Which early voting states have Democratic Senators?

USA political system

Josef Braml

Dr. Josef Braml has been a research assistant in the USA / Transatlantic Relations program of the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) in Berlin since October 2006. He is also the editor of the "International Politics Yearbook". Previously, he was a research associate at the Science and Politics Foundation (2002-2006), project manager at the Aspen Institute Berlin (2001), visiting scholar at the German-American Center (2000), consultant at the World Bank (1999), guest scholar at the Brookings Institution (1998 -1999), Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and Legislative Advisor to the US House of Representatives (1997-1998). Training stations: Vocational training as a banker; Military service engineer battalion 240; Abitur via the second educational path; Semester abroad at the Université de Nice - Sophia Antipolis; Languages, economic and cultural studies (diploma) at the University of Passau (1997); Doctorate in political science as the main subject and sociology and French cultural studies as minor subjects at the University of Passau (2001).
His areas of expertise:
American Concepts of the World Order and Transatlantic Relations; US security, energy and trade policy; Economic and domestic political framework conditions of American foreign policy; Comparative governance analysis, including German and US government system; Religion and Politics in the USA
Contact: [email protected], https://dgap.org/de/think-tank/experten/203

The legislature, executive, and state have their own interests and powers. They control each other and are controlled by the electorate, interest groups and possibly the Supreme Court. Growing social polarization makes compromises more difficult.


Strict separation: the President is only allowed to enter Congress for special occasions, such as his State of the Union address - here in 2012. (& copy picture alliance / dpa / Shawn Thew)
In order to prevent the abuse of power, the architects of the US constitution anchored several dimensions of control: First, the sovereign, i.e. the citizen entitled to vote, only gives power to his representatives for a period of time (temporal control of power) so that they remain accountable to him. Second, the federal structure requires that the powers of the individual states, which are closer to the citizens, be reconciled with those of the state as a whole (vertical control of power). Last but not least, this had to be fought out on the battlefields of the civil war and in disputes that continue to this day. Thirdly, there is a division of powers into the legislative, executive and judicial branches (horizontal control of power) both at the national level and at the level of the state as a whole.

Horizontal separation of powers

The main difference between the US American (presidential) checks and balances system and parliamentary systems of government such as that of the Federal Republic of Germany lies in the different relationship between the legislature and the executive. In contrast to the US President, who is personally elected through a nationwide election act and can thus claim its own legitimacy, the German Chancellor is elected indirectly by the majority in parliament. In the political debate, too, the top of the German executive must be able to trust that its political initiatives will be supported by their parliamentary group or coalition in the Bundestag. The stability of both the government / executive and that of the parliamentary majority depends on a close and trusting communication relationship between the two. This "entanglement of powers" characterizes parliamentary systems of government.

Comparison of different political systems
In the US political system, the legislative and executive branches are not only more "separated" from each other by various electoral acts. The system of checks and balances is also characterized by the fact that political powers compete with one another and control one another. The US Congress does not automatically take over the political agenda of the executive / the president, even if in the case of unified government the White House (seat of the president) and Capitol Hill (seat of the congress) are "governed" by the same party. This is even less the case if, in a divided government, the president and congress are "controlled" by different parties, which happened again with the 2012 election results.

While in the US system the legislature as a whole competes with the executive for power, "opposition" in the parliamentary system is limited to the minority in parliament who do not support the government. For the governing party / coalition in particular, party or faction discipline is fundamentally necessary in order to ensure the functionality of its own government, and indeed of the parliamentary system of government as a whole. Since the executive and parliamentary majority are linked in a political community, individual members of parliament have a self-interest in not deviating from the party line in important votes and in submitting to parliamentary group discipline. Election procedures, party funding, candidate recruitment and the high division of labor in parliament provide further incentives for party-disciplined behavior.

