U.S. Congress





Congress = two houses (Senate/HR)


HR – People – Lower House


435 members, 435 Cong. Districts, reps. a district

2 yr terms -  why? [Skousen, pp. 269, 270]

elections in Nov.

every state has a least one representative [A1, S2] – first breakdown [Skousen, p. 281]

proportional representation – no less than 1:30,000 (now 1:600,000)

Apportionment – proportional distribution of Cong. Seats among the states (California)

Census – 1790 – every 10 years [photocopy, Skousen, p. 278]

435 fixed in 1929 (1789-65) [Skousen, pp. 279-280]


Senate – State governments – Upper House


* Skousen, pp. 294-301


“The Senate is the living symbol of the union of our states”

Smaller, more select – more deliberative, wise, etc.

100 members  now, then 26 members

elections every 6 yrs (at-large) [Skousen, pp. 301-304]

Article V – 2 Senators from each state
17th Amendment - Senators elected by people, not state legislatures – problems?




Age is 18 [Skousen, pp. 267-268]

Congress can regulate specifics of federal elections

1872: federal elections all on same day – Tuesday following first Monday in November in even-numbered years (General Election Day) [Skousen, pp. 328-330]




Constitutional Qualifications


* Skousen, pp. 270-272


  1. age (25 HR; 30 Senate)
  2. citizenship (7 yrs House; 9yrs Senate)
  3. resident of state


average: 50 yrs, white, male, family man, Protestant heritage


ethnic breakdown of present Congress:


Blacks: 36 in House (35 Dems., 1 Rep.; 1 Senate)

Hispanics: 19 in House (16 Dems., 3 Reps.; 0 Senate)

Asian and Pacific Islanders (4 in House; 2 in Senate – all Democrats)

Indian Americans: (1 Senate; 1 House; both Democrats)

Women (61 in House: 18 Republicans, 43 Democrats; 13 in Senate: 3 Republicans, 10 Democrats)


Congressional Leadership


We vote for lawmakers who in turn vote for their own officials to lead Congress


Congress requires at least three positions:

  1. Speaker of the House [A1, S2]  http://speaker.house.gov/

-         more power than president of Senate

-         vote and debate

-         supervises daily business of the House

-         decides who and when members are recognized to speak

-         One speaker became President:



James K. Polk (Tenn.)


-         follows VP in line of succession to President – (see handout)

  1. President of the Senate [A1, S3]

-         VP presides over Senate

-         Tiebreakers

  1. President pro tempore of the Senate

-         In place of the Pres of the Senate

-         “President for the time being”


à other officers – see p. 82


Party Leadership


Parties evolve over time (Washington administration) – fears about political parties (handout)

Democrats and Republicans

Majority and minority parties

Majority party controls floor debate, floor and cmtee leaders, and have majorities on all comtees

Majority leader

Minority leader

Party whip – keeps “pack” together

Seniority system for party chairs – longest on cmtee

Party caucuses before term begins






* Skousen, pp. 341-345


Set own salary

Paid from US Treasury

27th Amendment – pay raises effective next term


The President of the United States earns $400,000 a year.

The vice president's annual salary is $186,300.

If George Washington's $25,000 annual salary was adjusted for inflation, it would now be $4 million.


Congress: Rank-and-File Members' Salary

In December, 2001, Congress voted not to block a scheduled pay increase raising the annual salary for a rank-and-file Senator or Representative by $4,900 to $150,000 per year. This increase, the third in the last four years, goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2002. Since 1990, congressional pay has increased from $98,400 to $150,000. 

Members of Congress are also allowed to make an additional maximum 15 percent of their salary from outside sources, like speaking, legal practice and consulting. In addition, they are allowed unlimited income from book royalties.

Members are free to turn down pay increase and some choose to do so.

In a complex system of calculations, administered by the Office of Personnel Management, congressional pay rates also affect the salaries for federal judges and other senior government officials.

During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin considered proposing that elected government officials not be paid for their service. Other Founding Fathers, however, decided otherwise.

From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.   

Congress: Leadership Members' Salary
Leaders of the House and Senate are paid a higher salary than rank-and-file members.

