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PSC 305: Presidency and Congress

Students' Notes of

Burdett Loomis, et al.,The Contemporary Congress

NY: St. Martin's Press.
Chapter numbers changed in 5e, 2005, or 4e, 2003; numbers in parentheses are from earlier editions.
(Content may change in later editions.)  Compiled by Dr. Jeremy Lewis |Revised 14 Dec. 2008.

Chap. 1: Drama of Representation (2002, 2000, 2008)
Chap. 2: Decentralization & Re-centralization (2002, 2008)
Chap. 3: Changing Environment of Congressional Politics (2000, 2008)
Chap. 4: Congressional Elections: Roots of Centrifugal Congress (2000, 2008)
Chap. 5: Legislative Process and Rules of Game. (2004, 2008)
Chap. 6: Parties & Leadership: Capturing Congress (2000, 2008)
Chap. 7: Congressional Committees (2000, 2008)
Chap. 8: Individual Enterprise (2002, 2008)
Chap. 9: Presidential- Congressional Relations (2004; 2000, 2008)
Chap. 10: Competitive Congress. (2008)

  • The Centrifugal Congress?:
  • Representation and Collective Choice:
  • Representation as Responsiveness:
  • Deliberation:
  • Making Decision, Choosing Policies:
  • Chap.  1:  The Drama of Representation
    Larry McLemore, 2002 (later version below)

    Every two years 435 Congressional districts elect a representative to the US House of Representatives.

