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Chapter 6

How Congress is Organized

Terms of Congress
The Framers of the Constitution intended the legislative branch to be the most powerful. Each term starts January 3 of odd-numbered years and last two years. Each term has two sessions. Census- population count taken by the Census Bureau The House of Representatives has 435 voting members.

Terms of Congress
Constituents- people represented Gerrymander- oddly shaped district designed to increase the voting strength of a particular group. The Senate has 100 members-two from each state. Senators serve six year terms Speaker of the House- the most powerful leader in the House of Representatives. If something happens to the President and the Vice President, the Speaker becomes President.

Congressional Leaders
Majority Party- political party to which more than half the members are in both houses Minority Party- political party that has less than half the members in both houses Standing Committees- committees that work from session to session dealing with specialized issues. Select Committees- created to do a special job for a limited period.

Congressional Leaders
Joint Committees- include members of both houses Members of Congress try to get assigned to important committees that affect the people who elected them. Seniority- years of service Members with the most seniority usually get the preferred committee spots. Chairpersons of the standing committees are the most powerful members of Congress.

Legislative Powers
Expressed Powers- Congresss specific powers Implied Powers- powers not stated specifically that allow Congress to do what is necessary and proper All tax bills must start in the House of Representatives and be approved by the Senate. Authorization Bills- creates projects and sets an amount to be spent on them Appropriations Bills- provides the money for each program. Congress must approve all spending.

Nonlegislative Powers
Congress has the powers not related to making laws. It proposed amendments, counts electoral votes, and decides what to do if a President cannot perform his/her duties. Impeach- accuse officials of misconduct A two-thirds vote in the Senate is required to remove the person from office.

Limits on Power
Congress may not pass laws that violate the Bill of Rights Writ of habeas corpus- a court order that requires police to explain why they are holding a suspect. Bills of attainder- laws that punish a person without a jury trial Ex post facto laws- make an act a crime after the act has been committed

Requirements and Benefits of Congress

Both Senators and members of the House must live in the state they represent. Senators must be at least 30 years old and have been citizens of that state for at least nine years. House members must be at least 25 years old and a citizen of that state for at least 7 years. Members receive a salary of $150,000, free office space, and trips to their home states.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Private Bills- concern individual people or places Public Bills- apply to the entire nation and involve general matters like taxation, civil rights, and terrorism. Joint Resolutions- passed by both houses of Congress and do become law if signed by the President.

From Bill to Law

Special-interest groups- organizations of people with some common interest who try to influence government decisions. Only senators and representatives may introduce bills in Congress. Every bill is given a title and number, and is then sent to an appropriate standing committee. The committee chairperson decides which bill gets ignored and which get studied.

From Bill to Law

Standing committees can 1) pass the bill without change, 2) mark changes and suggest that the bill be passed, 3) replace the bill with an alternative, 4) pigeonhole the bill (ignore it and let it die), or 5) kill the bill by majority vote. Bills approved in committee are put on the schedules to be considered by the full House or Senate.

From Bill to Law

Riders- completely unrelated amendments Filibuster- talk a bill to death Voice Vote- those in favor say Yea and those against say No. Standing Vote- those in favor stand to be counted, then those against stand. Roll-Call Vote- Senators voice their votes as officials record them.

From Bill to Law

A simple majority of members must pass a bill Both houses must pass an identical bill. If either changes the bill it receives from the other house, a conference committee is formed to work out the differences. Veto- refuse to sign a bill Pocket Veto- Presidents power to kill a bill, if Congress is not in session, by not signing it for 10 days.