Congress – Class Notes and Outline
Read our in-depth essay on the US Congress.
1 .Explain the differences between Congress and Parliament and delineate the role that the Framers expected Congress to play. (answer)
2. Pinpoint the significant eras in the evolution of Congress. (answer)
3. Describe the characteristics of members of Congress and outline the process for electing members of Congress. (answer)
4. Identify the functions that party affiliation plays in the organization of Congress. (answer)
5. Describe the formal process by which a bill becomes a law. (answer)
6. Identify the factors that help to explain why a member of Congress votes as he or she does. (answer)
I. Contrasts between a parliament and a congress
A. Comparison with British Parliament
1. Parliamentary candidates are selected by party
a. Become a candidate by persuading party to place your name on ballot
b. Members of Parliament select prime minister and other leaders
c. Party members vote together on most issues
d. Renomination depends on remaining loyal to party
e. Principal work is debate over national issues
f. Very little actual power, very little pay
2. Congressional candidates run in a primary election, with little party control
a. Vote is for the candidate, not the party
b. Result is a body of independent representatives
c. Members do not choose president
d. Principal work is representation and action
e. Party discipline is limited, not enduring (104th Congress, 1995)
f. Great deal of power, high pay
II. The evolution of Congress
A. Intent of the Framers
1. To oppose concentration of power in a single institution
2. To balance large and small states: bicameralism
3. Expected Congress to be the dominant institution
B General characteristics of subsequent evolution
1. Congress generally dominant over presidency until twentieth century
a. Exceptions: brief periods of presidential activism
2. Major political struggles were within Congress
a. Generally over issues of national significance, e.g., slavery, new states, internal improvements, tariffs, business regulation
b. Overriding political question: distribution of power within Congress
(1) Centralization-if the need is for quick and decisive action
(2) Decentralization-if congressional members and constituency interests are to be dominant
(3) General trend toward decentralization
C. Phase one: The powerful House
1. Congressional leadership supplied by the president in first three administrations
2. Preeminence of House of Representatives; originated legislation and nominated presidential candidates
3. Party caucus shaped policy questions, selected party candidate for the presidency
D. Phase two: A divided House (1820s)
1. Assertiveness of Andrew Jackson who vetoed bills if he opposed policy
2. Caucus system disappears, replaced with national nominating conventions
3. Issue of slavery and Civil War shatter party unity, limiting Speaker’s power
4. Radical Republicans impose harsh measures on post-Civil War South
E. Phase three: Rise of a powerful speaker
1. Thomas B. Reed (R-ME), Speaker, 1889-1899, produced party unity
2. Joseph G. Cannon (R-IL), Speaker, 1899-1910, more conservative than many House Republicans
F. Phase four: The revolt against the speaker
G. Phase five: The empowerment of individual members
1. Defining issue was civil rights during 1960s and 1970s
2. Powerful Southern committee chairs blocked legislation until 1965
3. Members changed rules to limit chairs’ power
a . Committee chairs become elective, not just based on seniority
b. Subcommittees strengthened
c. Chairs could not refuse to convene committee meetings, most meetings were to be public
d. Member staff increased
H. Phase six: The return of leadership
1. Efforts began to restore Speaker’s power because the individualistic system was not efficient
a. Speaker appointed a majority of the Rules Committee members
b. Speaker given multiple referral authority
2. Sweeping changes with 1994 Republican majority
a. Committee chairs hold positions for only 6 years
b. Reduced the number of committees, subcommittees
c. Speaker dominated the selection of committee chairs
d. Speaker set agenda (Contract with America) and sustained high Republican discipline
