Posts tagged ‘Party Leaders’

Basic Guide to Party Leadership in Congress

Party leadership is responsible for bringing efficiency and order to the legislative body. Party leaders have partisan and institutional functions. The responsibility of the majority leadership is to set the agenda as well as determine legislative priorities and political strategies, assess support for legislation, schedule measures for floor action and round up votes for the passage of legislation. The minority leadership is responsible for devising strategies for the purpose of upsetting the majority’s plans.

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The position of Speaker of the House is provided for in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. This is the most senior officer of the House and also the third most senior official in the federal government. The Speaker presides over the House and also refers measures to committees. Other responsibilities include making rulings on points of order and setting the agenda. Additionally, the Speaker has priority for recognition on the floor. This position is elected by a majority vote of the House. Candidates may be nominated by their respective party caucus.

The second most senior official in the House is the majority leader. This is the person who is responsible for the day to day management of business on the floor. The majority leader is elected by the majority party caucus and is responsible for building and managing their party’s consensus on legislation.

The job of the majority whip is to persuade members to support the position of his or her party. The majority whip is responsible for measuring and rounding up support for party positions. There are also numerous assistant whips that work with the majority whip. This network of assistant whips can include chief deputy whips, regional whips and even class whips. The majority whip is elected by the majority party caucus.
Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider
The minority leader is the senior official for the minority party and is responsible for working within the party to set a message, agenda and strategy. They may also appoint minority party members to commissions and task forces. The minority leader is elected by the minority party caucus.

The minority whip is responsible for persuading members to support their party’s position. They also count votes. A network of assistant whips also work with the minority whip.

To learn more about the subject of party leadership and how it functions within Congress, consider TheCapitol.Net’s half-day course, Congress in a Nutshell.

Also see for a listing of the current congressional leadership.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 7.40 Party Leadership

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Understanding the Role of Party Leaders

Given the size of Congress, consisting of 535 members, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the role of various members and how Congress goes about establishing agendas.

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Just after each election, members of each political party for both Congressional chambers meet in order to elect party leaders. These positions are important as party leaders generally have more power than other members of Congress. This is particularly true in the House of Representatives.

For instance, party leaders are responsible for determining which bills will be considered by their respective chambers. They may also play a role in determining which amendments can be offered by other Congressional members. Party leaders also have a large influence determining the position of the party regarding particular issues.

In addition, party leaders also have the ability and the power to damage or advance the careers of other members of their own party. This can be accomplished by the way in which committee leadership positions, committee assignments and campaign funds are allocated. The way in which committee assignments are handled can be quite important. Not all committees are equal to one another, and some committees are able to wield more power as well as raise more campaign money.

Beyond these abilities, party leaders also have formal powers that are provided according to the rules of their respective chambers. One of the most important of these powers is the privilege to speak both first and last on issues if they so choose. In most instances, the power of party leaders is more of informal. Even though it may seem as though party leaders have a tremendous amount of power, any actions they take must be tempered by the need to maintain the support of the majority of their caucus. Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson

Because leaders have so much influence, it is important to build long-term relationships with them.

Reference: Chapter 4, Party Leaders and Chapter 5-Committees, Chairs and Ranking Members, in Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson


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