The central purpose of this chapter is to describe the Framers’ understanding of the role of Congress and to describe the roles and organization of Congress today. You should pay particular attention to the effects of organizational characteristics on the behavior of members of Congress and on the way that the House and the Senate perform their functions. After reading and reviewing the material in this chapter, you should be able to do each of the following:
10. Explain the differences between Congress and Parliament.
20. Describe the role that the Framers expected Congress to play.
30. Pinpoint the significant eras in the evolution of Congress.
40. Describe the characteristics of members of Congress.
50. Outline the process for electing members of Congress.
60. Identify the functions of party affiliation in the organization of Congress.
70. Explain the effect of committee reform on the organization of Congress.
80. Describe the formal process by which a bill becomes a law.
90. Identify the factors that help to explain why a member of Congress votes as he/she does.
100. Explain the ethical problems confronting Congress.
I0. Uniqueness of the U.S. Congress
A0. Only democratic government with a legislative branch
B0. Comparison with British Parliament
10. Parliamentary candidates are selected by party
a0) Members of Parliament select prime minister and other leaders
b0) Party members vote together on most issues
c0) Re-nomination depends on loyalty to party
d0) Principal work is debating national issues
e0) Very little power, very little pay
20. Congressional candidates run in a primary election, with little party control
a0) Vote is for the man or woman, not the party
b0) Result is a body of independent representatives
c0) Members do not choose the president
d0) Principal work is representation and action
e0) Great deal of power; high pay; parties cannot discipline members
II0. The Evolution of Congress
A0. Intent of the Framers
10. To oppose concentration of power in a single institution
20. To balance large and small states: bicameralism
30. To have Congress be the dominant institution
B0. General characteristics of subsequent evolution
10. Congress generally dominant over the presidency for more than 140 years; exceptions: brief periods of presidential activism
20. Major struggles were within Congress
C0. After 200 years, House has usually embraced the view that power of individual members should be protected versus opportunities for leadership
10. Flirted with strong party leadership in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
20. When Republicans gained control in 1995, party leadership reasserted itself
30. Of late, the power of party loyalty has grown in House, while it has become weaker among voters
D0. The decentralization of the Senate
10. Never flirted with tight organization
20. Always insisted on unlimited debate
30. 1913 amendment permitting direct election (17th Amendment)
III0. Who is in Congress? (see Table 9.1)
A0. House characteristics
10. 435 member based on population (census every decade)
20. Northeast has lost seats; South/Southwest has gained in recent years
30. Two-year terms, elected in districts about equal in population
10. Constitution-mandated two senators per state
20. Six-year terms, staggered elections
C0. Sex and race
10. Average: middle-aged white males
20. Number of women has increased (49 in House, 8 in Senate)
30. Number of blacks has increased (39 in House, 1 in Senate)
40. Importance of personal characteristics varies with issues (e.g., blacks and civil rights)
10. Low turnover rates and safe districts common in Congress before 1980s
20. Incumbents increasingly viewed as professional politicians and out of touch with the people by the 1980s
30. Call for term limits; however, natural forces were doing what term limits were designed to do by the mid-1990s
40. Influx of new members should not distort incumbents’ advantage
50. Incumbents’ advantage due to name recognition and credit for local projects
10. Prior to 1950s, Democrats were beneficiaries of incumbency
20. Incumbents—particularly, Democrats—associated with the “mess in Washington” (e.g., budget deficits, scandals, bickering, special privileges)
30. Republicans control House and Senate after 1995
IV0. Getting Elected to Congress
A0. Need to win at least a plurality of votes under a party label
B0. Winning the primary
10. Collect signatures on petition to enter primary
20. Some states have run-off primary
30. Reduces influence of political party
40. Candidates run personalized campaigns; offers them independence from party in Congress
V0. The Organization of Congress: Parties and Interests
A0. Party organization—majority/minority leaders elected by own party members
B0. The Senate
10. President pro tempore presides; member with most seniority in majority party
20. Leaders are the majority leader and the minority leader, elected by their respective party members
30. Party whips keep leaders informed, round up votes, count noses
40. Policy Committee schedules Senate business
50. Committee assignments
a0) Democratic Steering Committee
b0) Republican Committee on Committees
C0. The House of Representatives
10. Leaders have more power due to chamber size and rules
20. Speaker of the House, as leader of majority party, presides over House
a0) Decides who to recognize to speak on the floor
b0) Rules of germaneness of motions
