Archive for the ‘Capitol Corner’ Category

Ask an Expert: Fewer Conference Committees – Does it Matter?

Question: A big deal was made about having a House-Senate conference for the Dodd-Frank Financial Sector Reform bill. Why? Aren’t conferences routine? Decatur, AL Answer: We are seeing fewer and fewer conference committees because, in a very disturbing trend, congressional leaders have avoided having them when major legislation is involved!...

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Ask an Expert: Qualifications for Congress

Question: What does it take to run for a seat in Congress? Anonymous, Darien, Connecticut. Answer: Formally, not much. Informally, a lot! The required qualifications are found in Article 1 of the Constitution: House of Representatives twenty five years of age a citizen of the United States for 7 years...

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Ask an Expert: What is a “Lame Duck” Congress?

Question: What is a “Lame Duck” Congress, now being talked about? Greenbelt, Maryland Answer: “Lame Duck” is used to describe any public office-holder who will not be returning when his/her current term ends. They may not be returning because they are not seeking re-election, or they were defeated in an...

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Town Halls Over August Recess: A Long Tradition?

Question: My question is about the August recess Congress has every year. How long has that been going on, and why? And do Members always hold town meetings in August? Sacramento, CA Answer: Congress has an annual August recess because of tradition and because of law. The tradition stems from...

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Ask an Expert: How Can Congress Just “Deem and Pass?”

Question: During the Health Care debate, they talked about the House “deeming” the bill passed without voting on it.  The House also just “deemed” a budget passed, instead of voting on it.  How did that work? Anne, Richmond, Virginia. Answer: They didn’t do it. What was procedurally possible was deemed...

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Ask an Expert: What are Senate Holds?

Question: Please define the Senate’s “hold” procedure and explain how Senators use it to kill a bill.   San Jose, California Answer: A “hold” describes a Senator’s request to his party leader that a specific bill or nomination be kept off the Senate floor for the time being. The original intent...

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Ask an Expert: Legislative Information

Question: Where can I get basic legislative information: status of a bill, sponsorship of the legislation, etc.?  Lindsey, Pittsburgh, PA Answer: You can do some research yourself on-line, or you can ask your Representative or either of your two Senators to answer your legislative question. Basic legislative information is readily...

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Ask an Expert: Size of the House and Senate

Question: Why do we have 100 Senators and 435 Members of the House? Can these numbers be changed?  Minneapolis, MN Answer: The number of Senators is set by the Constitution and cannot be changed without amending that document. The size of the Senate is established by Article I, section 3...

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Ask an Expert: Constitutionality of Legislation

Question: Is there any type of formal procedure within Congress that evaluates the constitutionality of proposed legislation?   Columbus, OH Answer: There is no formal procedure on behalf of Congress overall to determine the constitutionality of proposed bills.  During floor debate in both the House and Senate, the constitutionality of a...

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Ask an Expert: Conference Committee Procedures

Question: I have been hearing a lot about conference committees because of the Dodd-Frank Financial Overhaul bill.  How do conference committees work? Decatur, AL Answer: There are no formal rules governing conference committee procedures. Because they are intended to be flexible negotiating sessions to iron out differences between House and...

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