In contrast, in the USA the political future of individual members of parliament and senators is largely independent of that of the president; Their (re) electoral chances depend primarily on the support of their own constituency or individual state. Due to the electoral system and political funding, as "political entrepreneurs" in the USA they are primarily responsible for their own re-election and may also be personally liable for their voting behavior in Congress because they cannot hide behind party discipline from interest groups and electorates . In the legislative debate, the US parties lack resources and sanction mechanisms in order to shape the legislative process in terms of party discipline (see p. 44 f.).

Power of the purse: the legislature

The constitutional system of the USA (& copy Bergmoser + Höller Verlag AG, figure 854 511)
The legislature and its powers are listed first in the US constitution - before the president and his duties. Article I, paragraph 1, provides: "Legislative power rests in the United States Congress, which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives." In the sense of the Constitutional Fathers, outlined by James Madison in the Federalist Papers, No. 63, the Senate Chamber was already considered at that time as the "temperate and respectable body of citizens" that was necessary to deal with "irregular passions "(irregular passions) of the deputies of the second chamber.

Their different constitutional characteristics favor competition between the two chambers and thus require a further form of control of violence. A longtime insider sums up the rivalry between the House of Representatives and the Senate: For Christopher Matthews, the former chief of staff of the legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill, there is a kind of invisible partition between the two chambers. Senators could spend years on Capitol Hill without ever stepping on the other side of the Capitol - if it weren't for the State of the Union speeches that senators and MPs attend in the larger plenary Assembly of the House of Representatives. There would be no really important reason to fall from grace other than to go over to the House of Representatives as a senator. On the other hand, for fear of humiliation, a member of parliament would never dare to enter the venerable halls of the Senate (quoted in: Ross Baker, House and Senate, New York / London 1995, pp. 14 f.).

The status difference between the two is enormous: A senator represents an entire state, so his level of awareness is correspondingly much greater. His longer term of six years and exclusive rights in legislation (for example the filibuster's ability to block (see p. 13), with which he can hold up the entire legislative process, give him more power potential. In contrast, a member of parliament represents only a much smaller sub-unit State; he has to stand for election every two years and is known only to a few outside his constituency, unless he holds a leadership position. More than just moving up the hierarchy in the House of Representatives, most MPs secretly dream of it, at some point One day to become a senator. In the history of parliament in the USA, however, there has not yet been a senator who ran for the "lower house" (house of representatives) after leaving the "upper house" (Senate).

But the constitution forces both of them to work together. In order for a bill to be submitted to the President for signature, it must be passed in identical form in both chambers. The intensive exchange required for this often takes place via the congressional staff of the senators and members of parliament; in many cases only later, in a committee convened ad hoc for a specific bill: in the conference committee, the representatives appointed by the party leaderships of both chambers then negotiate in a smaller group in order to find a compromise.

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The main permanent committees in Congress for the 113th parliamentary term, 2013-2014

Committees and their chairmen play an important role in US law. Committees and their subcommittees relieve the plenary work: Most legislative initiatives are already stuck in one of the numerous committees or subcommittees. Only a few proposals make it - mostly after they have been significantly changed by amendments - to the plenum of the respective chamber, i.e. on the House Floor or the Senate Floor for voting.


Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/)
Appropriations (http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/)
Armed Services (http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/)
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/)
Budget (http://www.budget.senate.gov/)
Commerce, Science, and Transportation (http://commerce.senate.gov/public/)
Energy and Natural Resources (http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/)
Environment and Public Works (http://epw.senate.gov/public/)
Finance (http://www.finance.senate.gov/)
Foreign Relations (http://www.foreign.senate.gov/)
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (http://www.help.senate.gov/)
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/)
Judiciary (http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/)
Rules and Administration (http://www.rules.senate.gov/public/)
Small Business and Entrepreneurship (http://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/)
Veterans ’Affairs (http://www.veterans.senate.gov/)

