AP US Government : Structure of Congress

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

Example Question #21 : National Government Institutions

Which of the following is the constitutionally mandated President of the Senate?

Possible Answers:

Majority Whip

Minority Leader

Vice President of the United States of America

Majority Leader

Correct answer:

Vice President of the United States of America

Explanation:

This question is slightly tricky. The correct answer is the Vice President of the United States of America. The Constitution mandates that the VP serve as the President of the Senate. Substantively speaking, the President of the Senate has relatively little power—the only time that the President may vote is in the event of a straight tie (50/50 split). Although this does happen, it’s not an incredibly common occurrence (Joe Biden—the VP/President of the Senate under Obama—for example, has not cast a single tie-breaking vote to date). That being said, the President of the Senate is responsible for Congressional procedure in the Senate, and a cunning Senate President can accomplish much using only the rules of procedure (for a fantastic, if somewhat inflated, example of this, watch House of Cards Season 2, Episode 3—it’s actually based off of a real event!).

Example Question #21 : Congress

What is the difference between candidate- and party-centered politics?

Possible Answers:

Candidate-centered politics emphasize political party unity and national issues whereas party-centered politics put forward individuals as political entrepreneurs

Candidate-centered politics put forward individuals as political entrepreneurs whereas party-centered politics emphasize political party unity and national issues

 The constitution specifically forbids party-centered politics, whereas it calls for candidate-centered politics

The constitution specifically forbids candidate-centered politics, whereas it calls for party-centered politics

Correct answer:

Candidate-centered politics put forward individuals as political entrepreneurs whereas party-centered politics emphasize political party unity and national issues

Explanation:

This is a relatively easy question, provided that you know (or remember) what candidate- and party-centered politics are. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct answer, and that is indeed the case here: candidate-centered politics emphasize the role of the individual politician—in other words, the candidate seeks to run on the message of, ‘what can I do for you?’ Party-centered politics, however, emphasize the role of a particular politician’s party more so than his individuality—that is, the candidate seeks to run on the message of, ‘what can my party do for you?’  

The other two answers involving the constitution are wrong for the simple reasons that political parties are not even mentioned in the Constitution (thus, it would be impossible for a party-centered politics to be anywhere in the Constitution).

Example Question #22 : Congress

The Senate has a Rules Committee.
      

Possible Answers:

True, the Senate, and not the house, has a rules committee

True, both the House and Senate have rules committees

False, only the House has a rules committee

False, neither the Senate nor the House has a rules committee

Correct answer:

False, only the House has a rules committee

Explanation:

Questions dealing with procedural differences between the Senate and the House tend to be a little more difficult; they are both foreign and somewhat dull. But regardless, the answer to this question is false for the simple reason that only the House has a Rules Committee. While the Senate is the “upper” chamber, and more powerful in a few different ways, it is less strict than the House when it comes to procedure. This is reflected in the fact that it lacks a Rules Committee.

Example Question #23 : Congress

What is the leader of the House of called?

Possible Answers:

The Speaker of the House

The Majority Leader

The Majority Whip

The Gendarme

Correct answer:

The Speaker of the House

Explanation:

The leader of the House of Representatives is called the Speaker of the House. The most infamous Speaker of the House was Speaker Joe Cannon. He wielded nearly unlimited power in the House and generally stirred up so much trouble that the member of the House eventually revolted against his rules and instituted new procedural rules that greatly curbed the powers of the Speaker. Regardless, the Speaker is still the most powerful position within the House.

Example Question #24 : Congress

What is the leader of the Senate called?

Possible Answers:

The Speaker of the Senate

The Majority Leader

The President Pro Tem

The Majority Whip

Correct answer:

The Majority Leader

Explanation:

Strangely enough, while the House has both a Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader, with the former being more powerful than the latter, the Majority Leader is the most powerful position within the Senate, when it comes to day-to-day activities. Technically speaking, the Vice President presides over the Senate (and the President Pro Tem presides in the VP’s absence), but the Majority Leader wields more day-to-day power.

Example Question #25 : Congress

Which of the following offices is responsible for “whipping” votes?

