The Congress that the U.S. and most Latin American countries has is different from the Parliament that most European nations have because in Europe, a person who wants to run for office must persuade his party to nominate him, while in America, politicians can run for themselves.
In Europe, people vote for parties; in America, they vote for individuals.
In primaries, people vote especially for a “person” and in general elections, this is sometimes true also.
In parliament, legislators can support their leaders or not, and if they don’t then new leaders (prime minister and various cabinet members) must be elected.
The Evolution of Congress
The framers of the Constitution chose a congress over other forms of representative government because they didn’t want all power concentrated together
Thus, they created a bicameral legislature, which consisted of two houses—a House of Representatives and a Senate—where one was based on population representation and the other was more evenly balanced.
Despite the checks and balances created, the framers still expected Congress to be the dominant branch in politics.
The Senate has been small enough to evade many of the House problems, and in the Senate, there is no limit on the amount of time that can be used to debate over a topic.
Until the 1900s, senators were picked by legislators.The big fight was over who should elect senators, but finally, after a long struggle, the 17th Amendment was passed, allowing direct elections of senators.
Another issue was the use of the filibuster, or the stalling of time (usually to prevent the discussion or passage of a bill) by a senator (he/she could do anything to stall, as long as he/she kept talking), but Rule 22 sort of solved this by allowing senators to end a filibuster if 2/3 of the senators (now it’s just 60) present voted for a “cloture” and thus end a debate.
Incumbents enjoy great advantages, and the number of safe districts, where incumbents win 55% of the vote or more, is still much greater than the number of marginal districts, where incumbents win by less than 55%.
Since 1933, Democrats have controlled the house well over 80% of the time, and this may be because Democrats have often redrawn district lines to benefit themselves and weaken Republicans.
Getting Elected to Congress
Each state has two senators in the Senate and at least one representative, with the number of reps determined by state population.
There were two problems in apportioning voting districts: malapportionment, where districts were unequally sized and a person in would district could have his vote have twice the power of that of a person in another district, and gerrymandering, where districts are drawn in bizarre shapes so that a candidate of a party can easily win that district
The Organization of Congress: Parties and Caucuses
While other legislative organizations in other nations may be only one organization, Congress is a mixture of many organizations.
The majority party chooses one of its members to be president pro tempore of the Senate
The president of the Senate is the vice president of the U.S., but he has little power too.
The real leadership is in the hands of the majority leader, who schedules business and can be recognized first in the Senate
The key party organization is the group that assigns senators to the standing committees of the Senate, and what committee a senator is appointed to can be very advantageous to new senators’ careers.
In the House, the Speaker is the most powerful and important person because he controls who can speak and influences decisions.
He decides who to recognize, what bills to debate, and what rules to obey.
A caucus is an association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional or economic interest, and more and more have sprung up over the years.
Legislators join caucuses to prove that they are actively working to solve issues, and while recently,