Chapter 5: US Government

bicameral legislature
A law making body made of two houses (bi means 2). Example: Congress (our legislature) is made of two house – The House of Representatives and The Senate.

Unicameral legislature
one-house legislature

congress
The legislative branch of government, as described in Article I of the US Constitution, consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate. Primarily responsible for making laws.

district
a defined area or region; a geographical or political division

sessions
period of time during which, each year, congress assembles and conducts business

house elections
Elected every 2 years

census
a periodic and official count of a country’s population

reapportionment
the assigning by Congress of congressional seats after each census. State legislatures reapportion state legislative districts.

redistricting
The redrawing of congressional and other legislative district lines following the census, to accommodate population shifts and keep districts as equal as possible in population.

gerrymandering
Process of redrawing legislative boundaries for the purpose of benefiting the party in power.

incumbent
currently holding an office

constituent
people within a district or state-government official represents them.

committee work
legislative groups that develop bills

party affiliation
In both the Senate and the House: the Democrats sit on the left; the Republicans sit on the right. In each: the majority party selects the leaders of its party, controls the flow of legislative work, and appoints committee chairs (majority party gets to head all of the committee).

caucus
a private meeting of party leaders to choose candidates for office

speaker of the house
the leader of the majority party who serves as the presiding officer of the House of Representatives

majority leader
The legislative leader selected by the majority party who helps plan party strategy, confers with other party leaders, and tries to keep members of the party in line

bill
a proposed law

quorum
The minimum number of members who must be present to permit a legislative body to take official action

the senate
the upper house of congress. each state has two senators, elected to 6 year terms, with one third of the senate up for re-election every 2 years. confirms all presidential appointments and ratifies treaties.

filibuster
a tactic for delaying or obstructing legislation by making long speeches

president pro tempore
Officer of the Senate selected by the majority party to act as chair in the absence of the vice president

cloture
a procedure that allows each senator to speak only 1 hour on a bill under debate

standing committee
a permanent committee in Congress that oversees bills that deal with certain kinds of issues

subcommittee
a group within a standing committee that specializes in a subcategory of its standing committee’s responsibility

House Ways and Means committee
The House of Representatives committee that, along with the Senate Finance Committee, writes the tax codes, subject to the approval of Congress as a whole.

select committee
A temporary committee formed to study one specific issue and report its findings to the Senate of the House

joint committee
A committee of the House and the Senate that usually acts as a study group and reports its findings back to the House and the Senate

conference committee
a temporary joint committee set up when the House and the Senate have passed different versions of the same bill

seniority
a system that gives the most desireable committee assignments to members of congress who have served to the longest

Library of Congress
-Established by Congress in 1800 to function as a research library for the legislative branch of the federal government, it eventually became the unofficial national library of the United States. Contains over 120 million books.

Congressional budget office
advises the congress on the likely economic effects of different spending programs and provides information on the costs of proposed policies

General accounting office
staff agency that investigates agencies and policies and makes reccomendations on almost every aspect of government

Government printing office
an agency of the legislative branch that provides printing and binding services for Congress and the departments and establishments of the federal government

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