I. The future?
1. Ongoing tensions between centralization and decentralization
III. The evolution of the Senate
A. Escaped many of the tensions encountered by the House, because:
1. A smaller chamber
2. In 1800s, balanced between slave and free states
B. Popular election of senators in 1913-Seventeenth Amendment
C. Filibuster restricted by Rule 22 (1917)
IV. Who is in Congress?
A. The beliefs and interests of members of Congress can affect policy
B. Sex and race
1. The House has become less male and less white
2. Senate has been slower to change
1 . Membership in Congress became a career: low turnover by 1960s
2. 1992 and 1994 brought many new members due to
a. Redistricting after 1990 census
b. Anti-incumbency attitude of voters
c. Republican victory in 1994
3. Incumbents still with great electoral advantage
a. Most House districts safe, not marginal
1. Democrats were beneficiaries of incumbency, 1933-1992
2. Gap between votes and seats: Republican vote higher than number of seats won
a . One explanation: Democratic legislatures redraw district lines to favor Democratic candidates
b. But research does not support; Republicans run best in high-turnout districts, Democrats in low-turnout ones
c. Gap closed in 1994
d. Another explanation: incumbent advantage increasing
e. But not the reason; Democrats field better candidates whose positions are closer to those of
voters, able to build winning district level coalitions
3. Electoral convulsions alter membership, as in 1994
a. Voters opposed incumbents due to budget deficits, various policies, legislative-executive bickering, scandal
b. Other factors were 1990 redistricting and southern shift to voting Republican (replacing conservative coalition) legislation
V. Getting elected to Congress: each state has two senators, but House representation based on population
A. Determining fair representation
1. Now elected from single-member districts
2. Problem of drawing district boundaries
a. Malapportionment: deliberately creating disparity in number of people in each district
b. Gerrymandering: drawing boundaries to ensure party victory
3. Congress decides size of House
4. Congress reapportions representatives every ten years
5. 1964 Supreme Court decision requires districts to be drawn to ensure “one person, one vote”
6. Majority-minority districts remain vexing question
a. Districts drawn to make it easier to elect minority representatives
b. Shaw v. Reno: Supreme Court states race can be a factor in congressional redistricting only if there is a “compelling state interest”-standard yet to be defined
c. Majority-minority districts raise debate about descriptive versus substantive representation
d. Liberal white Congressmen represent black interests as strongly as black members
B. Winning the primary
1. Candidate needs to win the party primary to appear on the ballot in the general election
2. Reduces influence of political party
3. Incumbents almost always win: sophomore surge due to use of office to run personal campaign
4. Candidates run personalized campaigns–offers them independence from party in Congress
5. Way people get elected has two consequences
a. Legislators closely tied to local concerns
b. Party leaders have little influence
6. Effects how policy is made: office geared to help people, committee pork for district
C. Members must decide how much to be delegates (do what district wants) versus trustees (use independent judgment)
VI. The organization of Congress: parties and caucuses
A. Party organization of the Senate
1. President pro tempore presides; member with most seniority in majority party
2. Leaders are the majority leader and the minority leader–elected by their respective party members
3. Party whips-keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses
4. Each party has a policy committee-schedule Senate business, setting schedule and prioritizing bills
5. Committee assignments
a. Democratic Steering Committee
b. Republican Committee on Committees
c. Emphasizes ideological and regional balance
d. Other factors: popularity, effectiveness on television, favors owed
B. Party structure in the House-House rules give leadership more power
1. Speaker of the House is leader of majority party; presides over House
a . Decides whom to recognize to speak on the floor
b. Rules on germaneness of motions
c. Decides to which committee bills go
d. Influences which bills are brought up for a vote
e. Appoints members of special and select committees
f. Has some patronage power
2. Majority leader (floor leader) and minority leader
3. Party whip organizations
4. Committee assignments and legislative schedule set by each party
a . Democrats-Steering and Policy Committee, chaired by party leadership b. Republicans divide tasks
