Posts tagged ‘Michael Koempel’

Early Organization Meetings of Congress

Since the mid-1970s, both chambers of Congress have convened early organization meetings in November or December of even-numbered years as a way to prepare for the beginning of the new Congress in January of the following year. Such meetings serve educational as well as social and organizational purposes.

Did the chicken cross the road??
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Educational sessions of early organizational meetings can range from meetings held on legislative procedures to hiring staff. Seminars on current policy issues may also be held. These sessions are typically taught by current congressional members or in some cases, former members, government practitioners and academic experts. Current issue sessions commonly focus on prior attempts at legislative changes, administrative policy and the outlook for action within the new Congress.

For new members of Congress, organizational sessions also provide a first introduction to Congress. Meetings areCongressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider held for all freshmen, although other meetings may be held for all members of the incoming Congress. Meetings may also be organized according to party affiliation. Class officers are usually elected at the early meetings while party leaders are selected and chamber offices are chosen later. In addition, regional representatives to steering committees are named. Actions involving committees are subject to official ratification by the Senate or the House at the beginning of the new Congress.

Official orientation programs for members-elect as well as their families are organized by the House Administration Committee and the Senate majority and minority leaders. During this time, orientation handbooks are provided, describing the official rules of each chamber, ethics regulations, office equipment information, roles of the chamber offices and services for legislative support agencies. During this time, party organization meetings are typically held for returning members and members-elect.

Along with the formal Senate and House programs, other orientation programs are available. In recent years, numerous outside organizations have begun holding policy seminars. For instance, a policy program for newly elected House members is presented by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. The program runs for several days. The Heritage Foundation provides a seminar on policy issues for both House and Senate members-elect. Soon after the swearing-in ceremony in January, the Congressional Research Service usually conducts a series of procedural and policy briefings specifically for newly elected House members and their families.

To learn more about the new Congress and about congressional sessions and organization, look at TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day program New Congress, and the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 7.30 Early Organization Meetings

For detailed information about the legislative process, see

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Understanding Filibusters in Congress

Filibusters are made possible in part due to Senate rules providing that when a senator is recognized to speak regarding a pending measure there are few limitations. Debate is typically unlimited regarding pending measures. Once a senator is recognized, she can yield to another senator for the purpose of a question, but the senator that has been recognized still controls the floor. When a senator continues to speak for an extended period of time it is known as a filibuster.

Empty Coal Train thru Thurmond, WV
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Throughout the history of America, there have been some notable instances in which extended filibusters occurred in the Senate. The longest filibuster to date is credited to Strom Thurmond, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes on the civil rights bill in 1957. Wayne Morse spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes on the Tidelands oil bill in 1953. William Proxmire actually held the floor for more than 25 hours in 1961; however, he yielded the floor to other senators for several hours during that time period.

The modern approach to filibusters is often referred to as the tag-team approach. In this approach a senator will speak for a period of time and then yield to another senator. In a situation in which several senators participate in an extended period of debate it can actually take some time for the Senate to recognize that a filibuster isCongressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider being conducted. As a result, the mere threat of a filibuster carries significant weight in the Senate.

Debate within the Senate is limited only under certain situations. These situations include when:

  • Cloture is invoked
  • Debate is limited by unanimous consent
  • The Senate operates under a unanimous consent time agreement
  • The Senate considers a motion to table
  • The Senate considers a measure governed by a rule-making statute

Each senator is prohibited from speaking more than twice on the same subject on the same legislative day under Senate rules. Due to the fact that each amendment is considered to be a different subject, the two-speech rule is actually not a practical limit on debate.

To learn more about how Congress works, consider these courses held in DC: Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, Advanced Legislative Strategies, or our Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 8.210 Consideration and Debate on the Senate Floor-Filibusters

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Guide to Scheduling and Privilege on the House Floor

In the House, after a measure has been reported from committee, it is placed on a calendar. Whether the measure comes off its respective calendar and receives floor consideration is the responsibility of the majority-party leadership. Leadership is also responsible for influencing the way in which a measure is considered.

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There are specific procedures defined by House rules that determine how a measure comes to the floor of the House. As a result, the kinds of measures that can actually go to the House floor are limited. Privileged business refers to measures and matters that members may bring up for consideration on the floor, which are privileged for the interruption of regular business.