    National Politics Comes Home: Pennsylvania's 13th district, 1992-1999

    Traditionally overwhelmingly white and Republican voting district
    In 1992 Democrat Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky elected (Clinton carried the district by a small margin)
    August 1993-Clinton Deficit Reduction Package was up for a vote.  Some moderate Democrats did not vote for it because it called for some tax increases.  The vote was tied 216-216 and Margolies-Mezvinsky was the only member left to vote.  She voted with her party to help Clinton.  Her district of conservative and moderate voters was infuriated.
    In November 1994 She was defeated by 8,000 votes to Republican Jon Fox.
    This was the same year of the huge nationwide Republican sweep.  However, Fox became see as an extremist as many Republican Freshmen did and was worried he might lose in his more mainstream district.  He began voting more independently and barely defeated Democrat Joseph Hoeffel by only 84 votes.  In 1998 Hoeffel defeats Fox who was weakened down in a primary race with three challengers.
    The Centrifugal Congress
    Legislators are pushed and pulled from many different directions when making decisions.
    These forces include party leaders, the president, interest groups, committees, bureaucracies, and constituents who often have conflicting and inconsistent stances on issues.
    Representation and Collective Choice
    The US Congress is a representative institution with 2 bodies that must make a series of collective, authoritative decisions--laws.
    Two Visions of Congress: 1) "Congress of Ambassadors"
                                            2) "deliberative assembly"
    Congress is often at odds with the presidency and Supreme Court.
    Committees are significant to the organization of Congress.
    Members must seek to represent as best they can by often trying to anticipate how their constituents feel about issues.
    1) service responsiveness,
    2) allocation responsiveness,
    3) symbolic responsiveness,
    4) policy responsiveness.
    The Contemporary Congress
    Has been largely shaped by the elections of 1994 in which Republicans took control of both houses for the first time in 40 years.  The Republicans favored a strong party organization over a strong committee organization.
    Chapter 1: The Drama of Representation
    by Larry Newton, Spring 2008
    Analyzing Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District 1992-2006
    o Although primarily Republican this district has proved unpredictable in recent elections
    o At the root of the district is the analysis of how national and local forces combine to produce a complex and sometimes contradictory representational linkage between legislator and constituency
    o In 1993 a vote was on hand in the House over President Bill Clinton’s five year, $492-billion deficit reduction package
    o The vote came to 216-216 tie with one vote remaining to be cast
    o Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa), who was the representative of District 13 was the tie breaking vote; prior to this she had vote against the previous Clinton package
    o As she cast her vote, she sided with her party affiliation (Democratic)
    o She immediately was thrown into the media and Clinton upheld a promise to participate in an event in Philadelphia
    o Her constituents were not happy with her decision
    o In 1994 she entered the campaign trailing her republican opponents
    o She lost the election to Rep. Fox (R-Pa) by 8000 votes
    o The vote she cast on the issue regarding the package sealed her fate of not being reelected
    o When Fox entered the House, the Republicans had taken a majority of seat for the first time in forty years
    o During his tenure of voting he supported a large percentage of party votes and leader Speaker Newt Gingrich, whom the public grew to view as extreme
    o Prior to the 1996 election his party support slipped and he began to vote against issues to regain favor back home
    o The Democrats nominated Joseph Hoeffel to challenge Fox for the seat
    o The question at hand was whether Fox could win enough local support to offset the apparent distaste of many of his constituents for the style and substance of the Republican House in the 104th Congress
    o Fox won reelection by fewer than 100 votes
    o Upon entering the 105th Congress, Fox had a different message from his constituents than he had in 1994
    o In the years following Fox tried to position himself as a moderate but remained under attack from the right wing of his party as well as the opposition of the Democrats
    o In 1998, Fox found himself in a battle for the Republican nomination, but won and then faced Hoeffel again, but this time Fox lost by more than 9000 votes
    o In the 2000 and 2002 Hoeffel faced strong challenges from the Republicans but still managed to remain in office
    o In 2004 Hoeffel decided to challenge incumbent Senator Specter (R-Pa)
    o Hoeffel hoped Specter would loss in the primary, but he barely held on
    o Although Kerry won PA electoral votes, Specter was reelected to his Senate seat
    o On the Representative side, Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa) won the 13th District
    The Centrifugal Congress?
    o As Congress convenes each elected official faces many challenges
    o First an elected official must win a primary to carry his/her name and party name into the November election then they must when the seat for which they are running
    o Once in office they are either favored by a majority or minority of the affiliated party as well as the party affiliation of the President
    o Also when making decisions and voting on issues, politicians are faced with the committees they are assigned, constituent pull, party pull, and special interest pull
    o But Congress is not entirely without order as it seeks to represent constituents and make coherent national policies
    o Even as the Republicans have enjoyed majority rule over the past decade they are still seeking ways to control committee chairs and the rank and file in order to enact the party’s policy agenda
    Representation and Collective Choice
    o The US Congress is a representative institution comprising two bodies that must make a series of collective, authoritative decisions-laws
    o Although legislators are affiliated to a party, they are still responsible to represent their constituents, districts, and states when while making decisions that serve the broad, collective interest of the nation as a whole
    o Along with all this the legislature is still at odds with the presidency and judiciary
    o Since representation is spread through a variety of interests it is hard to form majorities on many issues
    o The House has been marked with a centralization of committees unlike the Senate- this is partially due in fact to the idea that the House has a large number of members
    Representation as Responsiveness
    o Representatives take their jobs seriously while trying to represent their constituents and win reelection
    o There four kinds of responsiveness that taken together represent representation- service responsiveness, allocation responsiveness, symbolic responsiveness, and policy responsiveness
    o Representatives act as delegates when their constituents’ interests and preferences are clear
    o On budget issues, representatives act like trustees and then have to explain their choices to their constituents
    o The value of unitary democracy (which emphasizes face-to-face deliberation) is found not simply in widespread agreement or consensus but in the creative nature of the process itself
    o Most  effective deliberation takes place in realms outside of the Chamber floors (ie gym, local establishment, etc)
    o As a rule, individual legislators can act in their own interests, but Congress as a collective finds it most difficult to act for the whole
    Making Decisions, Choosing Policies
    o Throughout the course of legislation a legislator makes thousands of decisions through committees and on the floor
    o Although Congress would like to address all issues, there are restraints- the president’s agenda, the economy, finding a majority to pass legislation, and all the while being responsive to the constituents
    o Overall, party-based centralization has become the defining characteristic of the House, while individual deal making remains an important facet of legislating in the partisan Senate

    Chap. 1 - The Drama of Representation
    (Jared Lyles, 2000)