(1) Committee on Committees for committee assignments
(2) Policy Committee to schedule legislation
5. Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees
C. The strength of party structure
1. Loose measure of strength of party structure is ability of leaders to determine party rules and organization
2. Tested in 104th Congress-Gingrich with party support for reforms and controversial committee assignments
3. Senate different since transformed by changes in norms, not rules
a. Now less party-centered, less leader-oriented, more hospitable to freshmen
D. Party unity
1. Problems in measuring party votes
2. Party voting and cohesion more evident in 1990s
3. Splits often reflect deep ideological differences between parties or party leaders
4. Why is there party voting, given party has so little electoral influence?
a. Ideological differences important
b. Cues given by and taken from fellow party members
c. Rewards from party leaders
E. Caucuses: rivals to parties in policy formulation
1. 1995, public funds denied caucuses-had to raise own money
2. Types of caucuses
a . Intra-party
b. Personal interest
c. National constituency
d. Regional constituency
e. State or district constituency
f. Industry constituency
VII. The organization of Congress: committees
A. Legislative committees-most important organizational feature of Congress
1. Consider bills or legislative proposals
Most bills sent to committees are never heard of again. One estimate calculates that only 6 percent of the bills introduced in Congress are ever reported by a committee for floor action. Committees are the graveyards of legislative proposals.
2. Maintain oversight of executive agencies
3. Conduct investigations
B. Types of committees
1. Standing committees-basically permanent bodies with specified legislative responsibilities
2. Select committees-groups appointed for a limited purpose and limited duration
3. joint committees-those on which both representatives and senators serve
a. Conference committee-a joint committee appointed to resolve differences in Senate and House versions of the same piece of legislation before final passage
C. Committee practices
1. Number of committee has varied; 1995 with significant cuts
2. Majority party has majority of seats on the committees
3. Each member usually serves on two standing committees but …
a. House members serve on one exclusive committee
b. Senators receive two major and one minor committee assignments
4. Chairs are elected, but usually the most senior member of the committee is elected by the majority party-though seniority weakened in 1995
5. Subcommittee bill of rights of 1970s changed several traditions
a. House committee chairs elected by secret ballot in party caucus; Senate also with this possibility
b. Opened more meetings to the public
D. Committee styles
1. Decentralization has increased influence of individual members
a. Less control by chairs
b. More amendments proposed and adopted
c. Democratic leaders began to use restrictive rules, proxy votes
d. These practices provoked 1995 Republican reforms
2. Certain committees tend to attract particular types of legislators
a. Policy-oriented members
b. Constituency-oriented members
VIII. The organization of Congress: staffs and specialized offices
A. Tasks of staff members
1. Constituency service-major task of staff
2. Legislative functions-devising proposals, negotiating agreements, organizing hearings, meeting with lobbyists and administrators
3. Staff members consider themselves advocates of their employers entrepreneurial function
B . Growth and impact of staff
1. Larger staff generates more legislative work
2. Members of Congress can no longer keep up with increased legislative work and so must rely on staff
3. Results in a more individualistic Congress-less collegial, less deliberative
C. Staff agencies-offer specialized information
1. Congressional Research Service (CRS)
2. General Accounting Office (GAO)
3. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), abolished in 1995
4. Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
IX. How a bill becomes law
A. Bills travel through Congress at different speeds
1. Bills to spend money or to tax or regulate businesses move slowly
2. Bills with a clear, appealing idea move fast
3. Complexity of legislative process helps a bill’s opponents
B . Introducing a bill
1 . Introduced by a member of Congress
2. Congress initiates most legislation
3. Presidentially drafted legislation is shaped by Congress
a . Simple-passed by one house affecting that house
b. Concurrent-passed by both houses affecting both
(1) Essentially a law-passed by both houses, signed by president
(2) If used to propose constitutional amendment-two-thirds vote in both houses, president’s signature unnecessary
C. Bill is referred to a committee for consideration by either Speaker or presiding officer
1. Revenue bills must originate in the House
2. Most bills die in committee
3. Multiple referrals limited after 1995
4. Mark-up bills are revised by committees
5. Committee reports a bill out to the House or Senate
a. If bill is not reported out, the House can use the “discharge petition”
b. If bill is not reported out, the Senate can pass a discharge motion
c. These are routinely unsuccessful.