Some measures on specific House calendars or measures brought up for consideration subject to specific procedures are privileged on different days. These procedures and calendars are the Discharge and Private Calendars, District Day, Calendar Wednesday and suspension of the rules.

Business that may be privileged on any day the House meets includes privileged reports from committees that have the option to report any time, general appropriations bills, and reported resolutions of inquiry. The daily starting times for the House are generally announced by the majority-party leadership at the beginning of each session.

A measure can be brought to the House floor for debate, vote on passage and possible amendment in a variety of ways. A measure can come to the floor because it was placed on a calendar or because it is Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneidera particular day of the week or the month. In other instances, a measure might come to the floor because it has made its way through a series of rather complex negotiations. Unanimous consent can be used to bring matters to the floor when they are noncontroversial in nature and when they have been cleared by party leaders. A suspension of the rules can also be used for matters that are largely noncontroversial. More than half of all of the measures that are considered by the House come to the floor by the suspension of the rules procedure. If a measure is even slightly controversial, it will not be considered under this procedure.

To learn more about legislative matters, see our Advanced Legislative Strategies and our Capitol Hill Workshop, the definitive three-day overview of how Congress works.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 8.70 House Floor: Scheduling and Privilege

For detailed information about the legislative process, see

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Differences between the House and the Senate

In preparing to work with members of Congress, it is important to understand the differences between the House and the Senate. The more you understand about each chamber of Congress, the better prepared you will be to gain support for your issue.

Difference, Acton, W3
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At 435 members, the House is the larger chamber. The Senate has 100 members with two senators from each state. Representatives serve shorter terms, two years, while Senators serve longer terms of six years. There are four calendars for the House: Union, House, Private and Discharge. The Senate has two calendars: Legislative and Executive.

In terms of procedure, the House has less procedural flexibility and more rule restraints than the Senate. In the House, power is more concentrated in the leadership and less evenly distributed among Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakmembers. Leadership in the House is much stronger than in the Senate, where power is usually more evenly distributed.

Debate within the House is always restricted, while debate within the Senate is rarely restricted. Debate ending motions within the House occur by majority vote of 218 members. In the Senate, cloture is invoked by a vote of 60 Senators.

In the House, constituency is much narrower than in the Senate. In the House, the constituency is limited to each House District. In the Senate, the constituency is larger and involves an entire state.

In communicating with members of Congress, keep in mind that representatives are less reliant on staff. On the other hand, Senators are often more reliant on staff.

Finally, the House adjourns at the end of the day while the Senate recesses at the end of most days.

To learn more about the differences between the House and the Senate, see CongressByTheNumbers.com and Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 4.9 Differences between the House and the Senate at a Glance, and the Congressional Deskbook, §§ 8.150-8.151.

For more information about congressional operations and effective advocacy in Washington, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net

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Methods of Consideration for Making it to the House Floor

In understanding the legislation process, it is important to understand that there are numerous ways in which a measure can be brought to the House floor for debate. These methods include amendment, voting on a passage, or because the measure was placed on a House calendar.
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Measures that are noncontroversial in nature and which have already been cleared by respective party leaders can often come to the House floor through unanimous consent. Once cleared, a member may request permission to bring up that particular measure. The process can be stopped by the objection by another member.

More than half of all measures that are considered by the House are brought onto the floor through a procedure known as suspension of the rules, which is primarily used for noncontroversial measures. The Speaker may choose to recognize members to move to suspend the rules and pass particular measures on each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as well as the last six days of a session. If a measure was considered to be controversial while it was in committee it will generally not be considered under the suspension procedure.

Measures can also come to the floor on the private calendar. Private Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneidermeasures may be considered on the third Tuesday of each month as well, at the discretion of the Speaker of the House. Bills on the private calendar typically relate to individual immigration and claims matters. There is an official objector for each party that is responsible for reviewing bills on the private calendar. If there is a concern by the official objector, an objection may be issued to the consideration of that measure.

A member may also file a motion with the clerk of the House to discharge from committee any measure that has been pending for thirty legislative days. The discharge calendar is considered on the second as well as the fourth Mondays of each month. For a measure to be eligible for discharge, it must have been on the discharge calendar for seven legislative days. Discharge motions are considered in the House with twenty minutes of debate that are divided equally between the opponent and the proponent.

To learn more about the legislative process, consider our 1-day course Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, and our 3-day Advanced Legislative Strategies.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 8.80 House Floor Methods of Consideration

For more information about the legislative process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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