Friday, March 15, 2013

The franking privilege allows members of Congress

The franking privilege allows members of Congress to send official mail to constituents at government expense. Though they are not permitted to send election materials, borderline material is often sent, especially in the run-up to an election by those in close races. Indeed, some academics consider free mailings as giving incumbents a big advantage over challengers. Sony VAIO PCG-5P1M Battery   From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a daily payment of $6 while in session. Members received an annual salary of $1,500 per year from 1815 to 1817, then a per diem salary of $8 from 1818 to 1855; since then they have received an annual salary, first pegged in 1855 at $3,000.Sony PCG-31211T Battery In 1907, salaries were raised to $7,500 per year, the equivalent of $173,000 in 2010 dollars. In 2006, members of Congress received a yearly salary of $165,200. Congressional leaders were paid $183,500 per year. The Speaker of the House of Representatives earns $212,100 annually. Sony PCG-31311T Battery The salary of the President pro tempore for 2006 was $183,500, equal to that of the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. Privileges include having an office and paid staff. In 2008, non-officer members of Congress earned $169,300 annually.Some critics complain congressional pay is high compared with a median American income of $45,113 for men and $35,102 for women. Sony PCG-51111T Battery Others have countered that congressional pay is consistent with other branches of government. Congress has been criticized for trying to conceal pay raises by slipping them into a large bill at the last minute. Others have criticized the wealth of members of Congress. Sony PCG-81111T Battery Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee told Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig that a chief problem with Congress was that members focused on lucrative careers as lobbyists after serving––that Congress was a "Farm League for K Street"––instead of on public service. Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Sony PCG-81311T Battery Like other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and participants' contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3% of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2% of their salary in Social Security taxes. And like Federal employees, members contribute one-third of the cost of health insurance with the government covering the other two-thirds. Sony VPCF138FC Battery   The size of a congressional pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest three years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary. In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Sony VPCF219FC Battery was $60,972, while those who retired under FERS, or in combination with CSRS, was $35,952. Members of Congress make fact-finding missions to learn about other countries and stay informed, but these outings can cause controversy if the trip is deemed excessive or unconnected with the task of governing. Sony VPCS135EC Battery For example, the Wall Street Journal reported lawmaker trips abroad at taxpayer expense, which included spas, $300-per-night extra unused rooms, and shopping excursions. Lawmakers respond that "traveling with spouses compensates for being away from them a lot in Washington" and justify the trips as a way to meet officials in other nations. Sony VPCS136EC Battery   The history of the United States Congress refers to the chronological record of the United States Congress including legislative sessions. The Constitution defines the Senate as having two senators for each state in the Union. The size of the House of Representatives is based on the number of states and their populations. Sony VPCS138EC Battery The numerical size of the House is set by law, not by the Constitution. The House grew in size as states were admitted throughout the 19th century, and as the nation grew in population. Since the Constitution allows for one representative for as few as 30,000 citizens, Congress passed new, higher limits for the House, Sony VPCS139GC Battery which grew in size until a law passed in 1911, based on the National Census of 1910, established the present upper limit of 435 members of the House.[1] Since the House's size was fixed but the population kept growing, instead of a congressperson representing only 30,000 citizens (as the Constitution had previously established), Sony VPCYA15EC Battery a congressperson represents 600,000 and more persons.