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citizen’s guide to


The Framers decided to place legislative powers in the hands of congress because they did not want to have all powers concentrated in a single governmental institution. They had feared that such concentration would result in an oppressive or impassioned majority ruling. The Framers also knew that the states would never consent to a national constitution unless it protected their interests and maintained a balance between large and small sates.


Thus, the bicameral legislature was created. First, there would be a House of Representatives, to be elected directly by the people. Secondly, a Senate, consisting of two members from each state that are chose by the legislatures of each state.


In California: 53 Representatives 2 Senators

House of Representatives Type: Lower house Total representatives: fixed at 435

Senate Type: Upper house Total members: 100

- It is designed to be closer and more responsive to the people. - Representation is based on population.

- Each U.S. state is represented by two senators, regardless of population, ensuring requal representation.


Evolution of Congress

Terms and Sessions: 1. Terms last two years 2. Begin January 3 of every odd-numbered year 3. Terms numbered consecutively. Current term: 111th from Jan 3, 2009 – 2011 4. Each term has two regular sessions with periodic recesses 5. The end of the term, adjournment, is a date agreed upon by both houses

Compensation: Congress sets members’ salaries; however the 27th Amendment prohibits a change in salary from taking effect until after the next general election. Current annual salary is at $174,000 for each Representative and $193,400 for Majority/Minority Leaders. Representatives are also eligible for lifetime benefits after serving for five years, including a pension, health benefits, and social security benefits.

Senate Elections: Held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years, Election Day, and coincides with the elections for House of Representatives. Each senator is elected by his or her state as a whole. Terms: Senators serve six-year terms; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the seats are up for election every two years. Qualifications: Set by Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution; each senator must: (1) be at least thirty years old; (2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years; (3) must be (at the time of election) an inhabitant of the state he or she seeks to represent.

House of Representatives Elections: Held in every even-numbered year, on U.S. Election Day early in November. Representatives are elected from singlemember districts by means of plurality voting. Terms: 2-year terms. Qualifications: Set by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution; each representative must: (1) be at least twenty-five years old; (2) have been a citizen of the United States for the past seven years; (3) be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they represent.

Congress Overview


Reapportionment is the redistribution of 435 seats in the House on the basis of population changes in states. This is done every ten years to provide proportional representation to the states. States can gain, lose, or maintain their representatives. The Clerk of the House of Representatives is required to notify each state government of the numbers of seats no later than January 25 of the year following the census. In order to cope with the new numbers, states must redistrict by drawing new congressional districts in order evenly distribute the representation.


Gerrymandering is when the district is drawn to the advantage of the party controlling state legislature. Each district is supposed to have the same number of people and must be drawn in one contiguous piece. Effects: - The most obvious and immediate effect of gerrymandering is that the elections in districts become less competitive. There will also be apparent strangelyshaped districts. - Concerning an incumbent, the effects of gerrymandering is particularly advantageous. Incumbents are far more likely to be reelected, giving politicians safe seats, under conditions of gerrymandering. - Minority-majority districts are created. These are found in US federal voting district boundaries which produce a proportion of constituencies with minorities in the majority.


Baker v. Carr The Supreme Court, in a wrenching decision that took a year to decide, ruled that the federal courts could indeed intervene in states’ reapportionment issues to insure fairness. This case had fundamentally altered the nature of political representation in America, as it led to the requirement of nearly every state to redistrict during the 1960s, often several times. It also resulted in the increase of political power of urban centers and limited the influence of more conservative interests. Wesberry v. Sanders This case had Wesberry protesting the state of Georgia’s apportionment scheme and put in question whether Georgia’s congressional districts violated the Fourteenth Amendment or deprive citizens of the full benefit of their right to vote. The Court issued the ruling that districts have to be approximately equal in population on February 17, 1964.

} Reapportionment & Gerrymandering


These are powers actually stated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution • Levy taxes (revenue bills must originate in the House) • Coin and borrow money, spend money for common defense and public welfare • Regulate foreign, interstate, and Indian commerce. Because of Congress’ broad interpretation of this clause, it has been frequently tested in the Courts. • Establish naturalization, standards for weights and measures, bankruptcy laws, post offices. • Grant copyrights and patents • Create inferior federal courts • Declare war; raise and support an army or navy • Define and punish piracy, counterfeiters


Suggested, but not stated in the Constitution. • These stem from the Elastic Clause. • There are frequently ‘Strict vs. Liberal’ Constructionist approaches • Necessary & Proper Clause: o This clause permits Congress “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” o Therefore, broad interpretations of the clause have effectively widened the scope of Congress’s legislative authority far beyond what is stated in Section 8.


