Friday, March 15, 2013

The Congressional Research Service provides detailed

The Congressional Research Service provides detailed, up-to-date and non-partisan research for senators, representatives, and their staff to help them carry out their official duties. Sony Vaio VGN-NR31SR/S Battery It provides ideas for legislation, helps members analyze a bill, facilitates public hearings, makes reports, consults on matters such as parliamentary procedure, and helps the two chambers resolve disagreements. It has been called the "House's think tank" and has a staff of about 900 employees. Sony Vaio VGN-NR31Z/S Battery   The Congressional Budget Office or CBO is a federal agency which provides economic data to Congress.[100] It was created as an independent nonpartisan agency by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. It helps Congress estimate revenue inflows from taxes and helps the budgeting process. Sony Vaio VGN-NR31Z/T Battery It makes projections about such matters as the national debt[101] as well as likely costs of legislation. It prepares an annual Economic and Budget Outlook with a mid-year update and writes An Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for the Senate's Appropriations Committee. Sony Vaio VGN-NR31ZR/S Battery The Speaker of the House and the Senate's President pro tempore jointly appoint the CBO Director for a four-year term. Lobbyists represent diverse interests and often seek to influence congressional decisions to reflect their clients' needs. Sony Vaio VGN-NR38E/S Battery Lobby groups and their members sometimes write legislation and whip bills. In 2007 there were approximately 17,000 federal lobbyists in Washington.They explain to legislators the goals of their organizations. Some lobbyists represent non-profit organizations and work pro-bono for issues in which they are personally interested. Sony Vaio VGN-NR38M/S Battery   Congress has alternated between periods of constructive cooperation and compromise between parties known as bipartisanship and periods of fierce political infighting known as partisanship. The period after the Civil War was marked by partisanship as is the case today. It is generally easier for committees to reach accord on issues when compromise is possible. Sony Vaio VGN-NR38S/S Battery Some political scientists speculate that a prolonged period marked by narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress has intensified partisanship in the last few decades but that an alternation of control of Congress between Democrats and Republicans may lead to greater flexibility in policies as well as pragmatism and civility within the institution. Sony Vaio VGN-NR38Z/S Battery   A term of Congress is divided into two "sessions", one for each year; Congress has occasionally been called into an extra or special session. A new session commences on January 3 each year unless Congress decides differently. The Constitution requires Congress meet at least once each year and forbids either house from meeting outside the Capitol without the consent of the other house. Sony Vaio VGN-NR38Z/T Battery   Joint Sessions of the United States Congress occur on special occasions that require a concurrent resolution from both House and Senate. These sessions include counting electoral votes after a presidential election and the president's State of the Union address. The constitutionally-mandated report, Sony Vaio VGN-NR31E/S Battery normally given as an annual speech, is modeled on Britain's Speech from the Throne, was written by most presidents after Jefferson but personally delivered as a spoken oration beginning with Wilson in 1913. Joint Sessions and Joint Meetings are traditionally presided over by the Speaker of the House except when counting presidential electoral votes when the vice president presides. Sony VPCW11S1E/P Battery   Ideas for legislation can come from members, lobbyists, state legislatures, constituents, legislative counsel, or executive agencies. Anyone can write a bill, but only members of Congress may introduce bills. Most bills are not written by Congress members, but originate from the Executive branch; interest groups often draft bills as well. Sony VPCW11S1E/P Battery The usual next step is for the proposal to be passed to a committee for review. A proposal is usually in one of these forms: Bills are laws in the making. A House-originated bill begins with the letters "H.R." for "House of Representatives", followed by a number kept as it progresses. Sony VPCW11S1E/T Battery   Joint resolutions. There is little difference between a bill and a joint resolution since both are treated similarly; a joint resolution originating from the House, for example, begins "H.J.Res." followed by its number.[91] Concurrent Resolutions affect only both House and Senate and accordingly are not presented to the president for approval later. In the House, it begins with "H.Con.Res." Sony VPCW11S1E/W Battery   Simple resolutions concern only the House or only the Senate and begin with "H.Res." Representatives introduce a bill while the House is in session by placing it in the hopper on the Clerk's desk. It's assigned a number and referred to a committee which studies each bill intensely at this stage. Sony VPCW12S1E/P Battery Drafting statutes requires "great skill, knowledge, and experience" and sometimes take a year or more. Sometimes lobbyists write legislation and submit it to a member for introduction. Joint resolutions are the normal way to propose a constitutional amendment or declare war. Sony VPCW12S1E/T Battery On the other hand, concurrent resolutions (passed by both houses) and simple resolutions (passed by only one house) do not have the force of law but express the opinion of Congress or regulate procedure. Bills may be introduced by any member of either house. However, the Constitution provides that: Sony VAIO VGN-NR21E/S Battery "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." While the Senate cannot originate revenue and appropriation bills, it has power to amend or reject them. Congress has sought ways to establish appropriate spending levels. Each chamber determines its own internal rules of operation unless specified in the Constitution or prescribed by law. Sony VAIO VGN-NR21J/S Battery In the House, a Rules Committee guides legislation; in the Senate, a Standing Rules committee is in charge. Each branch has its own traditions; for example, the Senate relies heavily on the practice of getting "unanimous consent" for noncontroversial matters.  