Possible Answers:

All of these answers are correct

The Majority/Minority Whip

The Majority Leader

The Speaker of the House

Correct answer:

The Majority/Minority Whip

Explanation:

Sometimes the most obvious answer is also the correct one. That is the case here. The Whip (whether it be Majority or Minority) is responsible for corralling congress members to vote for (or against) a bill. Technically speaking, oftentimes the Speaker or Majority leader, or anyone else in leadership positions may help out in getting votes (by trading favors, or something similar), but it is the Whips job to do so.

Example Question #26 : Congress

Unanimous Consent Agreements are more prevalent in the ____________.

Possible Answers:

All of these answers are correct.

Senate

Supreme Court

House

Correct answer:

Senate

Explanation:

UCAs are only important in the Senate. Neither the House nor the Supreme Court have anything to do with UCAs. Because the Senate does not have a Rules Committee, technically, bills are just free-for-alls when it comes to rules of consideration. That said, in order to prevent the Senate from devolving into a madhouse, the Senate operates under UCAs (Unanimous Consent Agreements) which establish rules of consideration for each bill.

Example Question #21 : Structure Of Congress

Congress is descriptively representative—that is, the makeup of Congress reflects the physical characteristics of the constituency as a whole.

Possible Answers:

True, the physical makeup of congress matches the demographic makeup of the country

None of these answers is correct.

False, congresspeople are direct representatives.

 False, congresspeople are disproportionately representative of the white, middle-aged upper-middle class demographic

Correct answer:

 False, congresspeople are disproportionately representative of the white, middle-aged upper-middle class demographic

Explanation:

This should have been a fairly easy question, provided that you know what descriptive representation means. Remember: descriptive representation refers to the type of representation where a particular congressman (or woman) physically reflects his constituency. In other words, if a Congressman came from a predominantly black area, he would be black. If (the same) Congressman came from a district that was predominantly black females, he wouldn’t be a “he” at all—this congress person would be a black female.

In reality, however, Congress is not descriptively representative. The majority of Congress is made up of middle-aged, white, educated, males. The country, on the other hand, is not predominantly middle-aged, white, educated males. Thus Congress is not descriptively representative. 

Example Question #28 : Congress

When creating and structuring the Congress, the Framers of the Constitution professed all except _____________.

Possible Answers:

Congressional members were conceived of as “citizen politicians,” who would take time out from their professional lives to briefly serve the nation before resuming their normal careers afterwards.

The Framers envisioned Congress as the ultimate source of government policy, serving as legislative enactors and arbiters of political disputes.

Due to the rules governing Congressional apportionment, the Framers predicted it was likely both the House and Senate would end up becoming bastions of elite interests.

The bicameral nature of Congress is meant to function as a key component of the wider system of checks and balances erected to control all three branches of government.

Correct answer:

Due to the rules governing Congressional apportionment, the Framers predicted it was likely both the House and Senate would end up becoming bastions of elite interests.

Explanation:

While the Framers did indeed predict that the Senate would likely be inclined to cater to the elite, they explicitly moved to counter this tendency through the setup of the House of Representatives. Ideally, the House would act as a ballast in favor of the general public, where the concerns of ordinary people would have a more direct impact on their state representatives. Yet the Senate’s elitism was not seen as entirely negative – the Framers also wanted to avoid tyranny of the majority taking hold in the House. These concerns are clearly on display when it comes to the rules of Congressional apportionment – with numerous Representatives and comparatively fewer Senators. The powers delegated to each of the two sections also reflect this balance: the Senate alone is allowed to ratify treaties and confirm presidential appointments, while the House holds sway over more generalized functions, such as initiating funding bills and overseeing the federal budget.

Example Question #22 : Congress

The Speaker of the House is entrusted with all of these responsibilities –except for one. Please select the one power which s/he does not wield.

Possible Answers:

Strictly controls the assignment of bills to various committees

Presides over and manages every House session

Greatly influences the committee assignments of each representative

Occupies the third position in the line of presidential succession

Correct answer:

Occupies the third position in the line of presidential succession

Explanation:

According to the section of the Constitution which lists the order of presidential succession, the Speaker of the House is actually second in line, directly behind the Vice President. If some emergency (typically either death or grave incapacitation) were to befall the President while s/he is in office, the Vice President would step into the role – but if the Vice President were similarly somehow unable to serve, the Speaker of the House would assume the presidential mantle. While this precise series of events has not yet ever occurred in the history of the American presidency, it nevertheless does play a small part in influencing each party’s selection of their Speaker.

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