Study Questions (with Answers)


1) What functions does Congress perform? Have the functions of Congress changed over time? How?

The Constitutional powers of Congress are to make laws by passing bills, declare war, raise an army and a navy, coin money, regulate commerce, establish federal courts and their jurisdiction, make rules of immigration and naturalization, if necessary impeach the president or other officials, and approve appointments. While those are still the functions, some aspects have changed. For example, changing a court jurisdiction is mainly used today to send a message, and approving the appointments is more of an assertion of power of Congress over the other branches. Also, now with law making, there are many committees and subcommittees that review the bills and an elaborate structure has been formed.

2) What contributes to the incumbency advantage and what are the consequences for the US political process?

The factors that add up to the incumbency advantage:
  • Incumbent already is a household name
  • Incumbent can use government money to finance reelection campaign
  • Incumbent already knows who their supporters/volunteers are
  • People know what incumbent has done; if they did an okay job, why risk swiching...?
Consequences to U.S. political process: it's not democratic for one candidate to have an advantage over the other, as well as not everyone gets an equal chance at a position of power.

3) How is each house of Congress organized, and what influences have led to these kinds of organization? What are the consequences of this organization and what process results from it?The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, with each member representing a congressional district and serving a two-year term. Seats int the House are apportioned among the states on the basis of population. The Senate has 100 members serving six-year terms. Each state has two senators, regardless of population. Every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate is elected. Both the House and the Senate are responsible for different things in Congress. The consequences of this organization are that the two parts are not equal so there may be advantages that one hold over the other.

The senate, because it has a much smaller number of people, is much more personal. Debates are less structured, more discussion is allowed, and generally everyone knows everyone better. In the house, debate time is much more limited per person, and formalities are much more strictly observed in order to maintain a sense of order.

4) What are the differences in the Senate and House norms? Explain these in terms of outcomes.

The senate and the house are represented differently from one another. So in turn, turn out comes harder in the house than in the senate because more members the more people to please or views to incorperate when deciding on something.

5) What kinds of informal and formal linkages are there between the legislator and constituents?

Legislator makes up the laws that go into the constituents. They supervise over the president so he doesn't do anything invalid.


6)Name and discuss the roles of the leaders of both houses of Congress.

In the House of Representatives, a speaker of the house is elected at the beginning of each new congress and is usually a member of the majority party. The speaker of the house is the most important followed by the majority leader. The majority leader has a certain level of control and can help the speaker of the house. There is also a minority leader who speaks on behalf of the minority party. Lastly there are whips who are people who are assigned to take notes, count votes, write summaries, etc.
In the Senate, the Vice President is the most important member but only can vote in the case of a tie. A pro temp. is elected in case the vice president can not be there.

7)How have the House and Senate changed in recent years?

House:
  • Power is now centralized in the speaker's inner circle of advisers.
  • Procedures are becoming more efficient.
  • Turnover is relatively high, although those seeking reelection almost always win.
Senate:
  • Workload is increasing and informality is breaking down; threats of filibusters are more frequent than in past.
  • It is becoming difficult to pass legislation.
  • Turnover is moderate.

8)What roles do political parties play in Congress? Give specific examples.

Political parties effect the way each house is organized.
They also have a big role in the commitee system. Commitees are controlled by the majority party.
Members of congress look to their party leaders for indicators of how to vote.
If members don't vote with the party they risk losing campaign support from the party.

9)Discuss the importance of conference committees.

Conference committees are important because leaders in congress (often) don't always agree on the specifics of legislation. In fear that a bill might not be passed in the other house, the Conference committee would convene and members of both houses would bring the concerns of their respective congressional bodies to the table to discuss and compromise on.

10)What is pork barrel and how does it affect legislation?

Pork barreling is when spending is tacked on to
a bill to help those who may have helped a public official get into office or pass another bill. This practice is seen as corrupt and a misuse of American lawmaking by some. Others believe that it is a good thing because it helps bills get passed and things get done for the people that representatives represent.

11)Discuss the powers of Congress and the differences between the House and Senate.


Senate
-less formal
-unlimited debates
-Filibusters- to block or delay legislation---can be avoided by compromise
-able to add amendments at any time
-6 years in term- gives you time to slow down and get it right
-each person represents a state
-generalist
-more personal- better relationships

House
-more formal
-more organized- (Rules committee- sets rules on bills, sets a time limit, amendments)
-more party influence because it is bigger
-2 year term- more urgent to get things done
-less time to please the constituents
-represents 650, 000 people
-for the most part they vote on party lines
-specialists

Both
-have same number of committees
-party leadership decides who sits in which committees

12)How representative is Congress? Discuss both the theories of representation and the demographic make-up of Congress.