House and Senate rules can be complex, sometimes requiring a hundred specific steps before becoming a law. Sony VAIO VGN-NR21S/S Battery Members sometimes use experts such as Walter Oleszek, a senior specialist in American national government at the Congressional Research Service, to learn about proper procedures. Each bill goes through several stages in each house including consideration by a committee and advice from the Government Accountability Office. Sony VAIO VGN-NR21S/T Battery Most legislation is considered by standing committees which have jurisdiction over a particular subject such as Agriculture or Appropriations. The House has twenty standing committees; the Senate has sixteen. Standing committees meet at least once each month. Almost all standing committee meetings for transacting business must be open to the public unless the committee votes, publicly, to close the meeting. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery A committee might call for public hearings on important bills.Each committee is led by a chair who belongs to the majority party and a ranking member of the minority party. Witnesses and experts can present their case for or against a bill. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery Then, a bill may go to what's called a mark-up session where committee members debate the bill's merits and may offer amendments or revisions.[91] Committees may also amend the bill, but the full house holds the power to accept or reject committee amendments. After debate, the committee votes whether it wishes to report the measure to the full house. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery If a bill is tabled then it is rejected. If amendments are extensive, sometimes a new bill with amendments built in will be submitted as a so-called clean bill with a new number.[91] Both houses have procedures under which committees can be bypassed or overruled but they are rarely used. Generally, members who have been in Congress longer have greater seniority and therefore greater power.[110] Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery   A bill which reaches the floor of the full house can be simple or complex[91] and begins with an enacting formula such as "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled." Consideration of a bill requires, itself, a rule which is a simple resolution specifying the particulars of debate—time limits, possibility of further amendments, and such.[91] Sony VAIO VGN-SR11M Battery Each side has equal time and members can yield to other members who wish to speak.[91] Sometimes opponents seek to recommit a bill which means to change part of it.[91] Generally, discussion requires a quorum, usually half of the total number of representatives, before discussion can begin, although there are exceptions. Sony VAIO VGN-SR11MR Battery The house may debate and amend the bill; the precise procedures used by the House and Senate differ. A final vote on the bill follows. Once a bill is approved by one house, it is sent to the other which may pass, reject, or amend it. For the bill to become law, both houses must agree to identical versions of the bill.[91] Sony VAIO VGN-SR19VN Battery If the second house amends the bill, then the differences between the two versions must be reconciled in a conference committee, an ad hoc committee that includes both senators and representatives sometimes by using a reconciliation process to limit budget bills. Both Houses use a budget enforcement mechanism informally known as pay-as-you-go or paygo which discourages members from considering acts which increase budget deficits.Sony  VGP-BPS13 Battery If both houses agree to the version reported by the conference committee, the bill passes, otherwise it fails.The Constitution specifies that a majority of members known as a quorum be present before doing business in each house. However, the rules of each house assume that a quorum is present unless a quorum call demonstrates the contrary. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13A/B Battery Since representatives and senators who are present rarely demand quorum calls, debate often continues despite the lack of a majority. Voting within Congress can take many forms, including systems using lights and bells and electronic voting. Both houses use voice voting to decide most matters in which members shout "aye" or "no" and the presiding officer announces the result. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13B/B Battery The Constitution, however, requires a recorded vote if demanded by one-fifth of the members present. If the voice vote is unclear or if the matter is controversial, a recorded vote usually happens. The Senate uses roll call voting in which a clerk calls out the names of all the senators, each senator stating "aye" or "no" when his or her name is announced. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13/S Battery In the Senate, the vice president may cast the tiebreaking vote if present. The House reserves roll-call votes for the most formal matters, as a roll call of all 435 representatives takes quite some time; normally, members vote by using an electronic device. In the case of a tie, the motion in question fails. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13A/S Battery Most votes in the House are done electronically, allowing members to vote yea or nay or present or open. Members insert a voting ID card and can change their votes during the last five minutes if they choose; in addition, paper ballots are used on some occasions—yea indicated by green and nay by red. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13B/S Battery One member can not cast a proxy vote for another. Congressional votes are recorded on an online database. After passage by both houses, a bill is enrolled and sent to the president for approval. The president may sign it making it law or veto it, perhaps returning it to Congress with his objections. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13/Q Battery A vetoed bill can still become law if each house of Congress votes to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. Finally, the president may do nothing—neither signing nor vetoing the bill—and then the bill becomes law automatically after ten days (not counting Sundays) according to the Constitution. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery But if Congress is adjourned during this period, presidents may veto legislation passed at the end of a congressional session simply by ignoring it; the maneuver is known as a pocket veto, and cannot be overridden by the adjourned Congress. Senators face reelection every six years, and representatives every two. Sony  VAIO VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery Reelections encourage candidates to focus their publicity efforts at their home states or districts.Running for reelection can be a grueling process of distant travel and fund-raising which distracts senators and representatives from paying attention to governing, according to some critics. although others respond that the process is necessary to keep members of Congress in touch with voters. Sony  VGP-BPS21 Battery   Nevertheless, incumbent members of Congress running for reelection have strong advantages over challengers. They raise more money  because donors expect incumbents to win, they give their funds to them rather than challengers. And donations are vital for winning elections. One critic compared being elected to Congress to receiving life tenure at a university. Sony  VGP-BPS21A Battery Another advantage for representatives is the practice of gerrymandering. After each ten-year census, states are allocated representatives based on population, and officials in power can choose how to draw the congressional district boundaries to support candidates from their party. Sony  VGP-BPS21B Battery As a result, reelection rates of members of Congress hover around 90 percent,[1] causing some critics to accuse them of being a privileged class. Academics such as Princeton's Stephen Macedo have proposed solutions to fix gerrymandering. Both senators and representatives enjoy free mailing privileges called franking privileges. Sony  VGP-BPS21/S Battery   In 1971, the cost of running for congress in Utah was $70,000 but costs have climbed. The biggest expense is television ads.  Today's races cost more than a million dollars for a House seat, and six million or more for a Senate seat. Since fundraising is vital, "members of Congress are forced to spend ever-increasing hours raising money for their re-election." Sony  VGP-BPS21A/b Battery   Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has treated campaign contributions as a free speech issue.  Some see money as a good influence in politics since it "enables candidates to communicate with voters." Few members retire from Congress without complaining about how much it costs to campaign for reelection. Sony VGP-BPS26 Battery Critics contend that members of Congress are more likely to attend to the needs of heavy campaign contributors than to ordinary citizens. Elections are influenced by many variables. Some political scientists speculate there is a coattail effect (when a popular president or party position has the effect of reelecting incumbents who win by "riding on the president's coattails"),Sony VGP-BPL26 Battery although there is some evidence that the coattail effect is irregular and possibly declining since the 1950s. Some districts are so heavily Democratic or Republican that they are called a safe seat; any candidate winning the primary will almost always be elected, and these candidates do not need to spend money on advertising. Sony VGP-BPS26A Battery But some races can be competitive when there is no incumbent. If a seat becomes vacant in an open district, then both parties may spend heavily on advertising in these races; in California in 1992, only four of twenty races for House seats were considered highly competitive. Since members of Congress must advertise heavily on television, this usually involves negative advertising, Sony VGP-BPS22 Battery which smears an opponent's character without focusing on the issues. Negative advertising is seen as effective because "the messages tend to stick." However, these ads sour the public on the political process in general as most members of Congress seek to avoid blame. Sony VGP-BPL22 Battery One wrong decision or one damaging television image can mean defeat at the next election, which leads to a culture of risk avoidance, a need to make policy decisions behind closed doors, and concentrating publicity efforts in the members' home districts. Prominent Founding Fathers writing in the Federalist Papers felt elections were essential to Sony VGP-BPS22A Battery liberty and that a bond between the people and the representatives was particularly essential and that "frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured." In 2009, however, few Americans were familiar with leaders of Congress. Sony VAIO PCG-3B1M Battery The percentage of Americans eligible to vote who did, in fact, vote was 63% in 1960, but has been falling since, although there was a slight upward trend in the 2008 election. Public opinion polls asking people if they approve of the job Congress is doing have, in the last few decades, hovered around 25% with some variation. Sony VAIO PCG-3D1M Battery Scholar Julian Zeliger suggested that the "size, messiness, virtues, and vices that make