    National Politics Comes Home, 1992-1999

    ACT I

    Pennsylvania district, predominately white, been proven unpredicatble
    Clinton's defecit-reduction package came down to 216-216 vote with Rep. Mezvinsky left to vote
    She voted with Clinton, and ended up losing office later due to the publicity that she received
    ACT II
    1994 Elections produced the defeat of 36 Democratic incumbents
    Gave them a majority for the first time in 40 years
    Rep. John Fox was faced with questioning by his own constituents, and barley won in the 1996 election, showing that the 13th Districy of Penn., is very attentive
    The Centrifugal Congress
    There is a remarkable variety of idealology among other things in the Congress
    Has organized itself to prevent the building of consistent majorities
    This is seen in the order of committee system, which expertise may temper ideology
    Representation and Responsiveness
    Congress is comprised of two bodies that must make collective decisions
    Pursue the interest of the individual states they represent, while keeping in mind the nations best interest
    1. Representation as representatives
    knowing all constituents beliefs is difficult, if not impossible, given most citizens low levels of knowledge and interest
    Four types of responsiveness: Service, Allocation, Symbolic, and Policy
    2. Deliberation
    Congress acts very seldomly in creative solutions, but when it does, it gets public support
    However, we see much action by the Congress after 94 elections due to R sweep
    Contemporary Congress
    Three aspects of legislative life: element of decentralization, corresponding centralizing forces, and tension between these forces

    End of chapter discusses rest of book, which will be discussed at later date

  • The Framers Construct a Congress:
  • The Evolution of Congress:
  • The Congress Over Time:

  • Chapter 2: Congressional Decentralization in Design and Evolution
    By Larry Newton, spring 2008

    The Framers Construct a Congress
    o The framers were worried about power abuse by willful congressional majorities, so they engineered three basic elements
  • The representation of “a multiplicity of interests” within an “extended republic”- this allowed for representation of different views so that no one could gain exceptional power and it also established internal and external forces
  • The separation of powers at the national level into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches- this provides independence for all three branches
  • The creation of a bicameral (two-chamber) legislative body- this allotted for different election procedures for its members thus dividing power
  • o Although there is a separation, all three branches must work together to provide the legislation for the nation
    o House members- elected by the people, serve two year terms, and originate bills of revenue; number of state representatives is “to be” by population of the state
    o Senate members- selected by state legislatures until the adoption of the 17th amendment, serve six year terms, and has power to ratify treaties and confirm executive appointments; two senators per state
    The Early Congress: Organization and Tensions
    o The Constitution does not outline committees or political parties; however, it does outline for a Speaker, president of the Senate, and Senate president pro tempore without outlining their duties
    o In the early years, the House began to form committees to help handle the size of its body and to make the committees experts on different policy issues
    o Along with the development of committees, consistent majorities began to form which allowed people to group together under common ideas
    o In the early years, the House carried more weight than the Senate because of its numbers and the fact that the representatives were elected by the people; in turn, the Senate began to respond more to the people than the state legislators
    Senate Individualism and House Fragmentation: 1830-1860
    o Although many senators operated skillfully behind the scenes, this was a time of great individual oratory and sweeping attempts to hold the Union together
    o In 1829 Webster-Hayne debate over slavery occurred as well as other issues over the course of the 30’s that put the Senate in odd positions
    o Overall they understood that their division over slavery might destroy the system of government that allowed them to flourish
    o In contrast during this same time, the House found it hard to organize itself
    o There was no strong leadership and the House could not count on party factions and sectional interests to provide coherence
    The Rise of the Modern Congress: 1860-1920
    o During this time Congress faced issues with the rise of industry as compared to the agrarian issues of before and it also faced an increasing role the US was beginning to play in world affairs
    o Over the years, Congress experimented strong party leadership, organization of committees, domination of presidents, and then the need to have the president as a coherent leader
    The House
    • Following the Civil War, standing committees dominated the legislative process and a number of Speakers increased the power of their office
    • Also during this time, political parties began to dominate the leadership styles of the House
    The Senate
    o Whereas the House could consolidate its power around the Speaker, the Senate did not enjoy such actions
    o During the 1890’s, Iowa’s Allison and Rhode Island’s Aldrich dominated Senate policy
    o Although traditional Senate individualism remained, Republicans who refused to cooperate with Allison-Aldrich found themselves without influence
    o Their power did not last long once Senate positions began to turn to other parties
    o In 1913 the adoption of the 17th Amendment allowed the Senators to be elected by the people instead of the State legislatures and state political machines
    o The last major change to occur during this time for the Senate was the adoption that 2/3 vote could end a filibuster, which could be used to kill legislation
    The Drift toward Decentralization
    o During the strong rule of the House speakers and the Allison-Aldrich faction, almost 38,000 bills were introduced
    o This volume of legislation eventually benefitted those restive representatives and senators who desired to reduce the power of their party leaders
    o Also there were a staggering number of committees in both chambers
    o It was feared that these committees might serve to decentralize Congress, but the party leaders combined their roles with those of key committees to produce a strongly centralized operations in both chambers
    o Reliance on committees became essential for coherence but the reliance meant that both chambers need to reform their committees, which they did in 1919 and more meaningfully in 1946
    The Development and Decline of the Textbook Congress: 1920-1970
    o The 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act sharply reduced the number of committees in both chambers and thus sharply increased the value of the remaining standing committee chairmanships- 19 in the House, 15 in the Senate
    o Between 1950 and 1970 political scientists were able to understand and report upon Congress with better rapture than ever before
    o The committees produced two things- decentralization and oligarchy; decentralization in the sense that dominated their policy and oligarchy in the sense that that top policy leaders, committee chairs, and chairs of the 13 Appropriations Committee subcommittees in each chamber benefitted from their joint control of the domestic policy agenda
    o The committee-dominated system proved superb at slowing the pace of policy change in a narrowly Democratic congress that faced moderate-to-conservative Republican presidency of Dwight Eisenhower
    o As the Democrates gained control later, many liberal policies were passed that cost some first timers their reelections
    o In the 1960’s committee oligarchy began to lose its group and as changes were in the future
    Reforming the Congress: The 1970’s
    o During this time the House went under many changes
    o As new legislators were elected they began to “ruffle the feathers” of senior congressmen
    o The Democratic leaders gave more powers to the Speaker and top party leaders
    o However as the years went, Democrats could not always generate a majority consensus
    The Democratic Postreform Congress: 1980-1994
    o During the 80’s the Democrats lost some control as the Republicans took the presidency and began to take some seats in the House; however, Speaker O’Neill and the Democratic party did manage to maintain some control
    o As power began to slip the Democratic majority leaders began to change the idea of committee-dominated Congress
    o The Senate was completely different by continuing to adhere to their individual ideologies
    The Republican Era, 1994-
    o In 1994 the Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate
    o In 1998 the Republican House chose to impeach President Clinton while the Senate chose to acquit him, although the Senate was majority Republican
    o Due to the impeach many voters responded by punishing the Republican party as well as costing Newt Gingrich the speakership
    o As the speakership and majority leader positions fell to Hastert and DeLay, respectively, they began to change positions within the House and on committees
    o The post-1994 Republican era in the House has witnessed a systematic and highly successful centralization of party leadership power
    o Although the Senate has been dominated by Republicans, its members still refuse to submit to party lines and lose their individual ties
    The Congress Over Time
    o Regardless of Change over time, the House and Senate still respond to constituency interests
    o Both separation of powers and committees and party leaders affect operations and centralization of control