6. Bill must be placed on a calendar, to come before either house.
7. House Rules Committee sets the rules for consideration
a. “Closed rule”: sets time limit on debate and restricts amendments
b. “Open rule”: permits amendments from the floor
c. “Restrictive rule”: permits only some amendments
d. Use of closed and restrictive rules growing
e. Rules can be bypassed in the House-move to suspend rules; discharge petition; calendar Wednesday
8. In Senate, majority leader must negotiate interests of individual senators-unanimous consent agreements
D. Floor debate-the House
1. Committee of the Whole-procedural device for expediting House consideration of bills but cannot pass bills
2. Committee sponsor of bill organizes the discussion
3. House usually passes the sponsoring committee’s version of the bill
E. Floor debate-the Senate
1 . No rule limiting germaneness
2. Committee hearing process can be bypassed by a senator with a rider
3. Debate can be limited only by a cloture vote.
a. Three-fifths of Senate must vote in favor of ending filibuster
4. Both filibusters and cloture votes becoming more common
a. Easier now to stage filibuster
b. Roll calls are replacing long speeches
c. Filibuster can be curtailed by double-tracking: disputed bill is shelved temporarily so Senate can continue other business
F. Methods of voting
1. To investigate voting behavior, one must know how a legislator voted on amendments as well as on the bill itself
2. Procedures for voting in the House
a. Voice vote
b. Division (standing) vote
c. Teller vote
d. Roll-call vote
3. Senate voting is the same except no teller vote
4. Differences in Senate and House versions of a bill
a. If a minor, last house to act merely sends bill to the other house, which accepts the changes
b. If major, a conference committee is appointed
(1) Decisions are by a majority of each delegation; Senate version favored
About 10 to 15 percent of bills end up in a conference committee. Which houses version is most likely to prevail in the dispute? Successive studies by Richard Fenno, Stephen Horn, and David Vogler indicate that the Senate is the most likely victor about 60 percent of the time, the House in only about a third of the cases.
(2) Conference reports back to each house for acceptance or rejection
(3) Report can only be accepted or rejected-not amended
(4) Report accepted, usually
5. Bill, in final form, goes to the president
a. President may sign it
b. If president vetoes it, it returns to house of origin
(1) Either house may override president by vote of two-thirds of those present
(2) If both override, bill becomes law without president’s signature
The president’s veto is typically sustained. Historically, presidents’ vetoes have prevailed 96 percent of the time. A veto threat has teeth.
X. How members of Congress vote
A. Representational view
1. Assumes that members vote to please their constituents, to get reelected
2. Constituents must have a clear opinion of the issue; the vote must attract attention
a. Very strong correlation on civil rights and social welfare bills b. Very weak correlation on foreign policy
3. May be conflict between legislator and constituency on certain measures: gun control, Panama Canal treaty, abortion
4. Constituency influence important in Senate votes; influence in House unknown
5. Members in marginal districts as independent as those in safe districts
6. Weakness of representational explanation: no clear opinion in the constituency on most issues
B. Organizational view
1. Assumes members of Congress vote to please colleagues, to gain status and prestige
2. Organizational cues
c. Party members on sponsoring committees
3. Problem is that party and other organizations do not have clear position on all issues
4. On minor votes, most members influenced by party members on sponsoring committees
C. Attitudinal view
1. Assumes that ideology affects a legislator’s vote
2. House members tend, more than senators, to have opinions similar to those of the average voter
a. 1970s-senators more liberal
b. 1980s-senators more conservative
XI. Reforming Congress
A. Numerous proposals to reform Congress
B . Representative or direct democracy?