c0) Decides to which committee bills go
d0) Appoints members of special and select committees
e0) Has some patronage power
30. Majority party chooses majority leader; minority party chooses minority leader
40. Each party has a whip
50. Democrats use Steering and Policy Committee for assigning committee slots and scheduling; Republicans divide responsibility between two committees
60. Each party has a congressional campaign committee
D0. Party voting
10. Problems in measuring party votes (90% or 50% opposition figure can be used)
20. Party voting quite low by either measure
30. Ideology an important variable explaining party voting
40. Congressmen need advice on floor voting since they have little information—another variable behind party voting
E0. Caucuses: rivals to parties in policy formulation
10. By early 1980s, more than seventy
20. House black caucus particularly well known
VI0. The Organization of Congress: Committees (see the “Standing Committees of the Senate” and “Standing Committees of the House” boxes)
A0. Legislative committees—most important organizational feature of Congress
10. Consider bills or legislative proposals
20. Maintain oversight of executive agencies
30. Conduct investigations
B0. Types of committees
10. Select committees—groups appointed for a limited purpose and limited duration
20. Joint committees—those on which both representatives and senators serve
30. Conference committee—a joint committee appointed to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions of the same piece of legislation before final passage
C0. Standing committees (permanent)—most important type of committee
10. Majority party has majority of seats on the committees
20. Each member usually serves on two standing committees
30. Only committees that can report legislation
40. Chairs are elected, but usually the most senior member of the committee is elected by the majority party
50. The House, under leadership of Gingrich (1994–98), ignored seniority in chair selection
60. Committee “bill of rights” of 1970s changed several traditions
a0) Opened more meetings to the public
b0) Allowed television coverage of meetings
c0) Effort to reduce number of committees in 1995–1996
d0) Greater rights for minority members
70. Republican-sponsored changes in 1995 reduced further the powers of committee chairs (e.g., six-year limits and election by secret ballot)
D0. Committee styles
10. Decentralization has increased individual member’s influence
a0) Less control by chairs
b0) More amendments proposed and adopted
20. Ideological orientations of committees vary, depending on attitudes of members
30. Certain committees tend to attract particular types of legislators
a0) Policy-oriented members
b0) Constituency-oriented members
VII0. The Organization of Congress: Staffs and Specialized Offices
10. In 1900s, congressmen had little staff support
20. Since 1947, five-fold increase in staff size
B0. Tasks of staff members
10. Personal staff focuses on constituency service, perhaps explaining re-election success
20. Committee staff vary in terms of partisanship
30. Personal staff see themselves as advocates for boss, assuming entrepreneurial function
40. Reliance on staff makes Congress less collegial and deliberative
C0. Staff agencies offer specialized information
10. Congressional Research Service (CRS) supplies information
20. General Accounting Office (GAO) audits and recommends
30. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) evaluates policy impact on technology
40. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) advises on impact of spending
D0. Reasons for a more polarized Congress
10. Way congressional districts are drawn
20. Voters becoming more partisan
30. Role of Seniority
VIII0. How a Bill Becomes Law (see the “How a Bill Becomes a Law” box)
A0. Introducing a bill
10. Introduced by a member of Congress
20. Much legislation has been initiated in Congress
30. Legislation drafted by the president is shaped by Congress
a0) Simple—passed by one house affecting that house
b0) Concurrent—passed by both houses affecting both
c0) Joint—passed by both houses, signed by president (except for constitutional amendments)
B0. Study by committees
10. Bill is referred to a committee for consideration by either Speaker or presiding officer
20. Revenue bills must originate in the House
30. Hearings are often conducted by several subcommittees: multiple referrals (replaced by sequential referral system in 1995)
40. Committee reports a bill out to the House or Senate
a0) If bill is not reported out, the House can use the discharge petition
b0) If bill is not reported out, the Senate can pass a discharge motion
50. House Rules Committee sets the rules for consideration
a0) Closed or restrictive rule: sets time limit on debate and restricts amendments
b0) Open rule: permits amendments from the floor
c0) Use of closed or restrictive rules growing
d0) Rules can be bypassed by the House
e0) No direct equivalent in Senate
C0. Floor debate, House
10. Committee of the Whole—procedural device for expediting House consideration of bills but cannot pass bills
20. Committee sponsor of bill organizes the discussion
D0. Floor debate, Senate
10. No rule limiting debate or germaneness
20. Entire committee hearing process can be bypassed by a senator
30. Cloture—three-fifths of Senate must vote for a cloture petition