Senate Leadership
Majority Leader - $161,200 (Sen. Thomas Daschle) 
Minority Leader - $161,200 (Sen. Trent Lott) 

House Leadership 
Speaker of the House - $186,300 (Rep. Dennis Hastert)
Majority Leader - $161,200 (Rep. Dick Armey)
Minority Leader - $161,200 (Rep. Richard Gephardt)

The same rules of income from outside sources apply to both leadership and rank-and-file Members of Congress.
Congress: Raises

A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress vote to not accept it.




Special tax deductions

Travel allowances

Funds for hiring staff and assistants

Free medical care

Offices in Washington and local districts

No postage on official mail (franking privilege)

Free from arrest in most cases

Can’t be held liable for what’s said on house floor




Can’t be appointed to any federal position they create [Skousen, pp. 347-349]

Can’t be employed by gov’t at same time Senator or Rep. [Skousen, pp. 350-351]

14th Amendment – aid and comfort to the enemies of the US -> expulsion (unless by 2/3 of both houses)


Procedures Within Congress (A1, S4-6)


20th Amendment (1933) – moves meeting time of Congress from December to Jan. 3 each year

New 2yr term begins January following election

Term of 107th Congress until noon, Jan. 3, 2003

Both houses must agree to adjourn – neither for more than 3 days without ok of other house – why?

If a dispute over adjourning, president can adjourn (never exercised this power)


Quorum need for a vote (1/2 plus one) [Skousen, pp. 331-332]

Congressional Record – since 1873

Declare war [Skousen, pp. 440-442] (handout)




Congressional Discipline


Power to punish members

Both H and S –

  1. censure (officially condemn)
  2. expulsion (2/3 vote of the house in question)


Rep. James Trafficant






Primary Responsibilities of Congress – Lawmaking


9,000 bills proposed every term à less than 10% become law

Under Constitution, only House can introduce revenue and appropriation bills (“no taxation without representation”) [Skousen, pp. 372-378]

Senate can propose changes to House appropriations bills or concur with them


From Bills to Laws (see chart in the book)


To become a law, a bill must be approved by both houses and be signed by the President


  1. Introduction – only member can formally introduce – pressure groups
  2. Committee action – bill assigned – most die – others farmed to subcommittees – hearings – if passed out of sc, then sent to full committee for a vote – then if okayed by committee, then sent to full house for a vote
    1. Discharge petition – simple majority to get out of committee
  3. Floor – debate and changes – House: limited debate – Senate: unlimited debate – filibuster in Senate – Cloture rule (3/5 for 1 hr a week)


Final vote – voice vote, standing vote, (20%) roll-call vote

Same deal in other house – conference committee

President’s desk (veto [“I forbid”]) [Skousen, pp. 360-363]

Override veto with 2/3 majorities in each house


Number of Vetoes





Franklin D Roosevelt



Grover Cleveland 1



Harry S Truman



Dwight D Eisenhower



Grover Cleveland 2



Ulysses S Grant



Theodore Roosevelt



Ronald Reagan



Gerald R Ford



Calvin Coolidge



George Bush



Benjamin Harrison



Woodrow Wilson



Richard M Nixon



William McKinley



William H Taft



Herbert Hoover



Jimmy Carter



Bill Clinton



Lyndon B Johnson



Andrew Johnson



John F Kennedy



Rutherford B Hayes



Andrew Jackson



Chester A Arthur



John Tyler



Franklin Pierce



James Madison



James Buchanan



Abraham Lincoln



Warren Harding



James Polk



George Washington



James Monroe



Martin Van Buren





John Adams




John Quincy Adams




Millard Fillmore




James A Garfield




William H Harrison





Thomas Jefferson





Zachary Taylor




* to 1999





Other responsibilities of Congress


In making laws, legislators must represent their constituency


Protect constituency from harmful legislation

Promote beneficial legislation


Representation and character


Exodus 18:21 – qualities of a leader

Exodus 18
21 But select capable men from all the people-men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain-and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.


Wisdom, insight, knowledge, determination, honesty, integrity, etc.

Importance of character in leaders - EXCERPTS


Trafficant debate


Views of representation


Trustee (Burke) – personal judgment (handout)

Delegate – desires of constituency

à typically some combination


Lesson – Republic vs. democracy


* What form of government do we have in America? [write various answers on the board]

* Can someone look up Article IV, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution and read it?

