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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "The House of Representatives is the least powerful chamber of Congress. Discuss"

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note outlines some key terms and examples you could use when discussing whether the House of Representatives or the Senate is the most powerful chamber in Congress.

Start by making sure you know what each of the key terms below means:

  • US Congress
  • Democrats
  • Republicans
  • Legislative Branch
  • Advice and Consent Powers
  • Power of the Purse
  • 100 Senators
  • 435 Representatives
  • Ratification of Treaties
  • Congressional Committees
  • Equal legislative power
  • Balanced Bicameralism
  • Concurrent Passage Power
  • Term length
  • Political promotion
  • Enumerated powers.

Contemporary Examples

The House is not a powerful chamber:

  1. In impeachment trails such as in 2010 when Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached and tried by the Senate with a unanimous vote to convict.
  2. The Senate, not the House gets to confirm executive nominees such as Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justices on the Supreme Court during Obama’s first term.
  3. The Senate also under the ratification powers did not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999

The House is a powerful chamber:

  1. The House of Representatives has the power to raise revenue through taxes. So the $1.8 trillion spending package that Obama signed in 2015 started in the House rather than the Senate.
  2. All impeachment proceedings must start in the House such as the efforts to set in motion impeachment proceedings against Barack Obama in 2012 and 2013
  3. Both houses have equal legislative power so if the House doesn’t pass a bill in the Conference Committee it dies such as the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act 2007.

Historical Examples

The House is not a powerful chamber:

  1. The Senate, not the House failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
  2. Members of the House are only election to serve for two years, so as such have to fight a constant re-election battle in order to stay in power.

The House is a powerful chamber:

  1. The House of Representatives chooses the President in the event of no majority or a tie in the Electoral College as happened in 1825 when John Quincy Adams was elected.
  2. The House of Representatives has a clear leader in the Speaker of the House, who is third in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.

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