40. Both filibusters and cloture votes becoming more common
50. Filibuster and “Exceptional Circumstances”
E0. Methods of voting
10. To investigate voting behavior, one must know how a legislator voted on amendments as well as on the bill itself
20. Procedures for voting in the House: voice, division, teller, and roll call
30. Senate voting is the same except no teller vote or electronic counter
40. Differences in Senate and House versions of a bill
a0) If minor, last house to act merely sends bill to the other house, which accepts the changes
b0) If major, a conference committee is appointed
(10) Decisions are made by a majority of each delegation; Senate version favored
(20) Conference reports back to each house for acceptance or rejection
50. Bill, in final form, goes to the president
a0) President may sign it
b0) If president vetoes it, it returns to the house of origin
(10) Either house may override the president by a vote of two-thirds of those present
(20) If both override, the bill becomes law without the president’s signature
IX0. How Members of Congress Vote
A0. Representational view (vote pleases constituents) has some merit under certain circumstances
10. Correlation strong on civil rights bills
20. Correlation weak on foreign policy measures
30. “Passionate” issues (e.g., gun control, abortion) difficult vote for members
40. Constituency influence more important in Senate votes
50. Public opinion not strong and clear on most congressional votes to support this view
B0. Main cues for organizational voting (vote pleases fellow members) are party and ideological affinity
C0. Attitudinal view (vote based on own ideology)
10. Democrats and Republicans differ along liberal/conservative lines
20. Opinions of House members closer to average voter; Senators less so
30. Democrats more ideologically divided
40. Conservative coalition, when formed usually wins (e.g., Reagan years)
D0. What It all Means
10. Members have localistic view
20. Policy making is decentralized
30. Members are individualist, with highly partisan views
40. Does not often engage in careful consideration
X0. Ethics and Congress (see the “How Congress Responds to the Misconduct of Members” box)
A0. Separation of powers and corruption
10. Fragmentation of power increases number of officials with opportunity to sell influence
20. Forms of influence: money and exchange of favors
B0. Problem of defining unethical conduct
10. Violation of criminal law is obviously unethical
20. Problems are raised over types of employment, income, campaign, contributions, or intervention with an executive agency
C0. House and Senate ethics code
10. Rules are directed at financial transactions
20. Seem to favor wealthy over members of modest means
XI0. The Power of Congress (see the “Congress Obeys the Law” box)
A0. Reassertion of congressional power in 1970s
10. Reaction to Vietnam and Watergate
20. War Powers Act of 1973
30. Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974
40. Increased requirement for legislative veto
B0. Congressional power never as weak as critics have alleged
C0. Presidential-congressional conflicts
10. Especially sharp when different parties control the two branches
20. Basic willingness of Congress to follow president on budget, foreign affairs
30. Congress reluctant to criticize a popular president
Key Terms Match
Match the following terms and descriptions:
10. _____ A means by which the House can remove a bill stalled in committee.
20. _____ The theory of congressional voting behavior which assumes that members make voting decisions in order to please fellow members and obtain their goodwill.
30. _____ Plays an important role in the consideration of bills.
40. _____ A Senate rule offering a means for stopping a filibuster.
50. _____ A rule issued by the Rules Committee that does not allow a bill to be amended on the House floor.
60. _____ A means by which senators can extend debate on a bill in order to prevent or delay its consideration.
70. _____ A group of moderate-to-conservative democrats.
80. _____ The extent to which members of a party vote together in the House or the Senate.
90. _____ A theory of congressional voting behavior that assumes that members make voting decisions based on their perception of constituents’ wishes to ensure their own reelection.
100. _____ A 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 one another out.
110. _____ Unrelated amendments added to a bill.
120. _____ Group of democratic senators that assigns other senators to the senate’s standing committee.
130. _____ An individual who assists the party leader in staying abreast of the concerns and voting intentions of the party members.
140. _____ Composed of a dozen or so senators who help the party leader schedule senate business.
a0. attitudinal view of representation
b0. policy committee
c0. closed rule
e0. blue dog democrats
f0. discharge petition
h0. organizational view of representation
i0. rules committee
j0. party vote
k0. party whip
l0. steering committee
m0. representational view of representation
10. _____ A special type of joint committee appointed to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of a piece of legislation.
20. _____ The legislative leader elected by party members holding the majority of seats in the House or Senate.
30. _____ Investigates policies and recommendations on almost every aspect of government.