* What form of government does it mention? [a republic]

* Having concluded their work on the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin walked outside and seated himself on a public bench. A woman approached him and inquired, "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have you done for us?" Franklin quickly responded, "My dear lady, we have given to you a republic--if you can keep it."

* Can someone say the Pledge of Allegiance? [“…to the Republic for which it stands…”]

* What form of government is mentioned there? [a republic]

* Why don’t we hear anything about democracy? [rhetorical question]

* The FF wanted to protect individual rights and property rights from tyranny (king, monarchy, congress, unelected mob, etc.

For FF, democracy=unlimited rule by an omnipotent majority. “[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” (James Madison).Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide” (John Adams). Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration and member of PA ratifying convention, called it “mobocracy.”]

* Instead, they set up a constitutionally limited republic. They valued liberty above democracy and “equality” at all costs. This unbridled democracy leads to tyranny, as Plato and Aristotle recognized.]

* What is a constitutional republic? [write answers on the board]

A constitutional republic, which was enshrined in the Constitution, limits the powers of government and majorities and protects the rights of minorities. Power is divided so that no majority can run roughshod over others. The difference between a democracy and a republic is the source of authority.

* Which parts of the Constitution are “undemocratic”? [write answers on the board]

* Let me list a few of the “undemocratic” parts of the Constitution:

-         electoral college

-         First Amendment free speech protection

-         Senate [representation]


BUT there is another “undemocratic” principle running through the American political system. The FF meant for elected officials in Congress to be “trustees” and not “delegates.”


What is the “trustee” theory? What does Burke say it is?

[The role of a representative is to act in the interest of his or her constituents. This theory presents a solution to the problem of uninformed constituents that do not have the necessary knowledge on issues to take an educated position on issues. The representative is "entrusted" with the position to make decisions that will benefit the district he or she represents. This position also allows for the representative to take into consideration other benefactors such as the state or nation as a whole.


Burke says, “A representative is entitled to, and in effect has a right (by virtue of election or appointment), to exercise independent judgement during the course of the deliberations and process that accompanies the law and policy-making government of the State. Hence, individually and as a collective, the elected representative determines the common good.” and "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."]


What is the “delegate” theory? [The legislator should act only on the instruction of his or her constituents. In this role, representatives are elected by a local group, and sent to deliver the group’s vote. This theory does not provide representatives the luxury of acting in their own conscience, and often fails to take the good of the state or nation into account. In essence, the representative acts as the voice of those who are not literally present.]


Let’s do the pros and cons of each.

What are the pros and cons of the “trustee” theory? [write answers]

What are the pros and cons of the “delegate” theory? [write answers]


[Evaluate answers]

Which view do you prefer? Why?

What about the role of “factions” of “interest groups”?





Powers of Congress: Delegated and Denied (A1, S8-9)


* Copy Skousen, p. 370


Citizens delegate/grant a wide range of powers to Congress through the Constitution

  1. expressed powers – A1, S8 [pp. 94-95]
  2. implied powers – “necessary and proper” (A1, S8) – DEBATES??? <Skousen, pp. 459-462] - That this clause is an enlargement, not a constriction, of the powers expressly granted to Congress, that it enables the lawmakers to select any means reasonably adapted to effectuate those powers, was established by Marshall's classic opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): ''Let the end be legitimate,'' he wrote, ''let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional.


Authorized Powers



  1. Originate revenue bills [Skousen, pp. 355-357]
  2. Select President from top three candidates in EC if EC doesn’t give a majority
  3. Confer charges of impeachment against a public official [A1, S2] – house managers



  1. Choosing VP from top two candidates in EC if not majority
  2. Approves presidential appointments
  3. Trying cases of impeachment
  4. Approves presidential treaties




* Skousen, pp. 284, 293




House managers present case to the Senate

2/3 vote of Senate to remove

Could face civilian charges


Handouts (Federalist Papers, No. 65 and 66)




Powers Denied Congress (A1, S9)



  1. suspending writ of habeas corpus (Skousen, pp. 472-474)
  2. passing bills of attainder (w/o trial) (Skousen, pp. 475)
  3. ex post facto laws (punish for offenses that were previously legal) (Skousen, pp. 476-477)
  4. tax levied directly on individuals
  5. no tax on exports
  6. no preference to ports
  7. can’t draw money from Treasury without specific appropriations
  8. granting titles of nobility