Overview

Relevant Court Cases:

  1. Reynolds v Sims
  2. Wesberry v Sanders
  3. Baker v Carr

Key Terms:

  1. Framers’ intent
  2. bicameralism
  3. Decentralization
  4. Filibuster / Cloture Rule
  5. Reapportionment
  6. Gerrymandering
  7. Redistricting
  8. Divided Government
  9. 17th amendment
  10. Constituency service
  11. Casework
  12. Franking
  13. Pork barrel
  14. Logrolling
  15. Earmarks
  16. Enumerated Powers of Congress
  17. Implied Powers of Congress
  18. Seniority
  19. Specialization
  20. Markup session
  21. Legislative Oversight
  22. Caucus
  23. Germaneness requirement
  24. Sunset laws
  25. Holds
  26. Unanimous consent
  27. Iron Triangle
  28. Trustee
  29. Delegate
  30. Politico
  31. Key Committees:
    1. House
      1. Ways and Means
      2. Rules
      3. Appropriations
    2. Senate
      1. Finance
      2. Judiciary
      3. Foreign Relations
  32. Appropriations
  33. Fiscal Policy
  34. Monetary Policy
  35. 16th amendment
  36. Entitlements
  37. Discretionary spending
  38. OMB
  39. CBO
  40. GAO
  41. Continuing Resolutions
  42. “Power of the purse”
  43. Mandatory spending
  44. Deficit
  45. Debt
  46. Omnibus
  47. Medicaid
  48. Medicare
  49. Recession
  50. Means-testing
  51. Debt ceiling

 

Key Questions:

  1. Does the Congress represent everyday Americans demographically? Explain.
  2. What demographic patterns exist amongst members of Congress? Relate to the population as a whole.
  3. What is the difference in descriptive and substantive representation?
  4. Explain what an incumbent is and why they are more likely to win elections.
  5. What advantages do they have in the election process?
  6. What factors contribute to incumbency defeat?
  7. Explain the impeachment process.
  8. Contrast the House and Senate in terms of: framers intent, powers, rules, traditions, processes, relationship to constituents …
  9. Who has the most power in each chamber? Why?
  10. Explain the importance of the Congress person’s staff? Why is staff needed?
  11. What is the most important function of the committee system?
  12. How are Congressional caucuses an example of modern day factions?
  13. Why is the lawmaking process so lengthy and difficult?
  14. How is the growth of entitlements affecting the national budget?
  15. Most of our economic policy decisions are the responsibility of Congress. How? And Why?
  16. How is the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act an example of legislative oversight?
  17. How does deficit financing hamper the government’s ability to spend money on discretionary programs?
  18. Contrast the powers of Congress in managing economic policy with that of the Federal Reserve.
  19. What was the original intent of the Social Security Act? What is the debate surrounding this policy today?
  20. Explain how the powers of the other branches can be used to limit Congressional power.

Key Concepts:

  1. To reflect shifts in population, seats are reapportioned among the states after every decennial census.  Since the 1960’s, this process has caused a major shift of seats from the Northeast and the Midwest to the Sun Belt states and the South.  Under the Supreme Court’s “one person – one vote” rule, no district can be malapportioned.  To meet this judicially mandated standard, state legislatures must redraw district boundary lines after every census.  The redistricting process inevitably involves maneuvering for partisan advantage.
  2. Because senators and representatives are ultimately responsible for their own electoral survival, they develop their own campaign organizations to run their candidate-centered campaigns.  A prominent pattern in congressional elections: incumbents win.
  3. The functions of Congress within the political system extend beyond law making to include oversight of administration, public education, and representation.  Because their primary concern is reelection, members of Congress concentrate on constituency service in terms of pork barreling and casework.
  4. Committees are major and specialized power centers with Congress that frame legislation for consideration.  Committees have the power to block and delay legislation as well as the power to develop and refine bills.  The committee and subcommittee systems tend to decentralize power within Congress.  Committee chairmen are still chosen primarily on the basis of seniority, but they must now be more responsive to their party colleagues because they are elected to their posts.
  5. Congress is organized on a partisan basis, and party affiliation is a major predictor of how members will vote.  The political parties in Congress exhibit different policy and ideological orientations on roll call votes.  Party leaders in Congress have limited formal powers and must rely heavily on more informal, collegial techniques.
  6. The lengthy, complex legislative process of Congress requires building majorities at each stage.  As a result, proponents of legislation must often bargain and compromise to secure its passage.