Powers that the national government has because it is a sovereign government. • Regulating immigration • Acquiring territory • Granting diplomatic recognition

powers of Congress

House of Representatives


• Agriculture and Natural Resources • Audit Review and Oversight • Capital Budget • Commerce and Labor • Community and Economic Development and Trade • Early Learning and Children’s Services • Ecology and Parks • Education • Education Appropriations • Environmental Health • Finance • Financial Institutions and Insurance • General Government Appropriations • Health and Human Services Appropriations • Health Care and Wellness • Higher Education • Human Services • Judiciary • Local Government and Housing • Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness • Rules • State Government and Tribal Affairs • Technology, Energy and Communications • Transportation • Ways and Means

• Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry • Appropriations • Armed Services • Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs • Budget • Commerce, Science, and Transportation • Energy and Natural Resources • Environment and Public Works • Finance • Foreign Relations • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions • Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs • Judiciary • Rules and Administration • Small Business and Entrepreneurship • Veterans’ Affairs

House Committee: Energy and Commerce The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has developed what may be the broadest (non-tax-oriented) jurisdiction of any Congressional committee. It upholds chief responsibility for legislative oversight in regards to such areas as telecommunications and consumer protection. Chairperson – Henry A. Waxman Bill – H.R. 3258, the Drinking Water System Security Act: This bill increases the safety and security of the country’s drinking water facilities. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency to analyze drinking water systems that serve more than 3,300 people, and assign them one of four risk levels; requires covered water systems to identify security vulnerabilities; requires covered water systems to consider switching from hazardous chemicals or processes to safer chemicals or processes; authorizes states to require certain high risk water systems to adopt safer practices when feasible; and sets clear standards for the sharing of water system security information.

Senate Committee: Foreign Relations The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is charged with leading foreign-policy legislation and debate in the national allies. Its responsibilities include holding confirmation hearings for the position of Secretary of State and it has considered, debated, and reported important treaties and legislation. Chairperson – John F. Kerry Bill – S.1390 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 An original bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.

111th Congressional Committees

Examples of Caucuses Blue Dog Coalition Building a Better America Caucus California Democratic Congressional Delegation Caucus for Congressional World Bank Dialogue Caucus on International Religious Freedom Children’s Environmental Health Caucus Coalition on Autism Research and Education Community College Caucus Congressional 21st Century Health Care Caucus Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus Congressional African Partnership for Economic Empowerment Caucus Congressional Algerian Caucus Congressional Animal Protection Caucus Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus Congressional Arts Caucus Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus Congressional Bike Caucus

Congressional Black Caucus Congressional Boating Caucus Congressional Caucus on Central Asia Congressional Caucus on Colombia Congressional Caucus on Cote d’ Ivoire Congressional Caucus on Global Road Safety Congressional Caucus on Indonesia Congressional Caucus on Infant Health and Safety Congressional Diabetes Caucus Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus Congressional Ethiopia and Ethiopian American Caucus Congressional Everglades Caucus Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus Congressional Financial Markets Caucus Congressional Fire Services Caucus Congressional Fitness Caucus Congressional Friends of Canada Caucus

Congressional Diabetes Caucus This caucus was formed in 1996 and has grown to be one of the largest caucus in Congress with close to 250 members in the 111th Congress. Its mission is to educate members of the Congress and their staff about diabetes and to support legislative activities that would improve diabetes research, education, and treatment. Its Chairpersons are Diana DeGette and Mike Castle, with Xavier Becerra and Mark Kirk as vice chair. Examples of legislation: H.R. 1625, the Equity and Access for Podiatric Physicians Under Medicaid Act. The bill would classify podiatrists as physicians for purposes of direct reimbursement through the Medicaid program. The Bill currently has 107 cosponsors.

Congressional Caucuses

District Congressperson Brad Sherman Washington, D.C. 2242 Rayburn Building Washington, D.C. 20515-0524 (202) 225-5911 tel (202) 225-5879 fax San Fernando Valley 5000 Van Nuys Blvd. Suite 420 Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 (818) 501-9200 tel (818) 501-1554 fax


Barbara Boxer (D – CA)

Dianne Feinstein (D – CA)

112 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 205010 (202)224-3553

331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 Phone: (202) 224-3841 Fax: (202) 228-3954

CA Representation

Congressman Brad Sherman San Fernando Valley 5000 Van Nuys Blvd. Suite 420 Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 Dear Congressman Sherman: I am writing about the unemployment rate that is still steadily rising. My mother has become a statistic when she lost her job through no fault of her own. She is still currently struggling to find a decent fulltime job. The unemployment benefits cannot sufficiently substitute for what my mother used to earn. I am asking for your support and leadership in efforts to solve the unemployment problem. The House passed a job-creation bill (HR 2847) last fall, but there has yet to be a significant effect. It is already the beginning of a new year, but the rate is still so high. I respectfully request that you focus on jobs early this year. There are so many families suffering from unemployment and relief for this has been long overdue. Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. I am hopeful that the creation of a proper jobs bill would help ease the problems of thousands of families. I sincerely hope that you will be able to help in such efforts. Sincerely yours, Francesca Reyes 11147 Wystone Ave. Porter Ranch, CA 91326


CA Representation Congressional Caucuses Congress Overview Evolution of Congress Gerrymandering Standing Committees American Government, Wilson & Dilulio 2006 10th Ed., Ch. 13


Citizen's Guide to Congress  

AP Government Project

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