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Chapter 12

Chapter 12

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Chapter 12: Congress (pp. 352-389)
The Framers Wanted Congress Center of Policymaking in America (pp. 353-354)1. Although the prominence of Congress has fluctuated over time, in recent years Congress has been thetrue center of power in Washington.2. Congress is not only our central policymaking branch, but is also our principal representative branch;the heart of American Democracy.
3. Congress’ tasks become more difficult each year. The movement of legislation through the
 congressional maze has never been more complicated, and just finding time to debate the issues hasbecome increasingly difficult.4. Some critics charge Congress with being the source of government expansion and too isolated fromordinary citizens.II. The Representatives and Senators (pp. 354-358)A. The Job (pp. 354-355)1. Despite public perceptions to the contrary, hard work is perhaps the most prominent characteristic of 
a member of Congress’ job.
 a) A typical representative is a member of about six committees and subcommittees; a senator is amember of about ten.b) Members are often scheduled to be in two places at the same time.2. Attractions to the Job (2007)a) $174,000 is the yearly salary for the rank-and-file member of Congress; $193,400 forMajority/Minority Leaders and President Pro Tempore of Senate; $223,500 for Speaker of the House.b) Generous retirement benefitsc) Office space in Washington, D.C. and in their constituenciesd) Substantial congressional staff 
(1) Representatives’ staff allowances can be used to hir
e up to 18 permanent and four non-permanent
aides divided between the members’
Washington, D.C. and district offices. Up to $75,000 of a
representative’s
staff funds can be transferred to his or her official expense account for use in othercategories, such as computer and related services. The maximum salary allowed House personal staffersin 2005 was $156,848.
(2) Senators’ personal staff allowances vary with the size of the members’
states. Senators may hire asmany aides as they wish within their allowance; typically this ranges between 26 and 60, depending onthe size of the state and the salary levels offered to the staffers. The maximum salary allowed to Senatepersonal staffers in 2003 was $150,159; for Senate legislative staffers the maximum salary in 2005 was$153,599.e) Travel allowances to see their constituents(1) House: Included in office expenses is a minimum amount of $9,700 (2003), with additional fundingbased on a formula that uses the distance from Washington, DC to the farthest point in theCongressional district from DC.(2) Senate: The official expense allowance is based overall on population and distance, and includestravel.f) Low travel fares, and often free fare to foreign nations on congressional inquiries (also known as
“junkets”).
 (1) The 1989 Ethics in Government Act set restrictions on foreign travel paid by lobbyists and otherspecial interests.(2) Special-interest paid foreign travel is limited to seven (7) consecutive days, excluding the days spenttraveling.
 
(3) Domestic travel funded by special-interest groups is limited to four (4) consecutive days on theHouse side (including travel time), and three (3) consecutive days on the Senate side (excluding traveltime).(4) One relative per trip may accept special interest-paid travel expenses, and the ethics committee maygrant an extension in exceptional circumstances.g) Franking Privilege
 –
allows a member to mail official letters and packages
under the members’
signature without charges for postage.(1) Limited to
correspondence “in which the member deals with the addressee
as a citizen of the United
States or constituent.”
 
(2) Prohibited for mail that is purely personal, mail that is “laudatory and
compli
mentary” to the
member, or mail related to a political campaign.(3) The fiscal year 1991 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act imposed new restrictions on frankingprivileges. The act gave each House member a mail budget and required public disclosure of how mucheach member spends on mailings. The act also
limited a senator’s ability to transfer
funds into their mailaccounts from other accounts.h) Plenty of small privileges, such as free flowers from the National Botanical Gardens, research servicesfrom the Library of Congress, and access to exercise rooms and pools.i) Power! Members of Congress make key decisions about important matters of public policy.3. Despite the salaries, the perks, and the thousands of staff members, Congress is relativelyinexpensive. Per citizen, Americans annually spend about the equivalent of the cost of a hamburger,
fries, and cola on running the nation’s legislature.
 
4. Article 1, Section 6, Clause 1 states that senators and representatives “shall in all Cases, except
Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the
Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same.”
 