40. _____ A permanent committee of each house with the power to report bills.
50. _____ The ability of members of Congress to mail letters to their constituents free of charge.
60. _____ An association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional, ethnic, or economic interest.
70. _____ A congressional voting procedure that consists of members answering yea or nay to their names.
80. _____ The legislative leader elected by party members holding a minority of seats in the House or Senate.
90. _____ A committee on which both representatives and senators serve.
100. _____ Asserts how many times members of Congress spend a lot of time providing services, speeches, and mail to their local constituents.
110. _____ A resolution used to settle housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both houses.
120. _____ A resolution requiring approval of both houses and the signature of the president and having the same legal status as a law.
130. _____ Created in 1974, advises Congress on the likely impact of different spending programs and attempts to estimate future economic trends.
140. _____ Whoever happens to be on the floor, as long as at least one hundred members are present can debate, amend, and decide issues.
150. _____ Direct the spending of money.
160. _____ Part of the Library of Congress that responds to requests by members of Congress for information.
b0. concurrent resolution
c0. conference committee
d0. general accounting office
e0. congressional research service
f0. franking privilege
g0. joint committee
h0. joint resolution
i0. majority leader
j0. minority leader
k0. congressional budget office
l0. roll call vote
m0. localistic viewpoint
n0. standing committee
o0. appropriations bills
p0. committee of the whole
Did You Think That . . . ?
A number of misconceptions are listed below. You should be able to refute each statement in the space provided, referring to information or argumentation contained in this chapter. Sample answers appear at the end of this chapter.0
01. 0“The Founders desired and expected the president and Congress to have equal authority.”
02. 0“The terms Parliament and Congress mean the same thing.”
03. 0“In Congress, Democrats and Republicans are loyal to their respective parties and vote accordingly.”
04. 0“The committee system plays no essential role in how a bill becomes law.”
05. 0“A good, strong code of ethics would largely eliminate problems of corruption in Congress.”
Read each statement carefully. Mark true statements T. If any part of the statement is false, mark it F, and write in the space provided a concise explanation of why the statement is false.0
10. T F In the United States members of Congress select the president.
20. T F If members of a party in power in Parliament vote against their leaders, a new government must be formed.
30. T F Congress is not constitutionally independent of the president.
40. T F The Framers did not want all powers concentrated in a single government institution.
50. T F To get elected to the House or Senate in most states, you only need to win more votes than the other candidates.
60. T F Because of population movements, many northeastern states have been losing seats in the House.
70. T F There has been no concern about establishing term limits for members of Congress.
80. T F Two senators from a given state are given staggered terms so that they don’t have to run against each other.
90. T F Americans tend to dislike both their legislators and the Congress.
100. T F Incumbents still enjoy enormous advantages in congressional elections.
110. T F A filibuster can only be used in the senate.
120. T F The most important person in the House is the party whip.
130. T F Ideological differences between party members in the House are more important than regional differences.
140. T F Just because one party has a majority in the House or Senate does not mean that it “controls” that chamber.
150. T F You have to win a majority of votes cast to get elected to Congress.
160. T F Most of the power in Congress is found in the party organizations.
170. T F Standing committees are more permanent and more important than select committees.
180. T F To a considerable degree, selecting committee chairmen by vote of a party caucus results in strong legislative leadership.
190. T F Congressional committees, although directed by the majority party, develop policies on the basis of verifiable evidence within the party context.
200. T F In recent years, the fastest-growing bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. has been the executive branch.
210. T F Congressional staffers often wield considerable political clout.
220. T F Committees are where the real work of Congress is done.
230. T F It is difficult for Congress to obtain a comprehensive view of an issue that cuts across committee boundaries.
240. T F Most bills sent to committees become law.
250. T F A filibuster is the means by which cloture is invoked.
260. T F How a member of Congress voted on key amendments to a bill is often more important than how that member voted on the bill itself.
270. T F Voters are becoming more partisan as a result of Congress becoming more partisan.
280. T F Legislators are more likely to vote as their constituents want on foreign policy measures than on domestic policy issues.
290. T F Most congressional votes are not known to most citizens.
300. T F Since most of the real business of Congress is done in committees and subcommittees, the process of making policy is highly centralized.