House of Representatives

Agriculture (http://agriculture.house.gov/)
Appropriations (http://appropriations.house.gov/)
Armed Services (http://armedservices.house.gov/)
Budget (http://budget.house.gov/)
Education and the Workforce (http://edworkforce.house.gov/)
Energy and Commerce (http://energycommerce.house.gov/)
Ethics (http://ethics.house.gov/)
Financial Services (http://financialservices.house.gov/)
Foreign Affairs (http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/)
Homeland Security (http://homeland.house.gov/)
House Administration (http://cha.house.gov/)
Judiciary (http://judiciary.house.gov/)
Natural Resources (http://naturalresources.house.gov/)
Oversight and Government Reform (http://oversight.house.gov/)
Rules (http://www.rules.house.gov/)
Science, Space, and Technology (http://science.house.gov/)
Small Business (http://smallbusiness.house.gov/)
Transportation and Infrastructure (http://transportation.house.gov/)
Veterans ’Affairs (http://veterans.house.gov/)
Ways and Means (http://waysandmeans.house.gov/)

United States Congress, website: http://beta.congress.gov/committees



The Congress is the central constitutional body in the legislative process - even if the other two political powers are involved: the Supreme Court by reviewing the constitutionality of laws and the President by his veto power. The president himself has no right of initiative and can only indirectly initiate bills through like-minded members of parliament and senators. However, he has the "last" word: In order for a bill to become law, it must be signed by him. He can also influence the ongoing legislative process by issuing his suspensive (suspensive) veto or threatening to do so. Because his objection can only be overruled by a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Congress - which is very seldom possible.

The Legislative Process - The Congress
On the other hand, the legislature also has the option of controlling the executive power, i.e. exercising it oversight: In the event of serious misconduct, so-called high crimes and misdemeanors, the Senate can even impeach the President (after the House of Representatives commences proceedings). Contract signatures by the President that are binding under international law only apply after they have been ratified by the Senate. The Senate must also approve presidential appointments to higher offices such as judges, ambassadors, ministers and other top officials. The President can bypass the Senate's advice and consent by appointing candidates outside the session, i.e. via a recess appointment. But their terms of office then end with the respective legislative period, and they feel the senators' displeasure while they are in office. The most effective means of political control is the power of the purse, which means that Congress must or may approve budget funds, especially those for executive bodies.

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Congress staff and external expertise

The work of the members of parliament and senators would be inconceivable without the help of their co-workers (congressional staff). An average of 15 to 20 employees work for a member of parliament; some senators even have a staff of over 100 specialists. In particular, the staff in the Senate have enormous informal powers. In 1980 the political scientist Michael J. Malbin called them "unelected representatives". MPs and senators employ staff in their constituencies and in Washington. But even in their parliamentary offices, in addition to legislative work, many helpers are active in constituency work (case work).

Case Worker: Citizens expect their senator or member of parliament to take care of their personal concerns. The employees assigned to the case work help with problems with pension notices, health insurance, university places or tax matters.

Legislative Staff: The legislative staff prepare their members of parliament or senators in terms of content for committee or plenary meetings, write speeches and press releases, draft drafts and amendments in the legislative process, prepare statements and questions for public hearings. In order to be able to assess interests before important votes, they meet with government representatives, entrepreneurs, lobbyists and representatives of civil society organizations.

Professional Staff: The chairmen of the committees and sub-committees determined by the ruling party, as well as their deputies (ranking members) from the minority party, also have experienced, mostly older experts, the so-called professional staff, who coordinate the substantive work in the committees, as well as external experts , Invite interest groups and government officials to the public hearings.

Scientific Services: In order to arm themselves against the extensive expertise of the White House and the government bureaucracy, Senators, MPs and their staff can rely on very professional scientific support services such as the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a kind of audit office of Congress, or access the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for budget issues.

External idea and personnel agencies: Finally, experts from policy-oriented research institutes, so-called think tanks, and professors at universities also provide policy advice.In particular, the so-called advocacy think tanks (advocacy tanks) by the American political scientist Kent Weaver, which take sides for certain particular interests or a political camp, have been cultivating intensive personal contacts with members of the Congress since the 1980s, even maintaining a personal database and providing active support in recruiting . Many think tankers have gained practical experience in the congress; conversely, numerous employees work on Capitol Hill who were previously employed in a think tank.