1. Framers: representatives refine, not reflect, public opinion
2. Today: representatives should mirror majority public opinion
3. Move toward direct democracy would have consequences
C. Proper guardians of the public zeal?
a. National laws should transcend local interest
b. Legislators should make reasonable compromises on behalf of entire polity’s needs
c. Legislators should not be captured by special interests
2. Problem is that many special-interest groups represent professions and public-interest groups
D. A decisive Congress or a deliberative one?
1. Framers designed Congress to balance competing views and thus act slowly
2. Today, complaints of policy gridlock but if Congress moves too quickly it may not move wisely
E. Imposing term limits
1. Anti-Federalists distrusted strong national government, favored annual elections and term limits
2. Today, 95 percent of House incumbents reelected, but 80 percent of public supports term limits
3. Twenty-two states in 1994 had passed term-limit proposals
4. Effects of term limits vary depending on type of proposal
a. Lifetime limits produce amateur legislators who are less prone to compromise
b. Limiting continuous sequence leads to office-hopping and push for public attention
c. 1995, Congress failed to approve resolutions for a constitutional amendment on term limits
d. Supreme Court ruled states cannot constitutionally impose term limits on Congress
F. Reducing power and perks
1. Legal bribes such as gifts banned in 1995; concerns remain
2. Regulating franking
3. Place Congress under law and not exempt itself from laws
a. Congressional Accountability Act of 1995–Congress obliged itself to obey eleven major employment laws
4. Trim pork to avoid wasteful projects
a. Main cause of deficit is entitlement programs, not pork
b. Some spending in districts is for needed projects; most of this spending already decreased
c. Members supposed to advocate interests of district d. Price of citizen-oriented Congress is pork
5. Cut number of committees and assignments to slow pace and allow reasoned consideration of bills
a. 1995 reforms cut number of committees; Senate still had assignment inflation
6. Downsize staff as well
a. But staff size same as 1980s
b. Cutting staff makes Congress more dependent on executive
XII. Ethics and Congress
A. Separation of powers and corruption
1 . Fragmentation of power increases number of officials with opportunity to sell
a. Example: senatorial courtesy rule offers opportunity for office seeker to influence a senator
2. Forms of influence
b. Exchange of favors
B. Problem of defining unethical conduct
1. Violation of criminal law is obviously unethical
a. Since 1941, nearly fifty members faced criminal charges, most convicted
2. 1978-1992, charges of congressional misconduct against sixty-three members
a. 31 sanctioned, convicted
b. 16 resigned or announced retirement
c. Most infamous: ABSCAM (1980-1981) and Jim Wright (1989)
C. New ethics rules (104th Congress)
1. Honoraria: House bans, Senators may designate charity
2. Campaign funds: ban retaining of surplus
3. Lobbying: former members banned for one year
4. Gifts: $250 House limit, $100 Senate
5. Lobbyist payments banned for travel, legal defense funds, charitable donations
D. Problems with ethics rules
1. Rules assume money is the only source of corruption
2. Neglect political alliances and personal friendships that are part of legislative bargaining
3. The Framers were more concerned to ensure liberty (through checks and balances) than morality
E. Congressional Accountability Act of 1995
XIII. Summary: The old and the new Congress
A. House has evolved through three stages over past half-century
1. Mid-1940s to early 1960s
a. Powerful committee chairs, mostly from the South
b. Long apprenticeships for new members
c. Small congressional staffs so members dealt face-to-face
2. Early 1970s to early 1980s
a . Spurred by civil rights efforts of younger, mostly northern members
b. Growth in size of staffs
c. Committees became more democratic
d. Electronic voting meant members more often on record
e. Focus on reelection–sophomore surge
f. More amendments and filibusters
3. Early 1980s to present
a. Strengthening and centralizing party leadership
b. Became apparent under Jim Wright
c. Return to more accommodating style under Tom Foley
d. Newt Gingrich more assertive
4. Senate meanwhile remained decentralized and individualistic throughout this period
B Reassertion of congressional power in 1970s
1. Reaction to Vietnam, Watergate, and divided government
2. War Powers Act of 1973
3. Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974
4. Legislative veto included in more laws
C. Congressional power never as weak as critics have alleged
attitudinal view of representation – The theory of congressional voting behavior which assumes that members vote on the basis of their own beliefs because the array of conflicting pressures on members cancel out one another.
bicameral legislature – A legislative assembly composed of two separate houses, such as the U.S. Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
caucus (congressional) – An association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology, a constituency, or regional or economic interests. Almost a hundred of these groups now exist, and they rival political parties as a source of policy leadership.