310. T F The spirit of individualism in Congress has increased the power of party leadership.
320. T F Most bills are not carefully deliberated by legislators.
330. T F Compared to a unitary system, a federal system with separation of powers limits opportunities for corruption.
340. T F Illegal payoffs to members of Congress appear to be the most frequent types.
350. T F Since the 1930s and 1960s, most scholars believe that the president has lost power to Congress.
Multiple Choice questions
Circle the letter of the response that best answers the question or completes the statement.0
10. A person ordinarily becomes a candidate for representative or senator by:
a0. appealing to party leaders.
b0. serving first in the state legislature.
c0. running in a primary election.
d0. serving first in a government agency.
e0. paying the required fee of $5,000.
20. Members of a parliament can only make one important decision which would consist of the following:
a0. whether to provide for a militia.
b0. whether to “make all laws necessary and proper.”
c0. whether to support the government.
d0. whether to borrow money.
e0. whether to coin money.
30. A basic difference between a parliament such as Great Britain’s and the U.S. Congress is that:
a0. the principal role of Congress is to debate national issues.
b0. members of a parliament have more power and higher pay.
c0. members of Congress are more likely to “vote the party.”
d0. Congress does not select a president.
e0. members of Parliament are more emotional.
40. A person becomes a member of the United States Congress by winning a __________ and a ________________.
a0. primary; general election.
b0. plurality; staggered election.
c0. constituency; plurality.
d0. discharge petition; voice vote.
e0. caucus; primary election.
50. Despite the ups and downs of party leadership, the power of party loyalty has _____ in the House.
c0. not been measured
d0. stayed the same
e0. been insignificant
60. The general trend in power distribution and decision making throughout the evolution of Congress has been toward:
a0. centralization—more power for leadership.
b0. decentralization—more power for leadership.
c0. centralization—more power for individual members.
d0. decentralization—more power for individual members.
e0. decentralization in order to cede more power to the president.
70. Each state must have at least one representative; how many more it has depends on its _____.
b0. geographical size
c0. proximity to Washington, D.C.
d0. per capita income
80. Originally members of the U.S. Senate were selected by:
a0. direct election of the people.
b0. the electoral college.
c0. party leaders.
d0. state legislatures.
e0. two-party caucuses
90. In terms of the composition of its membership, the House since 1950 has become:
a0. less male and less white.
b0. less male and more white.
c0. more male and less white.
d0. more male and more white.
e0. not noticeably different.
100. Today House membership has become less of a career with a(n):
a0. higher turnover of members.
b0. decrease in marginal districts.
c0. increase in safe districts.
d0. lower turnover of members.
e0. higher number of forcible removals due to ethics violations.
110. By 1995, there were scores of new members who were serving their first or second term. Which of the following factors contributed to this?
a0. after the 1990 census, many incumbents were in new districts that they could not carry
b0. voter disgust at a variety of scandals
c0. the Republican Congressional victory of 1994
d0. all of the above
e0. none of the above
120. Possible reasons why incumbents win so frequently include all of the following except:
a0. voting for the person rather than the party.
b0. access to free mailings.
c0. free publicity.
d0. name recognition.
e0. personal finances.
130. Probably the major reason why the tendency of voters to return incumbents to office has helped Democrats more than Republicans is that:
a0. Democrats have more effectively organized the media and various interest groups to support their incumbents.
b0. the advantages of incumbency began to take effect at a time when Democrats controlled Congress.
c0. Democrats have been able to use their power more effectively to change election rules.
d0. the powers of incumbency tend to be more closely associated with “Democratic causes,” such as civil rights.
e0. Democrats are more effective at fundraising.
140. A candidate running for Congress today is most likely to attempt to instill among voters a high opinion of the:
a0. democratic system.
b0. home district.
d0. candidate’s party.
e0. federal system.
150. True leadership in the senate resides with the:
a0. majority leader.
b0. minority leader.
c0. president protempore.
d0. majority whip.
e0. minority whip.
160. For newly elected Senators, their political careers, chance to help their constituents, etc. will depend largely on their _____ assignments.
170. Leadership position in the House carry more power than in the Senate because of:
a0. the number of members.
b0. house rules.
c0. focused committees.
d0. decentralization in the House.
e0. the charisma of House leaders.
180. Among the many powers of the House Speaker is that he:
a0. decides to which committee bills go.
b0. assigns party members to the various committees.
c0. keeps party leaders informed about the opinions of their party members.
d0. schedules legislation.
e0. is a member of the National Security Council.