It depends on the senator/representative. A trustee listens to his/her constituents but makes the choice on how to vote based on their own judgment. A delegate votes exactly how his district wishes him to vote. A politico is what most senators are; they will go either way (trustee or delegate) depending on the issue at stake.

13)Discuss congressional committees.

Committee members play a key role in floor debate in the House or Senate. They are especially important to the House due to its size. There are 4 types of congressional committees:
Standing committees: the committee that proposed bills are referred to for consideration
Joint committees: Are set up to expedite business between the houses and help focus attention on larger topics such as the economy or taxation. (Include members from both houses.)
Conference committee: a joint committee that was created to settle differences between the Senate and the House over a specific piece of legislation.
Select or Special committees: a temporary committee that is appointed for a specific purpose. They are generally started to conduct special investigations or studies and are to report back to either the House or the Senate.

14)Discuss the law-making function of Congress, including how a bill becomes a law.

Bills begin when they are proposed by a sponsor or co-sponsors. The bill is then introduced to the house where it is sent to a specific committee. The committee then sends it to a subcommittee where it is scrutinized and perfected. The bill is then sent to then sent to the House and voted on. It is then sent to the senate and when passed goes to the president to be signed or vetoed.

15)Describe the general characteristics of the members of Congress and their average daily activities. What are the attractions and benefits of being a member of Congress?

Members of congress are usually, rich, male, white, and educated. 170 members are millionaires, the majority are male and white, and 2/3 of each houses have advance degrees and only three senators have not gotten a college degree. The average age is 60 and many are lawyers. Many members want to make a difference but once they have retired the benefits are nice too. Once you have retired a memeber can make a lot of money in provate sectors, like lobbying firms. Others want to win respect in the houses and wish to be party or majority leaders. Even minority leaders are wanted.

16)Describe how Congress is demographically atypical of the United States population. Does this present a problem for legitimate democratic government? Why, or why not?

Congress is made up of white, highly-educated, rich males, and this is not the norm for the United States. It can be argued that this proves problematic for a legitimate democratic government if a representative votes the way he was raised. The counter-argument is that if he legitimately listens to his constituents and strictly represents their views, it shouldn't be a problem.

17)Comment on the representativeness of Congress. Are the members of Congress truly representative of the American people and the overall needs of the nation? What effect do PACs and interest groups have on the representativeness of Congress?


Congressional representative are elected into office by the people. They also follow a delegate model for making decisions in office, when they follow the opinions of their districts. However, they also frequently use the trustee model, when they factor in what they want out of legislation when voting. They also are frequently swayed by the majority party and leaders in Congress so they sometimes go against their beliefs in order to secure themselves amongst fellow reps. One major issue dealing with Representatives in Congress is their drive to get reelected. For the most part they will vote for what will keep them in office, thus they are easily influenced by PAC’s and interest groups, which supply them funds, and the views of their districts, even if it isn’t for the best of the country.


18)Describe the advantages of incumbents in congressional elections. What reforms has been suggested to limit the effects of incumbency? Would you support such reform?
Members of Congress are reelected because their constituents have not been provided with a compelling reason to vote for someone else. Also, incumbents are able to raise more money from trusted constituents if they have been doing a good job. By being in office for 2+ years, constituents know the name of the incumbent, and have much more incentive to vote for that person. Some reforms that have been suggested: term limits; others include matching funds for political candidates, mandated air time for television advertisements, and reforms to campaign finance laws, which are intended to make incumbency less advantageous. It seems more fair to have this kind of reform, but it also appears very unconstitutional to limit one person in such a way.

19)Explain and evaluate the role of money in congressional elections. Give examples to illustrate your===
In the world of politics, money = power. Many times, Congressional candidates drop out of the race solely because they don't have enough money to keep up with expensive campaign costs. Also, many candidates are considered for possibly entering a race (e.g Mayor Bloomburg for the Presidential Election) only because they have a ton of money.

20)Describe the structure of power and decision making in the Congress and evaluate the impact of that structure on policymaking.

Congress has the power to make bills into laws, declare war, and control the armed forces. They are the firm metalworkers who put proposals into action. Because all proposals need to be passed through Congress before they are turned into laws, Congress is a main factor in the policy making process. Also, they are given the power to enforce the policies that they have passed. Congress is the creator and the support of laws.

