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Congress - 5


Section 1:        Congressional Membership

Section 2:        The House of Representatives

Section 3:        The Senate

Section 4:        Congressional Committees

Section 5:        Staff and Support Agencies



Section 1 - Congressional Membership


  • bicameral legislature

  • session

  • census

  • reapportionment

  • redistrict

  • gerrymander

  • at-large

  • censure

  • incumbent


Congressional Sessions

      The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature, meaning it is made up of two houses:

     the Senate, and the House of Representatives

  • Each Congressional term is two sessions, or meetings

    January 3, 20091

             January 6, 2009          

       December 24, 2009  January 3, 2011  
    2January 5, 2010    December 22, 2010  
     January 3, 2011  1January 5, 2011January 3, 2012 January 3, 2013    
    2January 3, 2012January 3, 2013
    January 3, 20131January 3, 2013TBDTBD


  • A session lasts one year and includes breaks for holidays and vacations




Membership of the House

      The House of Representatives has 435 members.

      Members of the House must be:

     at least 25 years old,

     citizens of the U.S. for at least 7 years, and legal residents of the state that elects them

      Members of the House are elected for two-year terms.




  • To assign representatives on the basis of population, the Census Bureau takes a national census, or

              population count, every 10 years.

  • Each state’s population determines the number of representatives it will have for  next 10 years

               through the process of  reapportionment.

  • Redistricting is the process of setting up new district lines within each state after reapportionment




      State legislatures have abused their power to divide the state into congressional districts bygerrymandering—drawing distinct boundaries to give one party an electoral advantage.


Governor Gerry's Salamander

   ...When Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill in 1812 that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his party, one of the misshapen districts in the Boston area was said to resemble a salamander. The pernicious legacy of gerrymandering was in evidence on Tuesday in New York’s Ninth Congressional District, where Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin by 54-46%. As you can see in the NYT’s representation of the confines of the district, voters have been grouped, not by geography or on any other rational basis, but by politicians eager to corral them into a safe seat for the party in power.     ...(


Origin of GERRYMANDER: Elbridge Gerry + salamander; from the shape of an election district formed during Gerry's governorship of Massachusetts. First Known Use: 1812



      Membership of the Senate

      The Senate is composed of 100 members– two from each state

      All voters of each state elect senators at-large, or statewide, with no particular district

      The Senate and the House set their own salaries


The current salary (2013) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.


Senate Leadership

             Majority Party Leader - $193,400

             Minority Party Leader - $193,400


House Leadership

             Speaker of the House - $223,500

             Majority Leader - $193,400

             Minority Leader - $193,400



      Members enjoy benefits and resources such as stationery, postage for official business, a medical clinic, and allowances to pay for staff, trips, telephones, telegrams, and newsletters. 

      Both the House and Senate may judge the qualifications of new members and decide whether to seat them.

Each house may punish its members for disorderly behavior by censure—a vote of formal disapproval of a member’s actions


The Members of Congress

Congress includes 535 voting members—
100 senators and 435 representatives








      There are 4 non-voting delegates in the House—1 each from the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands—and 1 resident commissioner from Puerto Rico.

      In recent years, Congress has slowly begun to reflect more racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.

      Membership in Congress changes slowly becauseincumbents (reelection rates)—members who are already in office, often win reelection. ~





The Internet has joined TV and radio as an important campaigning tool

Congressional Profile

  • 435 Members
  • 5 Delegates non voting (from U.S. Territories)
  • 1 Resident Commissioner non voting(from Puerto Rico)
Party Divisions
  • 232 Republicans
  • 200 Democrats
  • 0 Independents
  • 3Vacancies
  • 100 Senators
    (Vice President votes in case of a tie)
Party Divisions
  • 53 Democrats
  • 45 Republicans
  • 2 Independents




Section 2 - The House of Representatives









  • constituent

  • caucus

  • majority leader

  • whip

  • bill

  • calendar

  • quorum


Rules for Lawmaking


      The House and Senate have organized themselves in a way that will help them carry out their obligation to make the laws.

      House rules are aimed at defining the actions an individual representative can take.


Committees of Congress perform most legislative activity

Congressional Committees

Most legislative work in Congress occurs within committees. Bills and resolutions are assigned to committees whose most critical function is to decide which bills and resolutions move forward to consideration by the House or Senate as a whole. Committee chairmen have enormous influence over which move foward and how the committee revises the bill or resolution during committee business meetings.


Senate Committees

Senate hearing on gun violence



Joint Committees

House Committees




  • Representatives tend to specialize in issues that are important to their constituents—the people in

              the districts they represent.

Committees & Caucuses

Congressman Bishop currently serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he is working to reduce traffic congestion on Eastern Long Island and preserve environmental resources as Ranking Minority Member of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.  He also serves on the Education and Workforce Committee, where he is continuing his lifelong mission to expand opportunities for Long Island's working families and increase the affordability of education for all Americans.


The Congressman also serves on the following Congressional Caucuses:

-    National Archives Caucus, Co-Chair

-    Democratic Budget Group, Co-Chair

-    Coalition for Autism Research and Educatio-    Community College Caucus
-    Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues

-    Congressional Arts Caucus

-    Congressional Caucus on Addiction, Treatment and Recovery
-    Congressional Civility Caucus

-    Congressional Humanities Caucus
-    Congressional Labor and Working Families Caucus

-    Congressional Long Island Sound Caucus

-    Congressional Military Family Caucus
-    Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus

-    Congressional Sri Lanka Caucus
-    Congressional Wine Caucus
-    House Cancer Caucus
-    House Democratic Caucus
-    House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
-    House National Service Caucus
-    Sudan Caucus

-    Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition
-    United Services Organization (USO) Congressional Caucus

  • In each house, the majority party gets to select the leaders to control the flow of legislative work and

              appoint the chairs of all committees.



