they people did not have the right to any kind of legislative representation, leaving all of the power to the monarch. 6 Monday, February 1, 2016 Constitutional Monarch - form of government requiring the monarch to act only with the approval of an elected Parliament who has the power to pass laws, not the monarch. Relevance - this type of government gives the power back to the people, allowing them to be represented properly even under a monarchy. English Bill of Rights of 1689 - an act that the Parliament of England passed on December 16, 1689. The Bill creates separation of powers, limits the powers of the king and queen, enhances the democratic election and bolsters freedom of speech. Relevance - the English Bill of Rights defines the rights of the British people. Virtual Representation - a type of representation where the people for whom decisions are being made for are not actually represented, but they are “being considered”. Relevance - this is seen when the American colonies asked for representation in Parliament and also seen in Britain with the virtual representation of the lower classed. Bill - a piece of proposed legislation Median-Voter Theory - the idea that despite all the other complexities that influence the legislative process, as the ideology of the middle of the road legislator moves more liberal or more conservative, that will shape policy outcomes. Filibuster - an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures. Relevance - A filibuster can keep a bill from being passed. The group opposing the bill speaks for so long about the bill that it is eventually thrown out because it is backing other business. Cloture - a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote. Relevance - A cloture vote must have the support of 3/5 of the senate so it can foil the majority vote by simply not giving them enough voters pass it. Division of Labor - the assignment of different parts of a manufacturing process or task to different people in order to improve efficiency. Relevance - We have the Congressional Committee System and the Political Party Caucuses and Leadership to divide the labor inside of Congress. Standing Committees - committees that exist by virtue of chamber rules but whose membership changes over time. 7 Monday, February 1, 2016 Select Committees - temporary committees formed to focus on issues of current importance. Joint Committees - committees joining members from both chambers. Conference Committees - formed after the House and the Senate pass differing versions of the same bill; meeting to reconcile the two versions into a single piece of legislation that both chambers can reconsider. Seniority - the fact or state of being older or higher in position or status than someone else. Relevance - Congressmen with seniority often sit in committees that are more desirable. Discharge Petition - means of bringing a bill out of committee and to the floor for consideration without a report from the committee and usually without cooperation of the leadership by "discharging" the committee from further consideration of a bill or resolution. Rules Committee - a legislative committee responsible for expediting the passage of bills. Relevance - this committee can push bills through and set time restrictions on how long they can be debated. Counter-majoritarian - When a bill is passed despite the pure wishes of the majority. Relevance - this contributes to the idea that congress accomplishes very little. Speaker of the House - (House of Representatives) leads the chamber, elected by the majority party backed by the Majority Leader and Majority Whip Minority Leader - (House of Representatives) leads minority party, backed by the minority whip. President of the Senate - the Vice President, breaks ties. President Pro Tempore - held by the most senior member of the Senate Majority Leader - who really runs the majority of the party Minority Leader - powerful due to the significance of the filibuster (except if the majority were to hold over 61 seats). Articles 8 Monday, February 1, 2016 Can you name a government branch? by Kendall Breitman One in three Americans cannot name a branch of the government. The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that showed that only 35% of those polled could name one branch of the government. 36% could name all three. 27% could identify that it took 2/3 of the Senate to overrule a veto. 21% did not know that a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court means that the decision moves to congressional consideration. 38% knew the Republican party was the House Majority (17% said Democratic, and 44% did not know) 38% identified the Democratic Party as the Senate Majority (20% said Republican, 42% did not know). House Republicans Choose Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Majority Leader by Kristina Peterson McCarthy to Take Over From Eric Canter on July 31; Rep. Steve Scalise to Fill Whip Post. Candidates for House GOP Whip Begin Rounding Up Votes by Hughes and Crittenden How Scales and Roskan Battles for GOP Whip Post by Siobhan Hughes 9


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