11.2 Congressional ElectionsMany in Congress seek reelectionWho Wins Elections?Incumbents are individuals who already hold office. The incumbent must decide whether to run again or retire voluntarily. Most decide to run for reelection. They enter the primary, are almost always victorious, and typically win the November general election too. Incumbents usually win Congressional Elections. In the House, over 90% of incumbents seeking reelection usually win, and most win with over 60% of the vote. Incumbents tend to win, even when the challenger’s position is closer to public opinion. While the odds for incumbents in Senate are still high, they are not as high as in the House; senators typically win by narrower margins as well. One reason for this is that states are larger than Congressional Districts, and therefore, how much more diversity in public opinion. Senators also have less contact with constituencies, which are 10 times larger than those of the members of the House. Senators also are held more accountable and get more media coverage . Despite their advantages, incumbents still feel vulnerable. Advantages of IncumbencyMost citizens have trouble remembering the name of their Congressional representatives. A study showed that only ? of Americans could make an accurate guess on how their representatives voted on an issueVoter assessment of presidential candidates don’t really influence their voting for Congress either. “Coattails” seem to be myths. Members of Congress engage in three practices that increase their odds of reelection.ADVERTISING Most congressional advertising takes place between elections in the form of contact with constituents. Their goal is visibility. Members make frequent trips home. Members also use the franking privilege to mail letters to every household in their district. Staffers track the interests of individual voters, they have a detailed list of specifics on would be voters, and interact directly with themCREDIT CLAIMING The problem is that while policy positions make friends, they also make enemies. Besides, a congressperson can never claim that he or she alone was responsible for major policy. What almost always wins friends is serving the constituency. They can do this through casework or through the pork barrel. casework-Activities of members of Congress that help constituents as individuals, particularly by getting through bureaucratic red tape to get people what they think they have a right to getCongresspeople can singlehandedly take credit for such favors. The second method involves winning federal funds for states and districts. Pork barrel- Federal projects, grants, and contracts available to state and local governments, businesses,colleges, and other institutions in a congressional district Members of Congress love taking credit for things such as a new highway. POSITION TAKING Candidates must take positions on policy issues, which may affect the outcome of an election. This is especially true in the Senate, where voters’ attention to policy stances is higher. WEAK OPPONENTS Incumbents, particularly in the House have the advantage of being likely to face weak opponentsCAMPAIGN SPENDING Challengers have to spend huge sums of money if they hope to beat an incumbent. Incumbents already have high levels of recognition, and thus, often do not benefit as much from campaign spendingThe Role of Party IdentificationMost members of Congress represent the clear majority party in their respective districts, giving incumbents an even bigger advantageDefeating Incumbents Challenges are often naive about their chances of winning. They often rely on their friends and local party leaders, who often tell them what they want to hear. Incumbents may lose many supporters if their district boundaries change (reapportionment-census) Major political waves can also occur occasionally, such as in 1994, which lead to many defeated incumbents.Open SeatsWhen an incumbent is not running, there is greater likelihood for competition. Each side may offer a strong candidate.Stability and ChangeBecause incumbents usually win reelection, there is some stability to the membership of Congress. This aids in dealing with difficult questions related to public policy. Safe seats make it more difficult for citizens to “send a message” with their votes. Some reformers have proposed term limitations11.3 How Congress is Organized to Make PolicyCongress is a collection of people trying to make policy on specific issuesAmerican BicameralismA bicameral legislature is one divided into two houses. Our Congress is the result of the Connecticut Compromise. Each state has two senators and its number of representatives is based on populationTHE HOUSE The house is over four times larger than the Senate, and therefore, it is more institutionalized. Party loyalty to leadership and party-line voting are more common in the House than they are in the Senate. First time House members have less power than senior members, and are less likely than first time Senators to not be heard. Both the Senate and the House have their own agendas set. The House Rules Committee plays a key role in agenda setting and is unique to the house.Reviews most bills coming from a House Committee before they go to full HouseGives each “bill” a rule, schedules it on calendar, allows time for debate, may even specify kinds of amendmentsSpeaker of the House appoints committee members THE SENATE Filibuster- A strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation use their right to unlimited debate to prevent the Senate from ever voting on the bill. Sixty members present and voting can halt a filibusterThe founders thought the Senate would promote elite interests, while the House would protect the interests of the masses. The House was given the power to initiate all revenue bills and impeach officials; they the Senate the power to ratify treaties and to confirm important Presidential nominations and try impeached officials.The Senate is less centralized and disciplined. Senators are more nearly equal in power than are members of the House. Party leaders do what the Rules Committee does for the House.Filibusters are unique to the Senate. Sixty members present and voting can halt a filibuster by voting for cloture on debate. However, many candidates are reluctant to this, for fear that this will be done to them when they want to be a filibuster. The filibuster raises questions because it is done by a minority, sometimes even of one, to defeat a majority. Southern senators once used filibusters to prevent the passage of civil rights legislation, filibustering commonly used since 1990s, even for trivial matters. Each senator has at least 6 opportunities to filibuster a single bill. Tactical uses of filibusters have