House Leadership



Leaders of the House coordinate the work of 435 individual members by meeting six goals:

Ø  organizing and unifying party members

Ø  scheduling work

Ø  making certain that lawmakers are present for key floor votes

Ø  distributing and collecting information

Ø  keeping the House in touch with the president,

Ø  influencing lawmakers to support their party’s positions.


·         The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer and its most powerful leader.  A caucus, is a closed meeting of caucus members.   The caucus of the  majority party chooses the House Speaker at the start of each session of Congress.


·         The Speaker has several powers, including:

Ø  influencing proceedings by deciding which members to recognize first,

Ø  appointing the members of some committees,

Ø  scheduling bills for action and referring bills to the proper House committee, and

Ø  following the vice president in the line of succession to the presidency.


·         The majority leader, the Speaker’s top assistant, is responsible for:

Ø  helping plan the party’s legislative program

Ø  steering important bills through the House, and

Ø  making sure the chairpersons of the many committees finish work on bills that are important to the party.


·         The majority leader is the floor leader of his or her political party in the House and is elected by the majority party.


·         Majority whips and deputy whips are assistant floor leaders in the House.  The majority whip’s job is to monitor how majority-party members vote on bills (proposed laws)


Nancy Pelosi - Democratic House Leader


  The minority party in the House elects its own leader and whip with responsibilities that parallel the

 duties of the party.


Lawmaking in the House


      A proposed law is called a bill until both houses of Congress pass it and the president signs it.








The Speaker of the House sends bills to the appropriate committee for review



      Only 10 to 20 percent of bills ever get to the full House for a vote.

      Bills that survive the committee process are put on one of the House calendars, which list bills that are up for consideration.



         After a committee has considered and approved a major bill, it usually goes to the House Rules Committee.

         Major bills that reach the floor of the House do so by a special order from the Rules Committee.

         The Rules Committee has the power to delay or block bills that representatives and House leaders do not want to come to a vote on the floor.

A quorum is the minimum number of members needed for official legislative action

         For a regular session, a quorum requires a majority of 218 members.




Section 3 - The Senate


         president pro tempore








The Senate at Work

      The Senate deliberates, or formally discusses, public policies.

      The vice president presides (top person in authority as in President of the Senate) over the Senate but cannot vote except to break a tie.





         In the absence of the vice president, the president pro tempore—elected by the Senate from the majority party—presides.

Patrick Leahy 




         The Senate majority leader steers the party’s bills through the Senate and makes sure that party members attend important sessions and gets support for key bills


Harry Reid - Senate Majority Leader






         The Senate minority leader critiques the majority party’s bills and keeps his or her own party united.

         The Senate brings bills to the floor by unanimous consent.

      To filibuster  means to extend debate to prevent a bill from coming to a vote



The Longest Filibuster In History Lasted More Than A Day — Here's How It Went Down

Read more:



         A vote for cloture  limits the debate by allowing each senator only one hour for speaking on a bill.

      The majority party controls the flow of bills in the Senate.



Section 4:        Congressional Committees





•standing committee


•select committee


•joint committee


•conference committee


•seniority system



Purposes of Committees


The committee system serves three important purposes:


·        It allows members of Congress to divide their work among many smaller groups.


·        Committees select which of the bills introduced into Congress are to receive further consideration.


·        By holding public hearings and investigations, committees help the public learn about key problems facing the nation.




Kinds of Committees - Congress has four kinds of committees:


·        Standing committees are permanent groups that oversee bills that deal with certain kinds of issues.  Subcommittees specialize in a subcategory of its standing committee’s responsibilities.


·        Select committees are temporary committees that study one specific issue and report their findings to the Senate or the House.


·        Joint committees are committees that are made up of members from both the House and the Senate.


·        Conference committees are temporary committees that are set up when the House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill.


Gillibrand, Kirsten E. (D-NY)








Schumer, Charles E. (D-NY)


  Special Committee on Aging

Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Committee on Armed Services

Committee on Environment and Public Works

 Joint Committee on the Library

Joint Committee on Printing

United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Committee on Finance

Committee on the Judiciary

Committee on Rules and Administration


Choosing Committee Members

·        In the House and Senate the parties must assign members to the standing committees.


·        Each member can serve on only limited number of standing committees and subcommittees.


·        The chairpersons of the standing committees make key decisions about the work of committees and manage floor debates that take place on bills that come from their committees.


·        The seniority system is the unwritten rule that implies that the majority party member with the longest uninterrupted service on a committee is the appointed leader of the committee.


 Interactive for students


Section 5:        Staff and Support Agencies



  • Congressional Staff Role

    Lawmakers rely on congressional staffers to help them:


    ·        handle the growing workload of Congress


    ·        communicate with voters


    ·       draft new bills


    ·        write committee reports



    Support Agencies


    Congress created several important support agencies, including:




         The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, containing more than 100 million books, journals, music pieces, films, photographs, and maps.



         The Congressional Budget Office coordinates the budget work of Congress, studies budget proposals put forward by the president, and projects the costs of proposed programs.




         The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviews the financial management of government programs that Congress creates, collects government debts, settles claims, and provides legal service.




         The Government Printing Office (GPO) does the printing for the entire federal government, including the daily Congressional Record and the annual Statistical Abstract of the United States.