190. Since 1975, the Speaker has been able to select the majority party members of the _____, which plays an important role in considering bills.
a0. standing committee
b0. ethics committee
c0. select committee
d0. conference committee
e0. rules committee
200. One reason why members of Congress tend to support the policy positions of their party is that:
a0. those positions often coincide with their own ideology.
b0. congressional rules require party support on all “partisan issues.”
c0. support for the party position is essential in the eyes of most voters.
d0. the party pays most of their campaign expenses.
e0. they can be “fined” for not doing so.
210. A growing rival to the parties in Congress as a source of policy leadership is (are) the:
a0. junior members.
b0. Democratic Study Group.
c0. General Accounting Office.
d0. congressional caucuses.
e0. third parties.
220. A coalition of moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the House:
a0. blue dog democrats
b0. yellow dog democrats
c0. Christian coalition
e0. Democratic Study Group
230. Because they are usually the only ones that can report out bills, the committees that are the most important are the:
a0. joint committees.
b0. conference committees.
c0. standing committees.
d0. select committees.
240. Since the 1970s, the chairpersons of House committees have been chosen by:
a0. secret ballot.
b0. voice vote.
d0. the committee on committees.
e0. roll call vote.
250. If you were a newly elected member of the House of Representatives interested in becoming an expert on a particular policy, and in influencing your colleagues on this policy, you would probably ask to be assigned to the:
a0. Rules Committee.
b0. Ways and Means Committee.
c0. Public Works and Transportation Committee.
d0. Ethics Committee.
e0. Agriculture Committee.
260. A major function of a legislator’s staff is to help _____ solve problems and thereby help that member of Congress get reelected.
a0. other members
c0. the executive branch
d0. interest groups
270. Which of the following is not a staff agency that works for Congress?
a0. congressional research service
b0. general accounting office
c0. congressional budget office
d0. office of budget and management
e0. none of the above
280. Which of the following statements about introducing a bill in Congress is correct?
a0. A bill not passed during the life of one Congress cannot be introduced again during the next Congress.
b0. Bills are initiated by the president, not by Congress.
c0. A bill not passed during the life of one Congress is dead.
d0. Most bills introduced today are private rather than public bills.
e0. all proceedings must be closed to the public.
290. A bill is referred to a committee for consideration by either the _____ or _____.
a0. party whip, minority leader.
b0. committee chairman, caucus leader.
c0. sergeant at arms, minority leader.
d0. Speaker of the House, Presiding Officer of the Senate.
e0. minority leader, party chairman.
300. The effect of allowing bills to be debated under open rather than closed or restrictive rules is to:
a0. reduce the time needed to vote on a final bill.
b0. give greater control to the committees.
c0. set a time limit on debate.
d0. increase the number of amendments.
e0. allow more access to special interests.
310. Unlike the House, the scheduling of legislation in the Senate is:
a0. controlled by the Rules Committee.
b0. initiated by means of a discharge petition.
c0. governed by closed rather than open rules.
d0. determined by the majority and minority leaders.
e0. only accomplished via the vice-president.
320. Which of the following statements about different methods of voting for a bill in the House and Senate is correct?
a0. Roll-call votes in the House are handled orally.
b0. Individual votes many be recorded or not.
c0. Roll-call votes are less numerous today than they were forty years ago.
d0. A division vote involves member shouting “yea” or “nay.”
e0. Electronic voting is never used.
330. Which of the following statements about conference committee reports is correct?
a0. They can be amended but cannot be rejected.
b0. They can neither be rejected nor amended.
c0. They must be approved by a majority of each party delegation.
d0. They tend to favor the House version of a bill.
e0. They only apply to appropriations bills.
340. The explanation for congressional voting behavior that assumes that members vote to please their constituents is referred to as:
350. As a member of Congress, you vote for a dairy-support bill because it is consistent with your thinking as a liberal Democrat. Political scientists would describe your vote as:
360. Over the past three decades, senators, compared with the average voter, were consistently more:
c0. conservative in the 1970s and liberal in the 1980s and 1990s.
d0. liberal in the 1970s and conservative in the 1980s and 1990s.
e0. independent on all issues.
370. Which of the following aspects best characterized the structure of the House of Representatives during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s?
a0. powerful committee chairpersons; long apprenticeship for new members; small congressional staffs.
b0. localized viewpoint; decentralized policy making.
c0. centralized party leadership; rapid turnover of membership; many amendments and filibusters.
d0. decentralized and weak party leadership; fewer amendments and filibusters; broad, national viewpoint.
e0. centralized leadership and localized viewpoints.
