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Political Lingo: CONGRESS

It’s Me!



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It’s about time for a vocabulary brush up when it comes to understanding the political and impending economic debacle (crisis) facing our nation. I am so certain you have been paying attention the best of your ability, the government “shutdown.”  I am also certain that at some point in time you have become disillusioned by it all, not because you are not optimistic, but because you are becoming overwhelmed by the political jargon (language) being used.

Here is a really quick and basic crash course in the lingo of the moment:

Our government is made up of three (3) distinct branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial

Each Branch has a particular job, duties and responsibilities as laid out in the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the land.  The Branch at the center of all of the debate at the moment is the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH.  Let’s look at the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH.  Article I of the Constitution outlines the duties of this branch. Its primary function is to MAKE LAWS—that includes creating a spending BILL. A BILL only becomes a LAW once it is passed in both houses of CONGRESS, and the President signs off on it.

The House of Representatives + The Senate = CONGRESS

The House has 435 members and the majority of its members are REPUBLICANS. The Senate has 100 members and the majority of its members are DEMOCRATS.  As long as CONGRESS has NOT passed a SPENDING BILL, our nation is in SHUTDOWN.  The SPENDING BILL determines how much money we will spend in one fiscal year from OCTOBER 1 – SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2014.  So far, 15 days have passed and there is NO SPENDING BILL!

On Thursday, we will see a further disruption in our government if CONGRESS does NOT raise the DEBT CEILING: The maximum borrowing power that will allow the Treasury to borrow enough money to pay bills that we have already racked up, on time.  Without raising the debt ceiling, we will have to pay the bills we have with the money we have, which is impossible–there is NOT enough money! If we don’t raise the Debt Ceiling, we will DEFAULT and our credit rating will DECREASE. That will be a first time in our history.

Over and over you have heard the term “Clean CR.” This is a term for a clean continuing resolution to remedy the shutdown crisis and to get our government open so that some 800,000 people will not have to remain in furlough with the expectation of receiving back pay while their monthly expenditures continue to amount.

Who is John Boehner?

He is the Speaker of House.  His job is to preside over the House of Representatives—those 435 people from the Congressional equation above.  He is second in line to succeed the President, after the Vice President (the VP is the President of the Senate—those 100 people for the Congressional Equation above). The Speaker’s power and role are determined by the Constitution in Article 1, Section 2. When President Obama delivers the State of the Union Address (an annual update on how well America is doing), this is the seating arrangement:

Vice President Joe Biden           Speaker John Boehner

 President Barack Obama 

Lastly, because the Republicans are so upset about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and because they want it repealed, they have decided to hold the nation hostage!

You will hear a lot of terms that sound unfamiliar, but don’t fret, I will do my best to help you to understand them. Tune in regularly here and I will de-mystify politics. Before you know it, you will be fluent in this language too. No Rosetta Stone necessary!


  1. Bianca Belony says:

    Thanks a lot Ms. Ali! I would read the NY Times & be so confused! I hope everyone else is seeing this!

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