  • Congress, The Permeable Branch:
  • The Advocacy Explosion:
  • The Policy Explosion:
  • The Budget, Wrestling with an 800-Pound Gorilla:
  • Congress in Context:

  • Loomis, Chapter Four: Congressional Elections, All for One and One for All?
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008
  • Local Elections for a National Office:
  • Geographic Constituencies:
  • The Other Constituencies, Behavior and Perception:
  • Election in a Careerist Congress:
  • Sources of Congressional Campaign Funding:
  • Campaign Finance Reform:

  • The Congressional Party in the 21st Century, A Return to Centralization:
  • The Democratic Majority Party Challenge-Moving from Divisions to Unity:
  • A Decade of Republican Majority Control in the House 1994-:
  • The Senate, Individual Power and the Role of the Party:
  • Party and the Limits of Centralization in the Congress:

  • Chap.: Parties and Leadership: Capturing the Congress

    (Jared Lyles, 2000)

    I The Congressional Party II Caucus- Based Centralization
        1. establish initial set of rules at beginning of session
        2. continuing conversation between leaders and membership
    III Post-Reform in the Republican Model A The Dilemma of Opposition
      1. choice between outright opposition or partial cooperation in order to not be run over
      2. Expected to support the Rep. presidents in 70's and 80's
      3. However, Dem. majorities acted on partisan basis
      4. 1990's- Rep. tried to connect low approval ratings of Congress with Dem.
    B Republican organize House - 1994 IV The Senate: Partisanship without Strong Leadership V Party and the Limits of Centralization in the Post-reform Congress
    Loomis, Chapter Six: Presidential-Congressional Relations, Focus, Authority, and Negotiation
    by Chrystine D. Lake, Fall 2008
  • The President as Chief Legislator:
  • Budgetary Politics, Centralization Through Constraint:
  • Policy and Power Under Divided and Unified Party Government:


    Chapter: Presidential-Congressional Relations:
    Focus, Authority, and Negotiation
    Robert La Branche, 2004

    - Upon taking office in 2001, George W. Bush wielded his presidential powers well despite entering office with a disputed election and a lackluster professional reputation.
    - His power was supported largely thanks to the Republican Party’s control of both the House and the Senate. Bush 43 was able to get large tax cuts approved, and was able to push through his “No Child Left Behind” initiative.
    - In 2003 Bush was in solid political position; however he was forced to govern in an unstable environment due to terrorist threats, large deficits, and a deteriorating economy.
    - While the Republicans held a slim majority in Congress, it was so slight that President Bush could not rely solely on his own party for support of his agenda.
    - The president’s job is more complex than just setting an agenda, the president also ensures that prospective legislation, specific appropriations, and budget decisions are reasonably consistent. This new responsibility is thanks to the New Deal.
    - Ronald Reagan concentrated his power over Congress. He presented his “supply-side” budget and then followed up with a tough round of lobbying, giving Congress almost no choice but to pass it.
    - A president can also focus his attention on being sure that certain items do not come up for legislation. An example of this is Reagan’s refusal to consider renewing the clean air legislation.
    - This power over the agenda stems in part from the executive’s control over the OMB.
    - Even with the growing power and size of the executive branch, Congress has remained in control of national policy making.
    - There is a balance of power since the Congress can control national policy, but the president controls which issues are addressed.
    - Since Congress has potential for individualism and fragmentation, they often benefit from the direction and focusing energy that the president provides.
    - The constitution only gives only a framework for presidential-congressional relations.
    - Congress has the power to declare war; however presidents have deployed troops to warlike situations without congressional approval.
    - The president has the power of veto; however this power is best if used sparingly. By using the threat of veto a president can also shape policy.
    - The core of a president’s legislative power lies in setting the legislative agenda
    - Other than setting policy, the president offers up initiatives based on past policy.
    - The annual State of the Union address is the best indication about the upcoming year’s budget and policy agenda.
    - Presidents are wise to make their most serious agenda points as early as possible in their terms.
    - The president and his aides must remain diligent as Congress’s independent power is often enough to undermine his agenda.
    - A studied conclusion regarding presidential legislative powers is that they are an important force but have many limitations.
    - No president can change the Senate rules that allow filibuster and other modes of stalling legislation.
    - Congress’s partisan balance and the president’s political strength shape the president’s capacity to shape legislation.
    - Despite the rise in congressional partisanship since the 1980’s, most major legislative initiatives require votes from both parties.
    - Presidents can neither dictate the final content of legislation nor can he lobby for votes.
    - They are able to cajole fence-sitting lawmakers by other, less public avenues.
    - Political scientists and pundits have attempted to measure a president’s success by his success with influencing Congress.
    - This is a flawed system of measurement. In the case of Bill Clinton, he had support on 86% of the issues on which he made a stand, however he was stopped on what he saw as his most important initiative.
    - As a result of congressional context of committees, individual entrepreneurs, and wavering support of party leaders; the executive influence can be rendered quite questionable.
    - One of the president’s most significant powers is setting the budget.
    - The Congress, however, holds the purse strings.
    - By setting a firm timetable for action and by requiring the Congress to address total levels of spending early in the process.
    - Throughout the 1980’s, the membership of the House and the Senate played minor roles in budget deals.
    - Despite some judicial setbacks and legislative modifications, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings (GRH) principle of holding down spending through automatic cuts in the absence of legislation remained dominant for several years.
    - The 1990’s remained an era of budget summits.
    - Although budget surpluses altered contentiousness, deficits soon returned.
    - Between 1964 and 2004 only Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were in office while their parties controlled congress.
    -Divided government can be a deadlock.
    - Presidents and Congress have had to make compromises to keep legislation flowing.
    - Presidential-congressional relations remain part of a continuing experiment in self-government.

