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57. The Party Caucus. — Each party in the House of Representatives has a secret conference of its members, known as the party caucus, for the purpose of securing unanimous party action on any important question. The important question may be the nomination of the speaker, the floor leader, or the whips of the party. More often the work of the caucus is to determine the party attitude on pending legislation.
When important legislation is under consideration the majority caucus meets and decides whether or not the bill will be made a party measure. In the caucus each member may speak freely; but if the majority decide to make the bill a party measure every member of the party is expected to vote for it in the House. For instance, when the Underwood-Simmons Tariff Bill was under consideration in 1913 the Democratic caucus decided that the bill should pass the House, and that it should not be amended by the House unless Mr. Underwood himself, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, should offer the amendment. If any member fails to vote as directed by the caucus he is likely to lose all influence in the party.
The minority party of the House also has a caucus for the selection of its leaders and to determine whether it will act solidly as a party in opposing a bill favored by the majority party.
The Democratic caucus is held in secret. In 1913 the caucus of the Republican party in the House was thrown open to the public, but that too is again held in secret under the name “conference," and its action does not seem as binding upon its members as of old. The results of both are given to the press.
The political parties in the Senate also have their caucuses. In fact, there is a special caucus room in the Senate Building as well as one in the House Building. Both of these are spacious rooms which adequately accommodate all members of either political party.
1 A “whip” is a member of a party who looks after the interest of the party and secures the attendance of as many members as possible when an important vote is to be taken.
OGG AND RAY. Introduction to American Government. 1922.
National Voters' League of Washington, D. C., to acquaint the
QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT
1. What is a caucus ?
2. When are Representatives elected? How many months later do they succeed their predecessors? How many months later do they ordinarily take their seats?
3. Who calls a new Congress to order ?
5. A term of Congress extends over how many years? Does the Senate ever have to reorganize?
6. Who makes the rules of procedure for each house?
7. How many members of each house are nece ary to demand that all votes on any measure be recorded ?
8. How long may a member of the Senate speak? What is meant by a filibuster?
9. How long may a member of the House speak? How may a debate be brought to a close in the House ?
10. Under what conditions may a bill be taken up out of its regular order ?
11. What committee recommends changes in the rules of the House?
12. What duties are performed by the committees of the House and of the Senate ? About how many committees are there ? Name some of the more important ones.
13. How are House committees chosen ?
14. Who may introduce bills ? About what proportion of the bills introduced become law ?
15. Name the steps through which a bill must pass to become law ?
16. When a term of Congress comes to an end what becomes of all the bills which have been introduced during that term ?
17. Trace the course of the Underwood-Simmons Tariff Bill.
members are necessary for a quorum ? Who presides?
21. Does the United States have a true budget? How is the “budget" of the United States prepared? How should it be prepared?
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Why cannot a bill be defeated in the House of Representatives by filibustering as well as in the Senate ?
2. Around every legislative body are numerous lobbyists, or persons whose business it is to influence legislation. Capitalistic organizations, labor organizations, liquor associations, the Anti-Saloon League, and similar bodies keep lobbyists in Washington. Some lobbyists are kept there purely for selfish or corrupt purposes, and some to educate Congress concerning the needs of the country. Do you think it would be wise to require all lobbyists to register with the clerk of the House in order that it might be publicly known how much and what kind of influence is being brought to bear on Congress? (See Sec. 167.)
3. A roll call of 435 members requires much time and a representative recently introduced a bill providing for an electric voting machine with which each member could record his vote “yes,” “no,” or “paired,” by pressing one of three buttons attached to his seat. At the clerk's desk the machine would puncture a hole in one of three columns opposite the names of the members, and give the total at the bottom of each column. That each member may know how the others are voting it is also proposed that the names of all members be posted on the wall back of the Speaker with a red, blue, and white small electric bulb opposite his name, the color of the light indicating the nature of his vote. What arguments are there for and against this scheme?
4. The fate of all important bills is determined in the majority party caucus. Our laws are really not enacted by a majority of Congress but by a majority of the majority party in each house. As a result of this custom a bill might conceivably become a law when only one fourth plus one of the members favor it. This is party government and is efficient, but it has some disadvantages. Discuss the custom.
5. Unless an extra session is called, a congressman does not take his seat until 13 months after his election. In the meantime the members of the old Congress who have been reëlected to the new make all arrangements for the organization of the new Congress, the newly elected members merely ratifying the work of the old organization. What are the advantages and disadvantages accruing from this custom ?
6. In the spring of 1914 Representative Hobson introduced in the House a resolution to amend the Constitution, giving Congress power to regulate the manufacture of liquors. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee. Congressm
smen who were unwilling to vote upon the question before the November election hoped that the Judiciary Committee would live up to its reputation of being a “ legislative morgue.” But the committee members, aroused by criticism against them, refused to “hold the bag,” and on May 5 reported the resolution to the House without recommendation. Explain the words “legislative morgue.'
7. Representative Fitzgerald, a former chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, thought that no money should be appropriated from the Treasury except by a vote of two thirds of each house of Congress, unless requested by one of the department heads and submitted to Congress by the President. Do you favor this proposal ? Instead of requiring a two thirds vote for appropriations not requested by one of the department heads, would you favor a vote of two thirds for all appropriations not recommended by the Budget Bureau? By the new Committee on Appropriations ?
8. William C. Redfield, former Secretary of Commerce, said that the most serious weakness in the daily operation of our government is the gap between the legislative and the executive. Busy congressmen in their debates are constantly raising questions regarding our administrative departments that no one present can answer.
If the cabinet member whose department is under discussion could be present, he could either answer the questions raised satisfactorily or else expose the weakness of his department. Would you favor giving cabinet members the right to speak in the houses of Congress ?
9. Prepare a bill on some subject in which you are interested. All bills must begin with the following enacting clause :
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that, etc.
THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
I. THE PRESIDENT
58. Qualifications of the President. The President of the United States must be a natural born citizen of the United States, must be at least thirty-five years of age, and must have been for fourteen years a resident within the United States.
59. Election of the President. The framers of the Constitution intended to remove the office of chief magistrate as far as possible from the passions of the masses. Accordingly they arranged that the President should be chosen indirectly by a
college of electors ” composed of as many members as there are representatives and senators in Congress. These electors were expected to use their own judgment and to select the fittest person for the presidency. This system of electing the President continues, but since Washington's two terms (17891797), i.e. since political parties became well defined, these electors have been merely honorary mouth-pieces to vote as their political party directs.
Each State is entitled to as many electors as it has representatives and senators in Congress, and may select them in any manner that the State legislature desires. At first the legislatures themselves chose the electors, and chose those who were known to favor certain candidates. This method was considered undemocratic, and gradually the legislatures transferred the choice of the electors from themselves to the voters of the respective States.
In some States two electors were chosen by the voters of the State-at-large, and the remaining electors were chosen by congressional districts. The result was that some districts chose Democratic electors, while others chose Republican electors. But the majority party of each State saw that all its electors