Chapter 5: The Organization of Congress
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 calendarsthe 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.