    Chap.: Presidential- Congressional Relations
    Dan Ogle, 2000

    - the president has the ability to direct the actions of a fragmented Congress by:
    1) setting the agenda
    2) being given broad authority in the policy-making process
    3) having the power to oversee the status of legislation and control over regulations throughout the government
    - despite the increased power of the presidency, Congress has remained an integral part of national policy making
    - a partnership must exist between the President and the Congress
    - presidents should be agenda "focusers"
    * the modern presidency cannot dominate either policy debates or the outcome of all policy initiatives

    I. The President as Chief Legislator
    - the president has more power in the legislative process than any congressman: however, neither can overpower the other
    - the president’s ability to influence legislation results from his electoral base, popularity, and the partisan balance within the Congress

    A. Agenda Setting and the Prospects for Presidential Influence
    - the president is influential in centralizing the annual budget and in designating specific issues as priorities
    - the president can focus media attention on key issues, but it is important to set an agenda early in the term.

    B. Legislating and the Contexts of Presidential Influence
    - presidential legislating is often constrained by constitutional limits, weak party organization, and independent legislators
    - further limitations to executive influence in policymaking:

    1) margin of victory in previous election
    2) partisan balance of congressional seats
    3) the president’s standing with the public
    C. Legislating: Presidential Tools in a Retail Politics Era
    - most major legislative initiatives require "cross-partisan" majorities

    D. The Presidential Record
    - it is difficult to determine the success or failure of a president’s influence

    II. Budgetary Politics: Centralization Through Constraint
    - one of the president’s most significant powers is the authority to propose an annual budget
    - Congressional budget and Impoundment Act of 1974: strengthened the role of Congress in the budgetary process
    - 1980’s: Congress became "fiscalized"

    III. Policy, Power, and Divided Government
    - divided government has not prevented the government from enacting legislation on several important policy issues
    - the separation of powers in a bicameral system make congressional dominance highly unlikely

    Chap.: Presidential- Congressional Relations
    (Jared Lyles, 2000)

    I. The President as Chief Legislator

    - the president most power in the legislative process
    - nobody in the process can control the entire legislation process
    - presidents power comes from electoral base, popularity, and the partisan balance
    A. Agenda Setting and the Prospects for Presidential Influence - presidents influence: annual budget, specific issues as priorities, media attention B. Legislating and the Contexts of Presidential Influence
    -limitations on president
    1) margin of victory in previous election
    2) partisan balance of congressional seats
    3) the president’s standing with the public
    C. Legislating: Presidential Tools in a Retail Politics Era
    - major legislative initiatives require support from both parties
    D. The Presidential Record - it is difficult to determine the success or failure of a president’s influence
    - there are many analyzations that argue the what success is determined by
    - Ronald Reagan success rate- 82% vs. Clinton 86%

    II. Budgetary Politics: Centralization Through Constraint

    - significant powers is to propose an annual budget
    - Congressional budget and Impoundment Act of 1974
    III. Policy, Power, and Divided Government - divided government has not prevented the government from enacting several important policy issues

    - the separation of powers and bicameral structure make dominance impossible

  • Rules, Procedure, and the Legislative Process:
  • The Legislative Paths in the House and Senate:
  • Rules, Norms, and the Legislative Arena:


    Chap.: Legislative Process and Rules of Game.
    By: Sierra R. Turner (2004)

  • From universities to corporations to legislative bodies, all institutions operate under parallel sets of expectations, one established by formal rules and structures, the other resulting from informal arrangements that have grown up over an extended period of time.
  • Legislatures rely heavily on the different kinds of order that are imposed by formal procedures and implicit understandings.
  •  Although the Congress is a thoroughly rule-oriented institution, only a few of its procedures are mandated by the Constitution; these include the requirement that each chamber maintain a journal, that half the membership constitutes a quorum, that tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives, and that the two chambers can override a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote in each body.
  •  The point of origin for a public law begins with bill sponsorship. House members and senators each introduce a number of bills throughout the two-year congressional session.
  •  The Rules Committee dictates both the flow of major, nonprivileged legislation onto the House floor and the procedural limitations that apply once it gets there.
  •  The Rules Committee sets time limits for floor debate and establishes which amendment, if any, can be offered.
  •  The Rules Committee employed two specific types of rules that directly affected policy results:
  • o The king of the hill rule, first devised in 1982, waived various precedents and procedures in allowing a series of votes on several major policy amendments, each offered as an entire substitute an original proposal. This rule “gave ultimate victory to the last one approved, even if one of the earlier options had gotten more ‘yea’ votes.”
    o The self executing rule “stipulates a two-for-one procedure: adoption of the rule simultaneously enacts another measure, amendment, or both.” Long employed for technical purposes in considering Senate legislation, in the 1980s this ploy was used to enact policies without requiring a direct vote on the issue.
  •  Structurally, the legislative process has become more complex over the past forty years in that it has moved from generally closed and informal sets of interactions between legislators to a more open but more formal environment.
  •  The parties have asserted strong control over committees and legislators in the House, discouraging individual influence, while the Senate has become more dominated by individualism infused with strong partisan policy positions.
  •  On a Capital Hill that discourages comity and cooperation and rewards the promotion of individualism, generating the succession of majorities necessary to pass important legislation has grown more and more difficult.
  •  Given both new and continuing legislative challenges, one might predict that the House and especially the Senate will ultimately have to contract the diffusion of power points within and between the chambers in order to meet the legislative responsibilities of the federal government, as well as the expectations of the public.