Congress so interesting also create enormous barriers to our understanding the institution... Unlike the presidency, Congress is difficult to conceptualize."Other scholars suggest that despite the criticism, "Congress is a remarkably resilient institution ... Sony VAIO PCG-3G2M Battery its place in the political process is not threatened ... it is rich in resources" and that most members behave ethically. They contend that "Congress is easy to dislike and often difficult to defend" and this perception is exacerbated because many challengers running for Congress run against Congress, Sony VAIO PCG-5R1M Battery which is an "old form of American politics" that further undermines Congress's reputation with the public: The rough-and-tumble world of legislating is not orderly and civil, human frailties too often taint its membership, and legislative outcomes are often frustrating and ineffective ... Still, we are not exaggerating when we say that Congress is essential to American democracy. Sony VAIO PCG-7162M Battery We would not have survived as a nation without a Congress that represented the diverse interests of our society, conducted a public debate on the major issues, found compromises to resolve conflicts peacefully, and limited the power of our executive, military, and judicial institutions ... Sony VAIO PCG-7181M Battery The popularity of Congress ebbs and flows with the public's confidence in government generally ... the legislative process is easy to dislike—it often generates political posturing and grandstanding, it necessarily involves compromise, and it often leaves broken promises in its trail. Sony VAIO PCG-41112M Battery Also, members of Congress often appear self-serving as they pursue their political careers and represent interests and reflect values that are controversial. Scandals, even when they involve a single member, add to the public's frustration with Congress and have contributed to the institution's low ratings in opinion polls. Sony VAIO PCG-7153M Battery   An additional factor that confounds public perceptions of Congress is that congressional issues are becoming more technical and complex and require expertise in subjects such as science and engineering and economics.[7] As a result, Congress often cedes authority to experts at the executive branch.[7] Sony VAIO PCG-71312M Battery   In January 2013, the popularity of Congress reached an all-time low, with just 9% of registered voters approving of its performance and 85% disapproving. Voters preferred root canals, colonoscopies, traffic jams, Genghis Khan and cockroaches to Congress, but preferred Congress to the Kardashians, North Korea, the ebola virus, Lindsay Lohan, Fidel Castro, meth labs, communism and gonorrhea. Sony VAIO PCG-7144M Battery   When the Constitution was ratified in 1787, the ratio of the populations of large states to small states was roughly twelve to one. The Connecticut Compromise gave every state, large and small, an equal vote in the Senate. Since each state has two senators, residents of smaller states have more clout in the Senate than residents of larger states. Sony VAIO PCG-7191L Battery But since 1787, the population disparity between large and small states has grown; in 2006, for example, California had seventy times the population of Wyoming. Critics such as constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson have suggested that the population disparity works against residents of large states and causes a steady redistribution of resources from "large states to small states." Sony VAIO PCG-3C1M Battery However, others argue that the Connecticut compromise was deliberately intended by the Framers to construct the Senate so that each state had equal footing not based on population, and contend that the result works well on balance. A major role for members of Congress is providing services to constituents. Constituents request assistance with problems. Sony VAIO PCG-3F1M Battery Providing services helps members of Congress win votes and elections. and can make a difference in close races. Congressional staff can help citizens navigate government bureaucracies. One academic described the complex intertwined relation between lawmakers and constituents as home style. Sony VAIO PCG-3H1M Battery   Members of Congress enjoy parliamentary privilege, including freedom from arrest in all cases except for treason, felony, and breach of the peace and freedom of speech in debate. This constitutionally derived immunity applies to members during sessions and when traveling to and from sessions. Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M Battery The term arrest has been interpreted broadly, and includes any detention or delay in the course of law enforcement, including court summons and subpoenas. The rules of the House strictly guard this privilege; a member may not waive the privilege on his or her own, but must seek the permission of the whole house to do so. Senate rules however are less strict and permit individual senators to waive the privilege as they choose. Sony VAIO PCG-8141M Battery   The Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of debate in both houses, providing in the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." Accordingly, a member of Congress may not be sued in court for slander because of remarks made in either house, Sony VAIO PCG-8161M Battery although each house has its own rules restricting offensive speeches, and may punish members who transgress them. Obstructing the work of Congress is a crime under federal law and is known as contempt of Congress. Sony VAIO PCG-3C2M Battery Each branch has the power to cite individuals for contempt but can only issue a contempt citation—the judicial system pursues the matter like a normal criminal case. If convicted in court, an individual found guilty of contempt of Congress may be imprisoned for up to one year. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2M Battery  

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