5. The Speech and Debate Clause of Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 declares “…for any Speech or Debate
in either House, they shall not
be questioned in any other Place.” The words “any other Place” refers
particularly to the courts. It is intended to protect representatives and senators from suits for libel orslander arising out of their official conduct of legislative debate and committee work.
B. The National Legislature a/k/a
Congress = House of Representatives AND Senate
(pp. 355-358)1. There are 535 members of Congress
 –
100 in the Senate (two from each state) and 435 in the Houseof Representatives (proportionally distributed based on population)
2. Term
 –
Congress lasts for two years and each term is numbered consecutively. For 2011-2012, weare in the 112th Congress.a) Twentieth Amendment (1933) established the start of a new term to be noon of the 3rd day of January of every odd-numbered year.
b) Prior to the 20th Amendment, Congress began its term on March 4th. The four month gap betweenelections in November and the start of new term allowed for delays in communicating election resultsaround the country and travel for new law
makers. By the 1930s, the “delay” was no longer needed.
 
3. Session
 –
That period of time during which, each year, Congress assembles and conducts business.There are two (2) sessions to each term of Congress. 2011 is the first session of the 112th term of Congress.a) Congress adjourns, or suspends until the next session, each regular session as it sees fit.(1) Until World War II, a typical session lasted four or five months; however, today, Congress remainsin session for most of the year.(2) Neither house may adjourn without the consent of the other.(3) Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution does give the President the power to prorogue
 –
end,discontinue
 –
a session, but only when the two houses cannot agree on a date of adjournment. NoPresident has ever had to use that power.
 
b) Both houses recess for several short periods during a session.
c) Only the President may call Congress into special session
 –
a meeting to deal with some emergencysituation.
(1) Only 26 special sessions of Congress have ever been held.(2) President Harry Truman called the most recent one in 1948, to consider anti-inflation and welfaremeasures in the aftermath of World War II.(3) The President can call Congress or either of its houses into a special session.(4) The Senate has been called into special session alone on 46 occasions, to consider treaties orpresidential appointments, but not since 1933.(5) The House has never been called alone.(6) The fact that Congress now meets nearly year-round reduces the likelihood of special sessions.4. Members come mostly from occupations with high status and usually have substantial incomes. Lawand business are the dominant prior occupations, with other elite occupations also well-represented.
5. Although members of Congress obviously cannot claim descriptive representation (representingtheir constituents by mirroring their personal, politically relevant characteristics), they may engage insubstantive representation (representing the interests of groups).6. Congressional Elections
 –
Since 1872 Congress has required that elections be held on the Tuesdayfollowing the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year.
a) Congress has made an exception for Alaska, which may hold its election in October; however, theyhave held their elections in November thus far.b) In case of filling a vacancy, a special election may be called ONLY by the governor of the Stateinvolved (Article I, Section 2, Clause 4).C. The House of Representatives1.
Constitutional Specifications for House Members
a) At least 25 years oldb) An American citizen for seven yearsc) Must be a resident of the state from which they are electedd) Live in the district he/she represents (longstanding custom
 –
not a constitutional requirement).2. Size of the Housea) The exact size of the House of Representatives
 –
435 members
 –
 
is NOT fixed by the Constitution;instead, it is set by Congress.
b) The Constitution provides that the total number of seats in the House of Representatives shall beapportioned (distributed) among the States on the basis of their respective populations.
c) Each State is guaranteed at least ONE seat in the House, no matter what its population.
(1) States with ONE seat: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, andWyoming.(2) District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa each elect a delegate torepresent them in the House and Puerto Rico chooses a resident commissioner. Those officials are not,however, full-fledged members.3. Term of the Housea) Article I, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution establishes a term for the House as two-years.b) This short term means that the House members always have an election just around the cornerrequiring them to be responsive to their constituents back home.c) There is no constitutional limit on the number of terms any member of Congress may serve.
d) All 435 members of the House are up for reelection every even numbered year
4. Reapportionment
 –
redistribution of seats.a) Article I, of the Constitution directs Congress to reapportion
 –
redistribute
 –
the seats in the Houseafter each decennial census.

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