21)Describe the powers of the Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders, and the whips. What limits are there to their leadership powers in their respective parties?

The Speaker of the House: presides over the House, is second in line to the President, is the spokesperson of the house, and basically smoothes out legislation
Majority Leader: second most important in House, helps organize the Speaker, helps to get legislation on the floor
Minority Leader: used to have power but lost most of it after the 108th congress limited its power
Whips: in both Democrats and Republican parties, whips are elected by caucuses and help aid the majority leader, minority leader, and speaker. Whips try to keep leader and party members in line.

22)List and briefly describe the different types of committees in Congress. What role do the committees play in the Congressional process?

There are four types of committees in Congress. They are:
-Standing Committees- The committees to which bills are referred for consideration.
-Joint Committees- Committees set up to expedite business between the houses and to help focus the publics attention on major matters (including taxation, scandals, and the economy). These committees include members from both houses of Congress who conduct investigations.
-Conference Committees- special joint committees that reconcile differences in bills passed by the House and the Senate. Conference committees are made up of the members of the House and the Senate committees that originally considered the bill.
-Select/Special Committees- temporary committees appointed for specific purposes. They are generally established to conduct special investigations or studies and to report back to the chamber that established them.
These committees have about 86 subcommittees and act as the eyes, ears, and hands of the House. Some committees even posses the power to kill bills, amend bills radically, or hurry them through the process.

23)Explain how the system of committees and subcommittees works in Congress. Give examples to illustrate your answer.


24)What is a congressional caucus? What role do they play, and how much influence do they have? Give examples to illustrate your answer.===
A congressional caucus is a group of members of Congress who join together for a common purpose, to reach a common legislative goal. They can have significant influence depending upon their success. A few examples include the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus which works to promote ideas for the advancement of the Hispanic society as well as the Congressional Internet Caucus which promotes advancement in the internet industry.

25)Compare and contrast the different types of staff that work to support Congress. How large are these staffs? What services do they provide?

Each member of Congress has staff to assist him/her during a term in office. There are three types of staff positions in Congress: personal staff, committee staff and staff offices

Personal Staff - Representatives and senators have their own personal staffs. These usually consist of administrative assistants (AAs), legislative assistants (LAs), and field staff. These staff members help expedite a congressperson's extremely heavy workload.
Field Staff- Field staff members work in a representative's home district offices or in a senator's home state offices. They work on constituent services.
Committee Staff- The second type of congressional staff positions are associated with particular congressional committees and subcommittees. Committee staff usually work for the committee chairperson.
Staff Offices -The third type of congressional staff position consists of the three congressional offices which have been set up in our national legislature: the General Accounting Offices, the Congressional Research Service, and the Congressional Budget Office.

The staff people serving congressional committees and subcommittees, as well as in the congressional administrative offices, often serve in their positions far longer than do representatives or even senators. These congressional staff people, therefore, often have far more knowledge and connections both inside and outside of government than do many elected representatives and senators. Thus, although these staff people are appointed rather than elected, they usually have far more power than the general public ordinarily realizes.

26)Explain the legislative process and the relative importance of key individuals and groups in that process. What happens to most bills? Describe the procedure by which a bill becomes law.

How a bill becomes a law:

Any member introduces the bill and it is labeled with his name. The bill is then referred to an appropriate committee and can be assigned to a subcommitttee. Then the bill is marked up and sent to the rules committee. Then the bill is voted on and is sent to the president to be passed or vetoed.

27)How can the President influence congressional action? Do you think the President is too powerful or not powerful enough in dealing with Congress? Explain.

The president can influence congress by vetoing or threatening to veto. The president may also propose legislation. The president is not too powerful, I believe what is in place now is as close to an equal balance of power between legislative and executive as can ever be reached. Neither branch can single-handedly pass legislation without some involvement of the other branch.

28)Identify the sources of influence on members of Congress and evaluate their impact on policymaking.

Lobbyists, population of representation, the internet, and party/majority leaders. Lobbyists bring new ideas in and try get the Congressman to get behind their issue(s). The demographics of the area represented sway the decision. The internt has allowed each congressman to become more personalized messages to the public. The view of your party of is greatly influenced on a higher status offical than a lower one.