380. Rules that assume money is the only source of political corruption fail to account for:
a0. the role of education.
b0. the influence of parties.
c0. political alliances and personal friendships.
d0. income derived from speaking and writing.
e0. the role of the media.
390. In 1973, Congress passed, over a presidential veto, the _____ giving Congress more authority in the use of American forces aboard.
a0. War Powers Act
b0. Congressional Budget Act
c0. Ethical Control Act
d0. Campaign Finance Act
e0. Education Control Act
400. Congress was moved to reassert its authority beginning in the early 1970s as a consequence of:
a0. Watergate and the energy crisis.
b0. Vietnam and Watergate.
c0. rampant inflation and Vietnam.
d0. the energy crisis and rampant inflation.
e0. immigration and wages.
Practice writing extended answers to the following questions. These test your ability to integrate and express the ideas that you have been studying in this chapter.0
10. Do you think Congress has ceded too much power to the president over the past sixty years? Why or why not?
20. Should members of Congress adopt term limits? What would be some of the advantages and disadvantages of having term limits?
30. Which of the three kinds of explanations listed in the book on how members of congress vote do you agree with? Discuss some of the other influences that can impact how members vote.
40. A democratic government is based on the idea that the will of the people prevails. Does Congress act this way? In answering, consider elections to Congress, how Congress operates, and the factors that influence the voting behavior of members.
00001Applying What You’ve Learned
The legitimacy of republican government depends on the degree to which elected representatives express the will of their constituents. The view that unless majority opinion is enacted in legislation, the people cannot be said to rule, is much too simplistic, however. Representatives must also resist temporary impulses that consume the public. The majority can sometimes be swayed by irrational emotions, especially during times of crisis. In such instances, obeying popular opinion could threaten the national welfare.
Members of Congress have a difficult balancing act to perform when deciding whether to yield to popular preferences in situations in which their personal convictions are in disagreement. But why should members of Congress even worry? Fewer than half of Americans of voting age know the name of the person representing them in Congress, and eighty-one percent cannot say how their representative voted on any piece of legislation in the last two years. Because more than ninety percent of the members of Congress are reelected to office, it would seem that legislators have little to fear from their constituents no matter how they vote.
Is the concept of representative government a farce in the United States? This question can be answered only by examining how members of Congress actually vote. The text outlines three theories of the voting process in Congress: representational, organizational, and attitudinal. Review the chapter to become familiar with these three versions of congressional voting behavior. According to the text, each view has merits as well as flaws.
John Kingdon has developed a model that incorporates elements from each theory of how members in Congress make up their minds on voting decisions. [Randall Ripley, Congress: Process and Policy, 4th ed. (New York: Norton, 1988), p. 133.] The model takes into account most aspects of Congress, from staff to party leadership to constituents, and thus provides a useful framework for structuring the material in the chapter. The model is based on three assumptions:0
10. Members search for information about a decision they must make only if they define that decision as having some kind of problem associated with it.
20. Members have no problems with, or difficulty in making, many decisions. This is true when (a) all the forces that normally affect members’ decisions (interest groups, staff, constituencies, administration, party leadership, other members, and personal attitudes) agree that a given decision is proper, (b) members feel very strongly about the matter at hand, or (c) members have well-established voting records on the issue or ones that are similar.
30. Members make up their minds in a “consensus mode of decision” most of the time. They first determine whether a vote is controversial; if it isn’t, any decision is relatively cost free. When the potential for controversy is perceived, members will check their “fields of forces” to see how much conflict exists. If the actors in the fields of forces all agree on the proper decision, a member will go along with them. If only one actor is out of line, most of the time the member will vote against the actor (ninety-three percent of the time in Kingdon’s data). If two actors are out of line, the chances of going with the minority forces rise (seventeen percent of the time in Kingdon’s data). It is worth noting that the force called “own attitude” is by far the most potent in explaining members’ defections from the majority view of fields of forces in disagreement with their views. Members use a calculus—which varies in detail from person to person—in arriving at decisions. The calculus allocates weight both to outside forces and to the members’ own judgments.
The model combines many topics discussed in the chapter in an integrated fashion. Consider the following issues raised by the model:0
10. It is only on controversial questions that members even consider what relevant actors (or forces) think about a voting decision. If few votes fall into this category, how do members decide on votes that are noncontroversial? The chapter provides numerous clues. Reread the material on the legislative process, focusing on how most decisions are made in Congress.