[2] In different periods of American history, the role of Congress shifted along with changing relations with the other branches of government, and was sometimes marked by intense partisanship and other times by cooperation across the aisle. Sony VPCYA16EC Battery Its relations with the other branches of government have changed over time. Generally Congress was more powerful in the 19th century than in the 20th century, when the presidency (particularly during wartime) became a more dominant branch. One analyst examining Congressional history suggested there were four main eras, Sony VPCYA25EC Battery with considerable overlap, and these included the formative era (1780s–1820s), the partisan era (1830s–20th century), the committee era (1910s–1960s), and the contemporary era (1970s–today). Although one can trace the history of the Congress of the United States to the First Continental Congress, which met in the autumn of 1774, Sony VPCYA26EC Battery the true antecedent of the United States Congress was the Second Continental Congress. Whereas the First Continental Congress was a meeting of representatives of twelve of Great Britain's American colonies that sent a list of grievances to King George III, the Second Continental Congress evolved into the first governing body of the United States when the American Revolutionary War commenced in April 1775. Sony VPCYB15JC Battery The Second Continental Congress was convened on May 10, 1775 with twelve colonies in attendance. A year later, on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the thirteen colonies free and independent states, referring to them as the "United States of America." Sony VPCYA17GH/R Battery The Second Continental Congress was the national government until March 1, 1781, supervised the war and diplomacy, and adopted the Articles of Confederation before the States ratified it in 1781. One common term for patriot was "Congress Man"--a supporter of Congress against the King. Sony VPCCW2S8E/W Battery The Congress of the Confederation governed the United States for eight years (March 1, 1781 to March 4, 1789). There was no chief executive or president before 1789, so Congress governed the United States. The Articles of Confederation were written in 1776, and came in to effect in 1781. Sony VPCCW2Z1E/B Battery This established a weak central government, with only a unicameral body, in which each state was equally represented and each had a veto over most actions. There was no executive or judicial branch. This congress was given limited authority over foreign affairs and military matters, but not to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce, or enforce laws. Sony VPCY11S1E Battery This system of government did not work well, with economic fights among the states, and an inability to suppress rebellion or guarantee the national defense. Annapolis became the temporary capital of the United States after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Sony VPCY11S1E/S Battery Congress was in session in the state house from November 26, 1783, to June 3, 1784, and it was in Annapolis on December 23, 1783, that General Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. For the 1783 Congress, the Governor of Maryland commissioned, John Shaw, a local cabinet maker, to create an American flag.[ Sony VPCW1 Battery The flag is slightly different from other designs of the time. The blue field extends over the entire height of the hoist. Shaw created two versions of the flag: one which started with a red stripe and another that started with a white one. In 1786, a convention, to which delegates from all the states of the Union were invited, Sony VPCW1E8R/BU Battery was called to meet in Annapolis to consider measures for the better regulation of commerce; but delegates came from only five states (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware), and the convention, known afterward as the "Annapolis Convention", Sony VPCY11AGJ Battery without proceeding to the business for which it had met, passed a resolution calling for another convention to meet at Philadelphia in the following year to amend the Articles of Confederation. The Philadelphia convention drafted and approved the Constitution of the United States, which is still in force. Sony VPCY11AHJ Battery   In May 1787, a Convention met in the Philadelphia State House for the purpose of resolving problems with the Articles of Confederation. Instead, the Articles were scrapped entirely and a new Constitution was drafted. All states agreed to send delegates, except Rhode Island. One of the most divisive issues facing the Convention was the way which structure of Congress would be defined. Sony VPCY11AVJ Battery The practice of having "two-house" bicameral legislatures (bicameral from the Latin camera meaning chamber) was well established in state governments by 1787.