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U.S. Congress is composed of two chambers, the House of Representatives (with 435 members representing fifty states) and the Senate (with 100 members, with two members elected from each State).
The Republican and Democrat parties select their candidates for the two chambers of the Congress in primary elections, "election in which registered voters in a jurisdiction select a political party's candidate for a later election (nominating primary)"
After winning a primary election, the candidate from the respective party runs in the Congress election, which are held, for both chambers, in November.
For the 2005-2007 legislation (the 109th Congress), the Republican Party dominates both chambers. As such, the Republican Party currently holds 55 seats in the Senate, with the Democrats having won 44 seats and one independent seat (James Jeffords). In the House of Representatives, the proportion between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party is 53% to 46%, with the Republicans having won 232 seats and the Democrats 201, with one independent legislator (Bernard Sanders) and one vacant seat, Robert Matsui, who passed away on the 1st of January 2005.
Many of the legislative powers that have been endowed on the U.S. Congress according to the first article of the Constitution invoke collective actions on behalf of the two major parties representatives. Among these, one can enumerate setting standards for weights and measures, levying and collecting taxes or borrowing money for the public treasury
On the other hand, under the influence and pressure from lobby groups and from the State voters, many issues invoke different points-of-view. For example, making rules and regulations governing commerce among the states and with foreign countries will be influenced by local and national producers. One can exemplify with the recent Free Trade Agreement concluded with the Central American countries, where representatives in Congress debated whether such an Agreement will not damage local agricultural producers through lower priced products.
2. There are actually four acknowledged theories referring to the existence and functionalism of the committees. The first one is the informal efficiency theory, according to which "a committee is better informed about the consequences of a policy than the floor"
. The second theory is referred to as the distributive benefits theory and sustains the idea according to which the committee specialization helps smooth out interest differences. The third theory is known as the majority -- party cartel theory, while the third theory is called the bicameral rivalry theory.
There are three main types of committees: standing committees, select committees and joint committees. The first are "permanent panels identified in chamber rules"
. Select committees are established by a separate resolution of the chamber to handle a specific matter. Joint committees are "permanent panels that conduct studies or perform housekeeping tasks rather than consider measures"
The committees receive bills for study and recommendation. According to this procedure, the committee has three options regarding a bill: revise, kill or ignore any measure referred to it
. Additionally, these committees "gather information; compare and evaluate legislative alternatives; identify policy problems and propose solutions; select, determine, and report measures for full chamber consideration; monitor executive branch performance (oversight); and investigate allegations of wrongdoing"
3. Committees and subcommittees play an important role in proposing and recommending legislative acts that are to be discussed in the Congress. This is where the incumbent legislative acts are created and first debated and discussed.
One of the powers a committee has is to hold hearings in order to gather information from non-committee experts
. However, the most important power that a committee has (besides actually drafting the legislative proposal) is the fact that it can make recommendations to the House of Representatives or the Senate on the proposed amendments or legislative actions. Referred to as "ordering a bill reported," the action resumes the role of the committees in the legislative process.
Each committee has a chair committee, usually from the majority party. Its main role is to control the committee's activity and, although its functions are basically impartial, we may consider that it has a certain influence in determining the fate of a legislative act debated on.
As the committees are the operational body of the U.S. Congress, one may refer to them as the "gatekeepers" in the House and Senate. No legislative proposal will be debated on in the two chambers unless it…[continue]
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