29)How important is party membership to a senator or member of the House in casting a vote? Are votes on some issues more or less likely to follow party lines? What other factors influence how an individual legislator casts a vote? Party loyalty is usually a large factor in a member of congress's vote. Although the member may sometimes disagree with the party, it is necessary for them to vote along with the party as to not be punished by not being put on a committee that he/she may want. Also the member does not want to upset other party/committee members. Sometimes if a vote hits home on a particular for a certain state, the member may go against the party with his state's best interest in mind. If a member is elected by a citizens of one party, the citizens will not want to see him vote other than their views, considering he/she was elected to represent them. If the member does decide to vote against the party of the majority of people, he/she may not be re-elected.


30)Explain how members of Congress reconcile the conflicting jobs of representing constituents and making effective public policy. In your answer, be sure to discuss the committee system, congressional elections, and the role of political parties and interest groups in Congress.


31)Describe the conflicting concepts of members of Congress serving as trustees versus as instructed delegates. Which role does a legislator most frequently play? Which concept most appeals to you? Explain.

As an elected member of Congress a Senator or Representative have a duty to represent their constituents. They do this through two different methods, the trustee and delegate method. The trustee method is that a Congressman will listen to the views of his voters and then vote as he thinks best. In the delegate method a Congressman votes as his voters wish. I think the delegate method is more democratic because it is closer to the actual views of the people.

32)Evaluate Congress as a democratic institution. What reforms democratized Congress? Evaluate whether there is a trade off between representativeness and effectiveness.

Congress is a vital institution in practising democracy because it is the place where elected representatives work, collaborate and make decisions which will better serve their constituents.
One reform that democratized the Congress was increasing responsiveness by imposing term limits on the Speaker and committee chairmen and providing for consideration of a measure to apply federal laws to Congress as the first legislative vote in the 104th Congress. Another was to Promote accountability by requiring that committee meetings be open to the public and to the broadcast media, requiring roll call votes on major legislation, prohibiting changes in debate transcripts, and conducting a comprehensive audit of House finances.
Yes there is a trade off. House members may be serving the interest of his/her own people, but by doing this, they often ignore national interests. So representating a certain community can sometimes reduce the overall or global effectiveness of congress.

33)The authors note that "some argue that Congress is too responsive to constituents, and, especially, to organized interests....(while others) argue that Congress is too insulated from ordinary citizens. Evaluate the evidence for each view from throughout the chapter.

Congress is most likely citizen's voice. It is impossible to not be influenced by citizens because it is directly elected by citizens. Even though it is influenced by people, there is a president who chooses final choice. So, I don't think people are too influenced with that.

34)Discuss aspects of congressional membership, elections, organization and decision making that might lead the public to be critical of Congress as an institution. To what extent is such criticism well-founded?

The congress can be easily criticized for using ear marking, it basically means that before legislation is passed they slip in a law or bill that will generally help the people in their district. The only reason this is passed is because it has a log rolling effect, "I'll Scratch your back, if you scratch mine." So in a sense they will pass the bill even with that ear mark but only if they promise to do that for them the next time. This can be highly criticized because it wastes tax payers money and helping a orange farmer is CA will not help us here that much...so why do we have to pay for it. But on the other end it is good because it shows that people back home that they are getting something for their money.

35)What is the relationship between Congress and the president? Be sure to discuss the balance of power and oversight.

Congress is able to formally write out bills. The president votes on them. He has the option to veto the law. Congress is then able to over throw the veto and make the bill into a law if they believe the president is wrong. As for war the president had the power to wage war and negotiate treaties while Congress has the power to declare war and Senate ratifies treaties. Congress also has the power to impeach the president.

36)How has the balance of power shifted between the president and Congress?

After the assassination of president Lincoln, the Congress tried to assume many executive powers, but were denied by the new president in office, Andrew Johnson, who they tried to impeach, but fell short by one vote. Other presidents in the 20th century, especially Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Lyndon B. Johnson, acted in a similar manner as the post-Civil War Congress, in taking over legislative powers. Now the Congress seems to find itself responding to many proposals of the executive branch, but still holds the main authority because it has increased oversight, since the 1970s and 80s, and ultimately has the power to impeach the president.

37)Discuss the War Powers Act. When and why was it created?The war powers act of 1973 is also called the war powers resolution. It allows the President to exercise his commander in chief power for 60 days without Congress' formal declaration of war. Another 30 days can also be alloted to allow removal of troops. This Act was passed in light of unofficial conflict without regard to congressional authority in the Korean and Vietnam Wars under President Nixon. One example of this Act in effect was its invocation in the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution, which provided the Marines authority to stay in Lebanon for 18 months.

38)Discuss the efforts of some members of Congress to remove the Supreme Court from issuing opinions on social issues.