  • Committees Over Time:
  • Different Committees and Their Value to Members:
  • The Contingent Nature of Committee Power:
  • House and Senate Committees in a Partisan Era:
  • Chap. 8: Congressional Committees
    (Jared Lyles, 2000)
    - The congress performs a vast majority of work within committee, which dictate much of the pace and the content of legislation
    - Committees remain important due to the efficiency found in the division of labor - Members are responsible for constructing the comm. system, and seek positions based on personal aims, districts’ interests, or personal power
  • Committees Over Time
      1. Challenged by Joseph Cannon, but w/ him, they reduced powers
    1. Leaders and Members versus Committee Chairs
    2 Republican Era: Reforming and Controlling Sub-Comm.
  • Different Committees and their Value to Members
      1. want a slot that will gain reelection: tax laws and appropriations, policy
  • The Contingent Nature of Committees
      1. great information
      2. block undesired legislation
      3. shape committee assignments
    1. John Dingell
    1. Thomas Bliley
  • House Committees in Partisan Era
    1. Party leaders want greater control and coordination while committee chairs want autonomy
  • Committee and the Senate: Structured Individualism

    Dan Ogle, 2000

    - Congress (especially the House) does most of its work in committees.
    - committees specialize in many specific policy areas.
    - the committees system allows lawmakers to specialize and make informed decisions on a wide variety of complex, often conflicting proposals.
    - members of Congress often seek committee seats to serve their constituencies.
    - committees and subcommittees serve the entire Congress, while still supporting specific interests.

    I. Committees Over Time
    - early committees were ad hoc bodies that reported back to chambers on specific bills.
    - 1862-1919: usually served the purpose of party leaders.
    * as careers in Congress began to appear, committee-based seniority became an issue; committee chairmen would gain power as party leaders lost it.
    - 1915-1965: Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946-reduced # of committees; created greater committees jurisdiction and, thus, greater power.
    - 1958: activist Dem. began to limit the influence of committee chairs.
    - 1959-1975: party leaders attempted to centralize authority and junior members of Congress tried to have more influence delegated to subcommittees.
    - 1971-1975: House restricts the influence of committee chairs
    - subcommittee reforms during this time (see pg. 89)
    - Dem. Caucus/Leadership reforms imposed during this time (see pg. 89)
    - # of subcommittees peaked in the mid-1970’s
    - subcommittees are usually helpful in routine, low-profile issues (specialized knowledge)
    - committees usually handle more controversial issues

    A. The Republican Era
    - under Gingrich, wanted to shift power toward party leaders and away from the committee system-Gingrich appointed a number of committee chairs (often ignoring seniority) who would support the Republican Agenda.
    - this significantly restrained the power of committees.
    - Republican alterations in committee operations (see pg. 91)
    -changes that have weakened committees (see pg. 92)

    II. Different Committees and Their Value to Members
    - members want to gain a committee position that will help them get reelected.
    - Senators have more committee ad subcommittee assignments-membership overlaps more
    * in both chambers, committees usually serve the interests of their members.
    - junior members usually wait one term before serving on on House "power" committees; however, this changed with the Republican takeover: first time since WWII that more than 15 power committee slots were occupied by freshmen; many of these members did not come from "safe" constituencies

    III. The Contingent Nature of Committee Power
    - advantages of committees (see pg. 95)
    - examples of John Dingell and Thomas Bliley
    A. One Last Chance: The Politics of Conference Committees
    - composed of members from both houses, conference committees iron out the differences in the bills passed by the two chambers
    - "ex post veto" power: ability of standing committees to influence the outcomes of conference committees

