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AP Gov: Unit 5: Legislative and Executive Institutions


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appropriations bill
An act of Congress that actually funds programs within limits established by authorization bills. Appropriations usually cover one year.
authorization bill
An act of Congress that establishes, continues, or changes a discretionary government program or an entitlement. It specifies program goals and maximum expenditures for discretionary programs. Compare appropriations bill.
A group of presidential advisors not mentioned in the Constitution, although every president has had one. Today the cabinet is composed of 13 secretaries and the attorney general.
Activities of members of Congress that help constituents as individuals; cutting through bureaucratic red tape to get people what they think they have a right to get. See also pork barrel.
committee chairs
The most important influencers of the congressional agenda. They play dominant roles in scheduling hearings, hiring staff, appointing subcommittees, and managing committee bills when they are brought before the full house.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
A counterweight to the president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CBO advises Congress on the probable consequences of budget decisions and forecasts revenues.
entitlement programs
Policies for which expenditures are uncontrollable because Congress has in effect obligated itself to pay X level of benefits to Y number of recipients. Each year, Congress's bill is a straightforward function of the X level of benefits times the Y number of beneficiaries. Social Security benefits are an example.
Federal spending of revenues. Major areas of such spending are social services and the military.
A strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation try to talk it to death, based on the tradition of unlimited debate. Today, 60 members present and voting can halt a filibuster.
The belief that the best predictor of this year's budget is last year's budget, plus a little bit more (an increment). According to Aaron Wildavsky, "Most of the budget is a product of previous decisions."
Those already holding office. In congressional elections, incumbents usually win.
legislative veto
The ability of Congress to override a presidential decision. Although the War Powers Resolution asserts this authority, there is reason to believe that, if challenged, the Supreme Court would find the legislative veto in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.
majority leader
The principal partisan ally of the Speaker of the House or the party's wheel horse in the Senate. The majority leader is responsible for scheduling bills, influencing committee assignments, and rounding up votes on behalf of the party's legislative positions.
National Security Council
An office created in 1947 to coordinate the president's foreign and military policy advisors. Its formal members are the president, vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense, and it is managed by the president's national security advisor.
pork barrel
The mighty list of federal projects, grants, and contracts available to cities, businesses, colleges, and institutions in the district of a member of Congress.
A congressional process through which program authorizations are revised to achieve required savings. It usually also includes tax or other revenue adjustments.
Social Security Act
A 1935 law passed during the Great Depression that was intended to provide a minimal level of sustenance to older Americans and thus save them from poverty.
25th Amendment
Passed in 1951, the amendment that permits the vice president to become acting president if both the vice president and the president's cabinet determine that the president is disabled. The amendment also outlines how a recuperated president can reclaim the job.
uncontrollable expenditures
Expenditures that are determined not by a fixed amount of money appropriated by Congress but by how many eligible beneficiaries there are for a program or by previous obligations of the government.
War Powers Resolution
A law, passed in 1973 in reaction to American fighting in Vietnam and Cambodia, requiring presidents to consult with Congress whenever possible prior to using military force and to withdraw forces after 60 days unless Congress declares war or grants an extension. Presidents view the resolution as unconstitutional. See also legislative veto.
Party leaders who work with the majority leader to count votes beforehand and lean on waverers whose votes are crucial to a bill favored by the party.

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