The US Congress - Houston Community College

The US Congress - Houston Community College

U.S. CONGRESS The Curse of Power Lecture Outline Partisan Split in Congress Who holds the power in Congress The filibuster in the U.S. Senate The Curse of Power Scandal and controversy as a tool in the struggle for power The U.S. Congress The Partisan Split The Balance of Power (116th Congress) US House of Representatives (435 members) 235 Democrats 199 Republicans The composition of the US House changes fairly often between elections, usually because of resignations,

deaths (due to old age), crime, and scandals. Jan. 2014 Michael Grimm (R-NY) resigned, indicted on tax fraud Feb. 2015 Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) died of brain cancer Mar. 2015 Aaron Schock (R-IL) resigned, exposed for using taxpayer money for personal vacations (he posted pictures from these trips on social media) 2017 Resignations or retirements due to allegations of sexual harassment: John Conyers (D-MI), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Alcee Hasting (D-FL), Ruben Jesus Kihuen Bernal (D-NV) US Senate (100 members) 53 Republicans (1 is an Independent who caucuses with Republicans) Aug. 2018 Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) died. The Governor of Arizona appointed John Kyle (R-AZ) as McCains replacement, then in Jan. 2019, replaced Kyle with Martha McSally (R-AZ) 47 Democrats (2 are Independents who caucus with Democrats) Texas Delegation to US Congress (38 members) US House: 23 Republicans 13 Democrats US Senate: 2 Republican Senators

BALANCE OF POWER The U.S. Congress Who holds the power?? Congressional power brokers US House: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) US Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Other powerful positions US House Majority Leader: Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Minority Leader: Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) US Senate Minority Leader: Charles Schumer (D-NY)

Harry Reid (D-NV) retired at the end of 2016, so Democratic members of the Senate chose Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as their leader in Jan. 2017 Nancy Pelosi was Speaker from 2007 2011, the first female Speaker in U.S. History. She became Speaker again in 2019, after Democrats won a majority in the House in the 2018 midterm elections McCarthy became Majority Leader in Jan. 2015, after the previous Majority Leader (Eric

Cantor) had been beaten in the 2014 primaries by a Tea Party Republican Powers of the U.S. Congress The U.S. Senate Filibuster A minority (41 Senators) can block a vote on legislation in the US Senate. Democrats blocked 10 of Bushs nominees to the Federal Courts for 5 years. Republicans used the filibuster to block Obamas agenda on health care for about 1 year and environmental regulations

for the 2 years Democrats controlled Congress (20092010) All controversial legislation now requires 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, given the use of the filibuster CURSE OF POWER The U.S. Congress The Curse of Power What is the curse of power? The two political parties (Republicans and Democrats) struggle for power in our political system One means of achieving power is for one party to use scandal or

controversy to discredit the other party and its leaders, Hoping that in the next election the voters will punish the party tainted by scandal or controversy and reward the cleaner party The leaders of each party are targets of the other party Politicians want to accumulate more power, so that they can be influential and leave their impact on our political system. But the more powerful a leader is, the greater the threat he or she becomes to the other partyand consequently becomes a target The means used in the struggle for power are a little dirty But in comparison to many other countries in the world, where violence is used as the principle means in the struggle for power, our system manages the struggle for power fairly well The U.S. Congress

The Curse of Power It is important to root-out corruption and crime committed by elected officials, as was the case for the elected leaders in the graphics below, but the curse of power applies to a broader range of high-ranking elected leaders, many of whom are not guilty of crimes The U.S. Congress The Curse of Power Speakers of the House Jim Wright (D-TX) (1987 - 1989) Forced to resign because of sales of a bogus book, a scheme for Wright to make some money Labor unions bought the book in mass as a thank you to Wright for being favorable to labor unions