Christmas tree bill – A bill that has lots of riders.
Committee of the Whole – A device used in the House of Representatives to expedite the passage of legislation. The quorum is reduced from 218 members to 100, and the Speaker appoints a member of the majority party as chair. Time allotted for debating the bill in question is split equally between its proponents and opponents. The committee cannot itself pass legislation but may debate and propose amendments.
closed rule – Limitation imposed by the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives on the amount of debate time allotted to a bill and on the introduction of amendments from the floor (or of any amendments other than those from the sponsoring committee).
cloture rule – Rule 22 of the Senate, providing for the end of debate on a bill if three fifths of the members agree. A cloture motion is brought to the floor if sixteen senators sign a petition. The purpose is typically to terminate a filibuster and to force a vote on a bill.
concurrent resolution – A resolution used to settle housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both houses. Such resolutions are not signed by the president and do not have the force of law.
conference committee – A special type of joint committee appointed to resolve differences in House and Senate versions of a piece of legislation.
Congress – A meeting place of representatives of local constituencies who can initiate, modify, approve, or reject laws. It also shares supervision of government agencies with the executive.
Congressional Budget Office – Created in 1974 to advise Congress on the economic effects of spending programs and to provide information on the cost of proposed policies.
Congressional Research Service – Created in 1914 to respond to congressional requests for information. It also keeps track of every major bill and produces summaries of legislation for members of Congress.
conservative coalition – A vote in Congress in which conservative Democrats join with Republicans.
descriptive representation – A term coined by Hannah Pitkin to refer to the statistical correspondence of the demographic characteristics of representatives with those of their constituents.
discharge petition – A procedure for removing legislation from the control of a committee and bringing
it to the floor for immediate consideration. In the House, the petition must contain the names of 218 members to succeed. In the Senate, any member may move to discharge a bill from committee, but the petition requires a majority vote to succeed.
division vote – A method of voting used in both houses in which members stand and are counted.
double-tracking – A method to keep the Senate going during a filibuster, whereby a disputed bill is temporarily shelved so that the Senate can go on with other business.
fast tracking – When the President gets a bill right onto the floor, either bypassing the committee or getting a quick approval without a hearing. He is hoping to avoid getting amendments tacked on to the bill and is moving for a quick passage. Essentially he is trying to sneak one in the back door.
filibuster – A prolonged speech or series of speeches made to delay action on legislation in the Senate. The purpose is to kill the measure by talking it to death.
franking privilege – The ability of members of Congress to mail letters to their constituents free of charge by substituting their facsimile signature (frank) for postage.
General Accounting Office – Created in 1921 to perform routine audits of the money spent by executive departments. It also investigates agencies and makes recommendations on every aspect of government.
gerrymandering – Drawing congressional district lines in a bizarre or unusual shape to make it easy for a candidate of one party to win elections in that district.
honoraria – Speaking fees accepted by members of Congress. In 1991, the House forbade members
to accept honoraria, while the Senate limited such income.
joint committee – Committee on which both representatives and senators serve.
joint resolution – A resolution requiring approval of both houses and the signature of the president and having the same legal status as a law.
majority leader – The legislative leader elected by party members holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives or the Senate.
majority-minority districts – Congressional districts designed to make it easier for minority citizens to elect minority representatives. These districts are drawn so that the majority of their voters are minorities.
malapportionment – The creation of congressional districts in a state which are of unequal size. The
Supreme Court in 1964 eliminated the practice by requiring that all districts in a state contain about the same number of people.
marginal districts – A congressional district in which the winner of the general election gets less than 55 percent of the vote. Such districts could easily switch to the other party in the next election.
mark-up – Revisions and additions to legislation made by committees and subcommittees. These changes are not part of a bill unless approved by the house of which the committee is a part.