[7] Edmund Randolph's Virginia Plan argued for a bicameral Congress; the lower house would be elected directly by the people whereas the upper house would be elected by the lower house. Sony VPCY11M1E Battery The plan attracted support of delegates from large states as it called for representation based on population. The smaller states, however, favored the New Jersey Plan, which had a unicameral Congress with equal representation for the states. Arguments between federalists and anti-federalists about congressional scope, power, role, Sony VPCY11S1E Battery and authority happened before ratification of the Constitution and continue, to varying extents, to the present day. Generally, the Constitution gave more powers to the federal government, such as regulating interstate commerce , managing foreign affairs and the military, and establishing a national currency. Sony VPCY11V9E Battery These were seen as essential for the success of the new nation and to resolve the disputes that had arisen under the Articles of Confederation, but the states retained sovereignty over other affairs. Eventually, a "compromise", known as the Connecticut Compromise or the Great Compromise was settled; Sony VPCY11V9E/S Battery one house of Congress would provide proportional representation, whereas the other would provide equal representation. To preserve further the authority of the states, the compromise proposed that state legislatures, rather than the people, would elect senators. To protect against abuse of power at the federal level, the Constitution mandated separation of powers, with responsibilities divided among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Sony VPCY219FJ/S Battery The Constitution was ratified by the end of 1788, and its full implementation was set for March 4, 1789. The Constitution remained the main issue for Americans until the 1792 elections, consisting of a battle between the U.S. Federalist Party (Pro-Administration Party), which supported the Constitution and the Anti-Federalist Party (Anti-Administration Party), which opposed the Constitution. Sony VPCY21AFJ Battery After the first Congressional and Presidential elections took place in 1789, the Federalists had control over US Congress. Between 1792 and 1800 the struggle over Congress came between Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party- which was popular through the successful First Bank of the United States, until 1792- and Thomas Jefferson's Democratic Republican Party. Sony VPCY21AGJ Battery Jefferson's party managed to finally gain control over the US House of Representatives after the 1792 elections, thanks in part to one of the top Federalists, James Madison, uniting with moderate Jefferson and prominent Anti-Federalists to form the Democratic Republican Party, Sony VPCY21AHJ Battery as Madison became an opposer to Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton's First Bank of the United States. In 1794, however, the Democratic Republican Party lost control of the United States Senate, thanks in part to party's opposition to Jay's Treaty. In 1796, the Democratic Republican Party would also lose control of the United States House of Representatives, Sony VPCY21AVJ Battery due to the party's support of the unpopular French Revolution,[18] though the Democratic Republican Party still could obtain second place victories in these elections- which made Jefferson the US Vice President- as well; Washington, however, was supported by almost every American, and even though he ran under the Federalist ticket, Sony VPCY21S1E/L Battery he still was not an official Federalist and was easily re-elected US President unanimously in 1792 as well, and John Adams- an actual Federalist who was also elected United States President in 1796- was elected Vice President (President of the Senate) on the Federalist ticket with Washington as well. Sony VPCY21S1E/P Battery   The early 19th century was marked by frequent clashes between the House of Representatives and the Senate. After victory in the 1800 US elections, Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party dominated both the US Senate and US House of Representatives, as well as the presidential elections; Sony VPCY21S1E/SI Battery this was because states rights became a popular issue after the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions outlawed the Federalists Alien and Sedition Acts. Federalists, after having lost the presidency and Congress, had a stronghold in the Supreme Court, presided over by chief justice John Marshall. Sony VPCCW1E8R/WU Battery One highly partisan justice, Samuel Chase, had irked president Jefferson by highly charged partisan attacks on his character, calling him a "Jacobin". Jefferson, after becoming president, urged Congress to impeach Chase. The House initiated impeachment in late 1804, and the Senate tried but acquitted him, Sony VPCCW1S1E Battery partially on the realization that while Chase's actions had been reprehensible, it was more important to preserve an independent judiciary. The congressional action had the effect of chastening the Supreme Court whose members, from that point on, generally, refrained from open character attacks on members of Congress and the president,Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M Battery and limited their criticisms to the judicial aspects of congressional and presidential decisions. Chase was the only Supreme Court justice impeached by Congress. Henry Clay of Kentucky was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and dominant leader over Congress, during the 1810s. Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M Battery A careful numerical balance between the free North and the slave holding South existed in the Senate, as the numbers of free and slave states was kept equal by a series of compromises, such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820. That broke down in 1850 when California was admitted as a free state, but the Compromise of 1850 postponed a showdown. Sony VAIO PCG-7171M Battery Meanwhile the North was growing faster and dominated the House of Representatives, despite the rule that counted 3/5 of non-voting slaves in the population base of the South. The victory of John Quincy Adams in 1824 was challenged by Andrew Jackson, who argued a corrupt bargain between Clay and Adams had cheated Jackson; Sony VAIO PCG-7186M Battery Jackson lead both electoral votes and popular votes, but had no majority in the electoral college. Clay strongly opposed Jackson's "total war" policy (Jackson's unauthorized invasion of the Spanish colony of Florida was criticized in Congress––Jackson was the victorious general of the Battle of New Orleans). Sony VAIO PCG-81112M Battery Clay gave his votes in the House of Representatives to the candidate who was closest to Jackson in terms of both electoral votes and popular votes, namely, John Quincy Adams. Jackson and his (as yet unnamed) followers easily dominated the 1826 Congressional Election and took complete control of the 20th United States Congress. Sony VAIO PCG-31111M Battery As the Second Party System emerged, the Whigs and Jacksonians (called "Democrats" by 1834) battled for control of Congress. In the 1832 Senate elections, the National Republican party, which was the main party that opposed Andrew Jackson, gained control of the US Senate after President Jackson broke with his Vice-President John Calhoun, Sony VAIO PCG-31311M Battery and gained Senate seats in parts of the Southern US, and maintained control over Senate until 1835, when Jackson's popular bank policies could help the Democrats regain control of Congress again in the 1834 Congressional elections; this break between Jackson and Calhoun was over whether or not South Carolina could avoid the Tariff of 1828, Sony VAIO PCG-8152M Battery which Calhoun strongly opposed, and resulted in Calhoun's new Nullifier Party eventually uniting with Henry Clay's National Republican Party, and other opponents of Andrew Jackson, to form the US Whig Party in 1834.The Whigs swept into power in 1840, thanks in later part to the fact that President Martin Van Buren became unpopular after he continued to fail at bringing the US out of the depression started by the Panic of 1837; Sony VAIO PCG-61111M Battery Van Buren would even lose in his home state of New York.[22] Following the death of President William Henry Harrison in 1841, John Tyler became president and soon broke bitterly with Clay, and the Whigs in Congress, after he continuously vetoed Clay and the Whig Party's bills for a national banking act in 1841. Sony PCG-71213M Battery As a result, Tyler's supporters helped give the Democrats control of the United States House of Representatives in the 1842 Congressional elections. Democrats regained control of Congress in the 1844 elections, as well, thanks to the huge support of the annexation of Texas, Sony PCG-71311M Battery as the 29th United States Congress, but the Whigs were back in control of both houses in 1846, thanks in part to the opposition of the Mexican-American War. The Democrats were able to regain control of Congress in 1848, thanks in part to the US successfully winning the Mexican-American War. Sony PCG-71312M Battery The Democrats now had complete control over the 31st United States Congress, despite the break between the anti-slavery (Free Soil Party) and pro slavery Democrats; because of this break, the Democrats would not maintain the US Presidency, and Whig Party member Zachary Taylor was elected the 12th President of the United States in the 1848 US Presidential Election. Sony PCG-71212M Battery In 1852, the divide between the pro-slavery southern Wings(who threw their support to Democratic candidate Franklin Pierce and broke with Henry Clay over the Compromise of 1850) and the anti-slavery Northern(who stood behind Clay's compromise and supported the party's nominee Winfield Scott) would also help give the Democrats not only control both houses of Congress, but also the US Presidency as well. Sony PCG-71811M Battery In the 1854 elections, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, sponsored by Senator Stephen Douglas, was put against vehement opposition. The opposition to this act led to the formation of the new Republican party. In early 1856, the Know Nothing Party assembled nativists and former Whigs but the Democrats regained control over Congress. Sony PCG-71911M Battery During this time the Know Nothing Party and Republican Party united and together, elected Know Nothing Congressman Nathaniel Prentice Banks, as to serve as the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the remaining years of the 34th United States Congress. Through the 35th United States Congress, the Democrats regained control of both houses in Congress; Sony PCG-91211M Battery this thanks in part to the division of the Know-Nothing Party and the Republican Party during the 1856 U.S. Presidential election. The Know Nothings soon collapsed, and in the North were absorbed by the Republicans, who dominated most states and took control of the US House of Representatives in the 1858 elections, Sony PCG-91111M Battery as abolitionist Know Nothings joined the Republican Party after the controversial Dred Scott ruling occurred in 1857. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln led the Republicans to a victory based entirely in the anti-slavery North, and the Republican Party now took full control of Congress. Sony VAIO PCG-5J4M Battery Congress played a major role in the American Civil War, as the Republicans were in control of both chambers; after the war ended in 1865, Reconstruction was controlled by President Andrew Johnson, who broke with the Radical Republicans (led by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles Sumner.) Sony VAIO PCG-5K1M Battery After the elections of 1866 the Radicals came to power, impeached (but did not convict) President Johnson, and controlled Reconstruction policy. The Radical hold was broken by the Democratic landslide in the election of 1874, and Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives, this was thanks in part to the Long Depression started by the Panic of 1873. Sony VAIO PCG-5K2M Battery The Democrats would continue to dominate the US House of Representatives, and even gained control of the US Senate in the 1878 US Senate election as the depression worsened. The Gilded Age (1877–1901) was marked by Republican dominance of Congress—and the Presidency— except in the early years, and some of the mid-years of the Gilded Age-,Sony VAIO PCG-5J5M Battery despite the Democratic lock on the Solid South. The Republican Party, however, would regain control over the US House of Representatives in the 1880 election, as support for the Republican Party's tariff spread among the general public; the Panic of 1873 had also ended for the US in 1879, with the start of the vast immigration into the US that lasted until 1930. Sony VAIO PCG-5L2M Battery State legislatures continued to elect senators, which meant that the most powerful politicians in the state vied for control of the legislature in order to win election to the Senate. The Democrats, however, retained control of the United States Senate in the 1880 US Senate election, Sony VAIO PCG-6S4M Battery as Virginia's Readjuster Party member William Mahone and Illinois' Independent Party member David Davis were both elected to the US Senate. Both men chose to caucus with the Democrats, thus giving the Democratic Party a 39–37 control of the Senate during the 47th United States Congress. Sony VAIO PCG-6W1M Battery   With support for the Republican Party now had for rebounding the United States economy with the tariff of the party's US President James Garfield(who was assassinated in late 1881), the Republicans would see themselves take back control over the US Senate in the 1882 US Senate elections. Sony VAIO PCG-6W2M Battery While the Republican Party was now in control of both houses of Congress once again, it wouldn't last for long at all. President Arthur became unpopular within after turning on Roscoe Conkling and the Stalwartsand supported civil reform. In some cases, Senate elections were tainted by corruption and bribery. Sony VAIO PCG-7Z1M Battery In other instances, gridlock between the two houses of state legislatures prevented the election of a senator. (In one acute case, deadlock prevented the Delaware legislature from sending a senator to Washington for four years.) These issues were resolved by the Seventeenth Amendment (ratified in 1913), which provided for the direct popular election of senators. Sony VAIO PCG-8Y2M Battery With former Speaker of the House of Representatives James Blaine(who served as the Republican Party's nominee during the 1884 US Presidential election) tainted by the Mulligan Letters, the Republicans would lose control of the US House of Representatives, as well as the Presidency, in 1884. Sony VAIO PCG-8Y3M Battery In 1888, New York's support for the Republican Party's tariff policies helped Republicans retake control over the US House of Representatives once again, through the state of New York. The Democrats were able to regain control over the US House of Representatives after the Republican Party lost support after Sony VAIO PCG-8Z1M Battery President Benjamin Harrison continued to spend money from the US Treasury to try and help American businesses that were suffering from the high US tariffs, in the 1890 elections, as well as also regaining the Presidency and US Senate in 1892, as opposition to President Harrison's tariffs grew. 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