U. S. Government: Democracy In Action

Chapter 5: The Organization of Congress

Chapter Overviews

Chapter 5 introduces the components of Congress and how they are organized to work together. Because the Senate and the House must consider thousands of bills that are proposed to Congress each year, committees and other support staff are used to assist and ease the workload for the congressional representatives.

Section 1 defines the qualifications to hold political office and how members of Congress provide representation to local voters. Congress totals 535 voting members comprised of 100 senators and 435 representatives. Each congressional member represents a defined geographic area. Citizens of these areas can address issues to their representative in order to be heard.

Section 2 introduces the House of Representatives and the activities of congressional representatives. The primary task of each house of Congress is lawmaking. This is achieved through complex rules and solid leadership. Due to the size of the House of Representatives, most of the work is done in committees. Key terms such as constituents, caucus, majority leader, whips, bill, calendar, and quorum are introduced.

Section 3 deals with the structure and activities of the Senate. The rules of the Senate are quite different than those of the House of Representatives. Rules for the Senate are more flexible, creating an informal atmosphere. Leadership in the Senate is similar to that of the House except that the Senate has no speaker and the vice president presides over it. In addition, the Senate works from two calendars—the Calendar of General Order and the Executive Calendar.

Section 4 introduces congressional committees and how they are used in the lawmaking process. Committees serve three purposes: first, committees allow members of Congress to divide the work among smaller groups; second, committees review all the bills and select those to receive further consideration; and third, through public hearings, committees help to inform the public of current issues.

Section 5 discusses how staff and support agencies support congressional representatives in the lawmaking process. Staff members carry out the work of the congressional committees. Since the workload of Congress is so massive, congressional members use trained staffs to assist them in completing their work effectively.

US Government: Democracy In Action
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