Ap government Study Guide Unit One: Constitutional Underpinnings

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Senators serve six year terms

  • The senate has the responsibility of confirming presidential appointments and nominees, ratifying treaties, and confirming the budget

  • There is no rules committee, debate is always unlimited

  • Because debate is unlimited, the minority party can filibuster – kill a bill by continuing to talk

  • To end debate and a filibuster, cloture (a vote by 3/5 of the senate) is required

  • Senate can also add riders (irrelevant amendments) to bills


    • Most work is done in committees (especially in house)

    • Most bills DIE in committee

    Committee Type


    House Examples

    Senate Examples

    Standing Committee

    Permanent panel with full legislative functions and oversight responsibilities. The members become experts

    Appropriations – sets specific expenditure for the federal government

    Rules – determines under what rules bill comes to floor

    Armed Services – oversees military and Defense

    Foreign Relations – provides foreign policy leadership


    Formed to tackle specific tasks within standing committee

    Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry (subcommittee of agriculture)

    Health Care Subcommittee (subcommittee of finance committee)

    Select or Special Committee

    Temporary groups with limited purposes (investigation)

    House Watergate Committee

    Select committee on Ethics

    Joint Committee

    Includes members of both houses to perform housekeeping tasks of studies

    Joint Economic Committee

    Joint Economic Committee

    Conference Committee

    Special type of joint committee that reconciles senate and house versions of a bill

    Conference committees formed as needed

    Conference committees formed as needed


    • Requirements for office

    1. Natural born citizen

    2. At least 35 years old

    3. Resident of America for at least 14 years

    • Powers as Commander in Chief (civilian power over military)

    1. Head of Army and Navy

    2. Head of National Guard

    • Powers as Chief Executive of Government

    1. “Faithfully execute” the laws

    2. require opinions of heads of agencies

    3. grant pardons except in cases of impeachment

    4. nominate judges to federal courts and nominate cabinet (confirmed by senate)

    5. call for special session of congress

    • Powers in Foreign Affairs

    1. appoint ambassadors

    2. make treaties (to be confirmed by senate)

    3. send troops anywhere in the world if Congress authorizes it or during national emergency (War Powers Act) The president has 48 hours to justify in writing to congress why troops were sent, and 60 days before he must withdraw troops (unless congress extends time)

    • Legislative Powers

    1. Give State of the Union address to Congress to push his agenda

    2. recommend and suggest bills for congress

    3. call special sessions of congress

    4. veto bill (can be overturned by 2/3 of congress)

    5. pocket veto – not signing a bill within 10 days and having Congress adjourn

    • Cabinet – president picks (senate confirms) the heads of the 15 most important agencies, these agencies help execute the law

    1. Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Treasury…

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