The US Congress passed its own version outlawing partial birth abortion even though the Supreme Court had declared that it was unconstitutional for Nebraska to to outlaw partial birth abortion. Some Congressmen tried to pass a bill that wouldn't allow federal courts from hearing challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Pledge of Allegiance, or other social issues.

39)Discuss the merits of a representative acting as "trustee" or "delegate."

Trustee: A trustee must listen to the opinions of his/ her constituents but also is expected to use their best judgment to make the final say. In this case, a trustee could make an independent decision even if it means going against the short-term concerns of his/her own constituencies.

So a congressman following the trustee model may make a decision that does not exactly reflect what the people of his district think, but a decision will be made that is in the best interest of the congressman, and hopefully, his district as well.

Delegate: A delegate’s role is to reflect what their district or state represents – without bringing their opinion into the decision.

So no matter what the people of his district want, a congressman following the delegate model will do anything in his power to get the people what they want. This method is helping when reelection season comes around and the congressman can say "I did exactly what you wanted."


40)What is the role of the political party in Congress? Why are House and Senate members increasingly voting with the party?

In congress, the role of a political party is to unite and support laws/bills that the party's national platform adheres to. A member of congress will vote for issues that then party supports (ex. Republican supporting gun rights or a democrat supporting stem cell research). Party members who continually vote for part issues gain respect and build an imaginary account that will help them pass their bills or get support from other party members in the future rewarding them for party support.

41)Does the fact that most Senators and Representatives come from middle- and upper-middle-class backgrounds and are middle-aged, white males make a difference?

Yes it does because it doesn't represent all citizens. They are not always able to see the lower classes needs or minority needs/ wants. They are not well rounded. Although if they follow the delegate form they will listen to their constituents and it wont matter that they are from a particular majority because they will vote for what their people want.

42)How does the executive branch influence the legislative process of Congress? Evaluate several recent successes and failures.

The Executive branch has a lot of influence in the legislative process because they hold the one power that Congress fears which is Veto. Yes Congress can override a veto but it takes 2/3 of Congress to do so which is very difficult to do especially when part of the Congress usually supports their presidents decision. Because of these Congress would rather reconcile with the president to avoid the veto. So what frequently happens is that the president will meet with members of Congress to resolve an issue usually involving a bill.

43)Why do members of Congress generally vote with their own party?

Members of congress generally vote their own party because they often in some ways forced by their majority/minority party leader. If they for instance decide not to vote with their own party they could lose funding and help from their own party members when reelection time comes and this could in turn hurt them later on. Although members of Congress have loyalties to their area and generally vote based on how their district or state want them too, they also have an obligation to vote with their party.

44)Discuss the intent of the Framers at the Philadelphia Convention.(1787)

The convention addressed the problems and many questions in the US following their independence from Great Britain. These problems involved slavery and state powers between the smaller and larger states. Many plans were also put forth; VA plan, NJ plan, Hamilton's plan, and the Connecticut compromise.

45)Briefly explain redistricting and reapportionment.

Reapportionment is changing the number of seats allotted to each state after the decennial census. Redistricting is the redrawing of congressional districts to reflect the reapportionment and population shifts within a state. Redistricting can be used to favor certain parties; for example, districts can be drawn to include areas with larger numbers of Democrats or Republicans, as long as the population numbers remain consistent.

46)Why do we have a bicameral legislature?

A bicameral legislature helps balance representation in this country largely because we have states that vary in size and population. In one house, the Senate, each state is represented by two senators. If there was a Senate alone then the United States wouldn't be represented fairly or properly. In the other house, the House of Representatives, each state sends a number of representatives based on that state's population. The House of Representatives is meant to allow the states to be represented fairly by means of number of votes it has and people in congress representing it. Also, in many cases, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to come together to make decisions.

47)What is incumbency advantage, and how does it work?

Incumbency Advantage is the advantage current congress members get from already being part of Congress if they choose to run for re-election. The House has a 95% incumbency rate, meaning 95% of the memeber of the House will win their district if they choose to run for re-election. This discourages from opposition when the incumbent decides to run. The Senate has about a 60% incumbency rate.

48 )Name and discuss three powers of Congress.

Congress is given the authority to make laws; both houses share this power. No bill can become a law without the consent of both houses. Also, Congress can declare war and provide for militia. However, the do reserve the right to appoint militia officers and to train the militia under congressional rules to the state. Also, Congress must approve all treaties. Under the 16th ammendment, they have the power to collect income taxes, among other types of taxes.