expandedChanging filibuster rules requires 67 votes- every senator knows that he or she will be in the minority at one time or the otherCongressional Leadership THE HOUSE The Speaker of the House is the most important leader in the HOR. The Speaker is the only legislative office mandated by the Constitution. The majority party selects the Speaker. Before each Congress, the majority party presents its candidate. Typically, the Speaker is a senior member. A great revolt in 1910 whittled down the Speaker’s powers, giving them to committees, but six decades later, some of these were restored. Today, the Speaker:Presides over the House when in sessionPlays a major role in making committee assignmentsAppoints/ plays key role in party legislative leaders and leadership staffSubstantial control over which bill is assigned to which committee A good Speaker knows their members wellMajority leader- The principal partisan ally of the Speaker of the House or the party’s manager in the senate- responsible for scheduling bills, influencing committee assignments, and rounding up votes on behalf of party legislative positionsWhips- Party leaders who work with majority/ minority leader to count votes beforehand and lean on waverers whose votes are crucial to a bill favored by the partyMinority leader- The principal leader of the minority party in the HOR or in the SenateTHE SENATEVice president’s only constitutionally defined dog- to serve as president of Senate. Modern VPs mainly represent the President’s views to Senators. Senate majority leader/ whip serve as workhorse(s) of partyParty leadership has been more effective in recent yearsGreater policy agreement within each party and greater disagreement between partiesStanding committeesSeparate subject matter committee in each house of Congress that handle bills in different policy areasJoint committeesCongressional committees on a few subject-matter areas with membership from both housesConference committees Congressional committees formed when the Senate and the House pass a particular bill in different forms. Party leadership appoints members from each house to iron out the differences and bring back a single billSelect committeeCongressional committees appointed for a specific purpose, such as the Watergate investigationThe Committees at Work: LegislationEvery bill goes to a standing committee, which virtually has the power of life or death over it. The whole House and Senate usually only consider bills that obtain a favorable committee report. A new bill typically goes directly to a subcommittee, which can hold hearings on it. Committees and subcommittees produce reports for proposed legislation. The most important output is the rewritten bill itself. Members of committee often serve as floor managers of the bill.The Committees at Work: OversightCommittees and subcommittees stay busy in legislative oversight, Congress’s monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy, performed mainly through hearings. Committees handle oversight, mainly through hearings. When an agency wants a bigger budget, the relevant committee reviews its current budget. Members of committees constantly monitor how the bureaucracy is implementing a law. Agency heads and even cabinet secretaries testify. Committee staff and members grill agency heads about particular problems.GETTING ON A COMMITTEEOne of the primary objectives of an incoming member of Congress is getting on the right committee. Members seek committees that will help them achieve in three goalsReelection, influence, opportunity to make policy they find importantJust after election, members communicate their preferences, those who support leadership are favored, but requests granted whenever possibleCOMMITTEE CHAIRS- The most important influencers of the congressional agenda SENIORITY SYSTEM- A simple rule for picking committee chairs, in effect until the 1970s The member who served the longest and was of the party that controlled the chamber would be the chairIn the 1970s younger members revolted, and as a result, both parties in both branches permitted members to vote on committee chairsThis remains the general ruleCaucuses: The Informal Organization of CongressCaucus (congressional)- A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. Many are composed of members of both parties and housesNearly 500 caucusesLike interest groups, but with members of CongressSome are demographic, some are ideologicalCongressional StaffCongress members need help, so they turn to their staffPERSONAL STAFF average rep has 17 assistants, average senator has 40Many of the staffers spend their time on casework, providing services to constituents. ½ of House staffers and ? of Senate staffers work in members’ offices, not DCCOMMITTEE STAFF Committees employ another 2000 or so members.STAFF AGENCIESCongressional Research Service (CRS)Government Accountability Office(GAO)Congressional Budget Office (CBO)11.4 The Congressional Process & Decision MakingMembers introduce about 9000 bills in each Congress. A bill is a proposed law, drafted in legal language. Anyone can draft a bill; however, only members of Congress can formally introduce it. Most bills are killed off early.There are many rules. Party leaders involve themselves in the legislative process. House leaders often assign bills to several committees at the same time. Party leaders have accepted the responsibility of negotiating compromises among committees. Sometimes for high priority bills, party leaders bypass committees. Party leaders use omnibus legislation that addresses multiple issues. Presidents and Congress: Partners and ProtagonistsPolitical scientists sometimes refer to the president as the chief legislature. Presidents have their own legislative agenda, and their goal is to persuade Congress to adopt it. Presidents may choose to contact Congresspeople directly, but they do not often do this. Instead, they leave most lobbying to their staff and work closely with party leaders in the Senate and House. The president must win at every stage of the BTL process, at least 11 times to attain policy change. Successful presidents have been facilitators rather than extremely dominating. Popular presidents and those whose party is the majority party in Congress have a good chance of achieving their goals. Example- ReaganParty, Constituency, and IdeologyPresidents come and go, so constituents are the ones that determine a congressional member’s staunces.PARTY INFLUENCE There are some issues where members of a party are unanimous in their decisions. One example of this is the party vote for the Speaker of the House. On a few issues, the party coalition can be divided. Differences between the parties are most prevalent on issues of economic and social welfare policy.