An up and coming Republican named Newt Gingrich led the ethics fight against Speaker Wright Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (1995 - 1998) Gingrich was a lightening rod, loved by Republicans (viewed as the next Ronald Reagan but better), hated by Democrats Conservatives hoped Gingrich would lead the next phase of smaller government reforms, but he was defeated by Bill Clinton in a fight over Medicare spending in 1995-96 and gave up the fight for smaller government Gingrichs own Republican Party ousted him as Speaker of the House in 1998 for not fulfilling the Republican Revolution (smaller government) The U.S. Congress The Curse of PowerSpeaker of the House

Speakers of the House (cont.) Bob Livingston (R-LA) (1998 never served) Livingston was chosen to succeed Gingrich but then it was revealed that he had adulterous affairs; Livingston resigned from Congress At the time, Republicans called for President Clintons resignation (because of the Monica Lewinsky affair); Republicans had to find another leader to avoid being hypocritical Dennis Hastert (R-IL) (1998 2007) Republicans replaced Gingrich with a low-profile, very likeable leader who did not aspire for higher office and who was not in any way tainted by corruption But even a low-profile politician like Hastert is vulnerable to controversy His reputation was damaged by accusations of not disciplining Mark Foley (RFL), who had inappropriately made sexual advances on teenage congressional pages

Democrats won control of the US House in the 2006 elections, but had Republicans held on, Hastert would have been replaced as Speaker The U.S. Congress The Curse of PowerSpeaker of the House Speakers of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (2011-2015) A Tea Party wave won a Republican majority in the U.S. House in 2010, and John Boehner was elected Speaker, even though he is an establishment Republican The Tea Party Republicans want smaller government, via spending cuts, but Boehner was not able to secure cuts in spending because he refused to face-off against President Obama, fearing that Republicans would be blamed for shutting down the government in a showdown over spending cuts

Like Gingrich in 1998, Boehners own Republican Party ousted him as Speaker of the House in 2015 for not fulfilling the Tea Party agenda of smaller government The U.S. Congress The Curse of Power Majority Leader of the Senate Trent Lott (R-MS) (1994 2002) Lott resigned his leadership position because he made a comment construed as racist At the 100th birthday party of Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott said he wished Thurmond had won his race for president in 1948 Thurmond ran as a segregationist Dixiecrat in 1948; he advocated the separation of whites and blacks in society Guilt by association: Hoping for a Thurmond victory in 48, Lott implied he

too was a segregationist And Lott was from that segregationist generation, which made him suspect Pandering on Black Entertainment Television (BET) did not save Lott The U.S. Congress The Curse of Power US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) (2002 2005) DeLay was another lightening rod: loved by Republicans, hated by Democrats DeLay worked behind the scenes to help Republicans in Texas win control of the Texas Legislature in 2002 Then DeLay pushed a Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to redistrict US House districts in 2003 (a mid-term redistricting, which is unusual) The goal was to get more Republicans elected to the US House in 2004, which

is exactly what happened5 additional Republicans were elected to the US House in 2004 DeLay indicted for money laundering in 2005 DeLay allegedly illegally funneled money to Republican candidates to the Texas Legislature in 2002 Because of his legal troubles, DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006in 2010, DeLay was sentenced to 3 years in jail his sentence was overturned in 2013 The U.S. Congress The Curse of Power US House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) (2015- present) Scalise gave a speech to a white supremacist group in 2002, when Scalise was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives In Jan. 2015, the news media picked up on the story after Scalise was elected to

the 3rd most powerful position in the U.S. House (i.e., Majority Whip) Scalise claims that he did not know that he had spoken to a white supremacist group in 2002, whose founder is David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK Scalise said that he made a mistake speaking to the group, and Speaker of the House, John Boehner, defended Scalise, again emphasizing that he made a mistake in speaking to the group Scalise survived this controversy In June 2017, Scalise was shot and nearly died in a politically motivated shooting Republicans in the House were on a practice field, practicing for an upcoming annual baseball game between Democrats and Republican House members The shooter was a 66-year old Democratic Party activists who targeted the Republicans at their practice After the shooting, there is a lot of sympathy for Scalise who is no longer questioned about the speech he made to white supremacist group in 2002

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