    IV. House Committees in a Partisan Era
    - chairing a key committee is one avenue to power within the House.
    - though important, subcommittees are still limited in their impact.
    - on controversial issues, a committee’s partisan majority is the crux of power
    - committee chairs usually act according to the wishes of party leaders
    - under a Republican majority, the house has accepted greater party control over committees; despite the fact that committee chairs still seek some autonomy

    V. Committees and the Senate: Structured Individualism
    - Senate committees are less significant that House committees because of the individualism of Senators

  • The Legislator as Enterprise:
  • The Congressional Enterprise, Blessing and Curse:
  • Chap. 9: Individual Enterprise
    (Joey Hollis, 2002)
    -Combined resources from his own office, committee positions, and reelection campaigns to
    produce his personal organization.

    Personal Office resources

    -$800,000 in salaries and benefits for him and staff
    -franked mail and allowance of $150,000 for travel, telephones, computers, and rent on dist.
    -In addition, also had sub-committee staff
    Legislators as enterprisers-
    -enterprising legislators grabing all resources that they can
    -gain accolades for staff as well
    -congressional resources have grown steadily over time
    -congressional enterprises for veteran legislators must maintain themselves as they promote their
    members' interests.
    The Personal Office
    (Administrative assistant, several legislative aides, personnel secretary, office manager, press
    -What legislators do with staff is entirely up to them
    Committees and Subcommittees
    -If a congressional enterprise is to grow, it must maintain other assets.
    -Subcommitties proliferated in the 1970's and their chairs came to control substantial resources
    and power.
            -Staff grew from 23.2 percent of total committee staff in 1970 to 45.2%.
    -In the 104th Congress, the Majority Republicans chose to bolster the power of full committies
    by placing the responsibility for hiring staff with committee chairs
    Special Interest Caucuses
    -Enterprisers have expanded by advancing leadership positions in a host of special interest
    -Caucuses provide opportunities to participate in the policymaking proces
    -Resources vary greatly, but strongest groups command into the hundreds of thousands
    -Joining them is painless
    -Useful information can be obtained
    -Legislators can get pay offs for advocating their cause (individual donors, PAC's)
    Congressional Offices and the Continuing Campaign, Political Expenditures
    -Through the 1970's Congressional campaigns remained relatively inexpensive.
    -In 1989-1990 election cycle, incumbents with no opposition spent $250,000
    -The Most important building block of any sitting members's campaign enterprise is the personal
  •     Well paid professional campaign staff
  •     Substantial entertainment budgets
  •     Travel expenses
  •     Political consultants
  •     Lawyers and accountants
  •     Civic and political donations
  •     A fund raising apparatus
  •     Investments
  •     Contributions, and college scholarships

  • The Oxymoronic Congress, Individualistic Partisanship:
  • The Struggle to Govern and the Limits of Party:
  • Congress in a Republican Era:
  • Prospects for One-Party Domination in Congress Over the Long Term:

  • Chap. 10: The Competitive Congress: Centrifugal Forces In A Partisan Era [changed name]
    by Larry Newton, 2008

    The Oxymoronic Congress: Individualistic Partisanship

    o In both the House and Senate, the combining of individualism/fragmentation with partisanship has made for a Congress that encourages both centrifugal (decentralizing) and centripetal (centralizing) forces
    o Since the Republican era began in 1994 both the House and Senate have been searching for their true identities
    The Struggle to Govern and the Limits of Party
    o Although parties may control politics, they are still weak for permanent and transitory reasons; this coincides with the facts of reelection and the abilities of lawmakers to use their individual resources to affect policy
    o Another issue since 1994 has been the small size of the majorities
    o There will be a rough partisan balance for some time due to the number of incumbents reelected at high percentages
    o Also highly contested races have begun to receive a great deal of attention from the national parties
    o In the Senate, a larger percentage of the seats are competitive, and a higher percentage of members turn over each election than compared to the House
    o The nature of the Senate is such that even if one party gained seats, each individual senator is a political entity all his or her own, whose power does not derive from the party
    Congress in a Republican Era
  • Prospects for the One-Party Domination in Congress over the Long Term
  • o Although parties have grown stronger inside the Congress and as forces within the electoral system, they will not be able to dominate congressional policy making unless one of them produces enough of the majority to survive the influences of small groupings of the majority-party members who have their own policy preferences
    o As times change, majority party control will change but policies have to be made and passed
    o It is up to this partisanships to develop and come together to sever their constituents