20. Kingdon assigns almost equal weight to each force. Does any material presented in the chapter suggest that certain actors may be more significant at times? Does the issue involved in a particular vote enhance the importance of one actor over that of others?
30. Kingdon indicates that members’ personal beliefs are especially important in voting decisions. Are there any reasons for members’ values to operate to the advantage of constituents rather than outside forces?
40. The text enumerates many flaws in the three views of voting behavior in Congress. Does Kingdon’s model possess any of these deficiencies?
50. Does Kingdon’s model apply equally to voting habits in both the House and the Senate? Keep in mind that outside forces operate quite differently on the members of each chamber.
60. How would you amend Kingdon’s model in light of these considerations?
0Research and Resources
Arnold, R. Douglas. The Logic of Congressional Action. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990. Explains why Congress enacts the policies it does, especially those that serve general as opposed to special interests.
Davidson, Roger H. and Walter J. Oleszak. Congress and Its Members, 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congress Quarterly Press, 1996. Good nonpartisan summary of how people get to Congress and how they behave while there.
Dodd, Lawrence C., and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, eds. Congress Reconsidered, 7th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2001. Recent studies on congressional politics.
Fenno, Richard F., Jr. Congressmen in Committees. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. Study of the styles of twelve standing committees.
Maass, Arthur. Congress and the Common Good. New York: Basic Books, 1984. Insightful account of congressional operations, especially those involving legislative-executive relations.
Malbin, Michael J. Unelected Representatives. New York: Basic Books, 1980. Study of the influence of congressional staff members.
Mayhew, David R. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven: Conn.: Yale University Press, 1974. Argues that a member of Congress’s desire to win reelection shapes his or her legislative behavior.
Oleszek, Walter J. Congressional Procedure and the Policy Process, 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1995. Clear, factual summary of how Congress operates.
Rhode, David W. Parties and Leaders in Postreform House. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. An account of the increase in partisanship in the House of Representatives since the 1970s.
0Resources on the World Wide Web
House of Representatives: www.house.gov
Library of Congress has two web sites about Congress:
For news about Congress:
Roll call magazine: www.rollcall.com
C-SPAN programs about Congress: www.c-span.org
For Congressional voting records, campaign contributions, and ethics:
Key Terms Match
Did You Think That…?0
10. The Founders wanted Congress to be the dominant institution because of their fear of an executive dictatorship.
20. While they both pass laws, a Parliament chooses the chief executive while a Congress does not.
30. Party voting in the House is still relatively low because there is little party discipline and because members respond to important constituency interests that may not coincide with the policy of their party.
40. Most of the power in congress is found in the committee system. This includes the process for a bill becoming a law.
50. The complexity of Congress and its reliance on exchanges of votes in developing a winning coalition in support of a bill leave many opportunities for senators and representatives to take advantage of their positions in unethical ways.
10. F. The voters choose the president.
30. F. Congress is constitutionally independent.
70. F. A movement to impose term limits was started in 1969.
80. F. It is so that they don’t stand for reelection during the same year.
90. F. Americans like their senators and representatives, but not Congress.
120. F. The Speaker is the most important.
150. F. You only need to win a plurality.
160. F. Power is found in the committees and subcommittees.
180. F. It weakens the power of committee chairpersons.
190. F. Ideology of the committee and its chairman also determines policies.
200. F. The congressional bureaucracy has been the fastest growing.
240. F. Most bills die in committee.
250. F. A filibuster is extended debate in the Senate.
280. F. The other way around.
300. F. It is highly decentralized.
310. F. It has never decreased the power of party leadership.
330. F. It increases the opportunities.
340. F. Noncriminal actions are probably most frequent.
350. F. It is actually the other way around.
Multiple Choice Questions0
Applying What You’ve Learned0
10. Much noncontroversial voting could be based on following cues from members of the sponsoring committee because representatives know little about the content of most bills.
20. On issues about which a district has a clear attitude (civil rights), members tend to vote according to constituent desires. Other issues, such as foreign policy, show only a weak correlation between district attitude and voting in Congress.
30. Members have a strong local orientation because of constant electoral accountability and the fact that members themselves are products of their local environment.
40. Kingdon’s model reflects some flaws of the models examined by the text in assuming that constituents and parties have articulated positions on most issues.
50. Constituents probably have less influence on senators because it is more difficult for an entire state to have a clear opinion on an issue. Senators are also more independent; this makes the power of party leaders less significant.
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