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Institutions Terms

QuestionAnswer
Appropriation Money that Congress has allocated to be spent
Appropriations Committee Congressional committee that deals with federal spending
Appellate Jurisdiction Authority of a court to hear an appeal from a lower court
Bureaucracy Departments, agencies, bureaus, and commissions in the executive branch of government
Casework Personal work done by a member of Congress for his constituents
Civil law Concerns noncriminal disputes between private parties
Class Action Lawsuit Lawsuit brought on behalf of a class of people against a defendant, e.g., lawsuits brought by those who have suffered from smoking against tobacco companies
Closed Rule Rules Committee rule that bans amendments to a bill
Cloture Senate motion to end a filibuster that requires a 3/5 vote
Concurring Opinion Written by a Supreme Court Justice who voted with the majority, but for different reasons
Conference Committee Works out a compromise between differing House-Senate versions of a bill
Constituents The people who are represented by elected officials
Discharge Petition A motion to force a bill to the House floor that has been bottled up in committee
Dissenting Opinion Written by a Supreme Court Justice (or Justices) who express a minority viewpoint in a case
Executive Agreement An agreement between the President and another head of state that, unlike a treaty, does not require Senate consent
Executive Order Presidential rule or regulation that has the force of law
Executive Privilege The privilege of a President and his staff to withhold their “privileged” conversations from Congress or the courts
Filibuster Nonstop Senate debate that prevents a bill from coming to a vote
Finance Committee Senate committee that handles tax bills
Franking Privilege Allows members of Congress to send mail postage free
Gerrymandering Redrawing district lines to favor one party at the expense of the other
Hold Senate maneuver that allows a Senator to stop or delay consideration of a bill or presidential appointment
Impeachment House action that formally charges an official with wrongdoing. Conviction requires 2/3 vote from the Senate
Impoundment Refusal of a President to spend money that has been appropriated by Congress
Injunction Court order that forbids a party from performing a certain action
Judicial Activism Philosophy that the courts should take an active role in solving problems
Judicial Restraint Philosophy that the courts should defer to elected lawmakers in setting policy, and should instead focus on interpreting law rather than making law
Judicial Review Power of the courts to review the constitutionality of laws or government actions
Legislative Oversight Ongoing process of congressional monitoring of the executive branch to ensure that the latter complies with the law
Legislative Veto Process in which Congress overturned rules and regulations proposed by executive branch agencies. Struck down in 1983.
Line Item Veto Power of most governors (and President Clinton for only a few years) to delete or reduce funding in a bill on a line by line basis
Logrolling When two members of Congress agree to vote for each other’s bill
Majority Opinion Written to express the majority viewpoint in a Supreme Court case
Mark Up Committee action to amend a proposed bill
Merit System System of hiring federal workers based upon competitive exams
Open Rule House Rules Committee rule that allows amendments to a bill
Original Jurisdiction Authority of a court to first hear a case
Patronage Power to appoint loyal party members to federal positions
Pocket Veto Presidential killing of a bill by inaction after Congress adjourns
Political Appointees Those who have received presidential appointments to office. Contrast with Civil Service employees, who receive federal jobs by competitive exams
Pork Barrel Wasteful congressional spending, e.g. funding for a Lawrence Welk museum in North Dakota
Quorum Minimum number of members needed for the House or Senate to meet
Reapportionment Reallocation of House seats to the states on the basis of changes in state populations, as determined by the census
Redistricting Redrawing of congressional district boundaries by the party in power of the state legislature
Red Tape Complex rules and procedures required by bureaucratic agencies
Remand The Supreme Court’s sending of a case back to the original court in which it was heard
Rider Amendment to a bill that has little to do with that bill. Also known as a nongermane amendment.
Rule of Four The Supreme Court will hear a case if four Justices agree to do so
Rules Committee The “traffic cop” of the House that sets the legislative calendar and issues rules for debate on a bill
Senatorial Courtesy Tradition in which the President consults with the senators within a state in which an appointment is to be made
Seniority System Tradition in which the Senator from the majority party with the most years of service on a committee becomes the chairman of that committee
Spoils System see patronage above
Standing Committees The permanent congressional committees that handle legislation
Stare Decisis Latin for “let the decision stand.” Supreme Court policy of following precedent in deciding cases
Sunset Laws Laws that automatically expire after a given time
Ways and Means Committee House committee that handles tax bills
Whistleblower An employee who exposes unethical or illegal conduct within the federal government or one of its contractors
Writ of Certiorari Issued by the Supreme Court to a lower court to send up the records of a case so that it can be reviewed by the high court
Writ of Habeas Corpus Court order that the authorities show cause for why they are holding a prisoner in custody. Deters unlawful imprisonment.
Writ of Mandamus Court order directing a party to perform a certain action
Created by: mrcoia