minority leader – The head of the minority party in each house of Congress chosen by the caucus of
the minority party. This person formulates the minority party’s strategy and program.
multiple referral – The practice of referring a bill to several committees. Following 1995 reforms, these can only be done sequentially (one committee acting after another’s deliberations have finished) or by assigning distinct portions of the bill to different committees. These reforms applied only to the House; the Senate has had few difficulties with multiple referrals.
open rule – Consent from the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives which permits amendments from the floor on a particular piece of legislation.
organizational view of representation – The theory of congressional voting behavior which assumes that members make voting decisions to please fellow members and obtain their goodwill. Such behavior is possible since constituents seldom know how their representatives vote. Members vote by following cues provided by colleagues.
parliament – An assembly of party representatives which chooses a government and discusses major national issues. Tight party discipline usually regulates the voting behavior of members.
party vote – The extent to which members of a party vote together in the House and Senate. By any measure, the extent of such voting has fluctuated and is lower now than at the turn of the century, although a slow but steady increase has developed since 1972.
pork-barrel legislation – A bill introduced by a member of Congress that gives tangible benefits, like
a highway or bridge, to constituents in the hopes of winning votes in return.
president pro tempore – A position created in the Constitution to serve as presiding officer of the Senate in the absence of the vice president.
private bill – Legislation that pertains to a particular individual, such as a person pressing a financial claim against the government or seeking special permission to become a naturalized citizen.
public bill – Legislation that pertains to affairs generally.
quorum call – A calling of the roll in either house of Congress to see whether the number of representatives in attendance meets the minimum number required to conduct official business.
representational view of representation – The theory of congressional voting behavior that assumes that members make voting decisions based on their perception of constituents’ wishes to ensure their own reelection. A correlation between district attitudes and members’ votes has been found on issues of importance to constituents (e.g., civil rights and social welfare) but not on issues of remote concern to constituents (foreign policy).
restrictive rule – Consent from the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives which permits certain amendments to a piece of legislation but not others.
rider – A nongermane amendment to an important bill. It is added so the measure will “ride” to passage through the Congress. When a bill has lots of riders, it is called a Christmas tree bill.
roll-call vote – A method of voting used in both houses in which members answer yea or nay when their names are called. These votes are recorded and occur in the House at the request of 20 percent of its members.
Rules Committee – In the House of Representatives, the committee that decides which bills come up for a vote, in what order, and under what restrictions on length of debate and on the right to offer amendments. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee, by contrast, possesses few powers.
select committee – Congressional committee appointed for a limited time period and purpose.
senatorial courtesy The tradition observed in the Senate in which that body refuses to confirm an appointment to a federal office when the candidate is personally obnoxious to either senator from the candidate’s state.
Seventeenth Amendment – A constitutional amendment ratified in 1913 requiring the popular election of U.S. senators. Senators were previously chosen by state legislatures.
simple resolution – A resolution passed by either house to establish internal chamber rules. It is not signed by the president and has no legal force.
sophomore surge – An increase in the number of votes candidates receive between the first time elected and their first time reelected.
Speaker of the House – The constitutionally mandated presiding officer of the House of Representatives. The Speaker is chosen in the caucus of the majority party and is empowered to recognize members to speak on the floor, to rule whether a motion is germane, to assign bills to committee, to appoint House members to select and joint committees, and to appoint the majority members of the Rules Committee.
standing committees – The permanent committees of each house with the power to report bills.
substantive representation – A term coined by Hannah Pitkin to refer to the correspondence between representatives’ opinions and those of their constituents.
teller vote – A method of voting used only in the House. Members’ votes are counted by having them pass between two tellers, first the yeas and then the nays. Since 1971, teller votes are recorded at the request of twenty members.
voice vote – A method of voting used in both houses in which members vote by shouting yea or nay. Votes are not recorded.
whip – A member of the party leadership in each house who helps the party leader stay informed about what party members are thinking, rounds up members when important votes are to be taken, and attempts to keep a nose count of how the voting on a controversial issue is likely to go.