Congressional Caucuses Effect on the Lawmaking Process


Throughout the history of American politics, U.S. Congressional lawmakers have always catered to their home constituents; consequently, the local concerns of Senators and Congressmen have ultimately risen to the top of the national decision making agenda. This was aptly summarized when the late Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, asserted “all politics is local.” Given this, politicians have always sought ways to be more effective in how they represent their constituents in the legislative and policy arenas. Besides the traditional methods of party selection/ participation/ seniority and the highly coveted positions held in committees and subcommittees, a late-twentieth-century development which offered another avenue of influence was the coming-of-age of the Congressional caucus. According to the re-known historian and political scientist, Professor Julian E. Zelizer, Congressional caucuses were “devoted to specific problems that might not be of interest to the entire party…The caucuses were often homes for individuals who were not sympathetic to or satisfied with the party leadership” (Zelizer 2004, 199).

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In 1969 with the 91st Congress there were three registered caucuses, by October 2010 with the 111th Congress, that number had climbed to 335 (11 New House Caucuses 2010) (Zelizer 2004, 199). Throughout the last thirty years, Congressional Caucuses have flourished died, or transformed depending on the contemporary issues, leadership, cohesion, and numerous other factors affecting relevance. One of the more recent caucuses to be registered and join the mix is the thirty-nine member “Congressional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Caucus” (About UAVs 2010). The Congressional UAV Caucus formed in February 2009 and has met twice, once to formally agree upon its mission statement and once to host a UAV Technology Fair to showcase local industry products. Given the Congressional UAV Caucus’s arguably slow progress, it is conceivable, that unless proactive member participation occurs in the next 12-24 months to provide better guidance and direction, the Congressional UAV Caucus will lose any potential significance it could have achieved in meeting the needs and expectations of the lawmakers’ constituents. This view can be summarized by the following thesis statement: the “Congressional UAV Caucus” currently lacks a clear agenda and goals to make it a truly effective group in influencing decision-makers, whether this is in the legislative process or formal/informal policies.

This paper will now explore what the Congressional UAV Caucus must accomplish to stay relevant. In doing so, historical and modern-day data will be delved into (gathering, assessing, and drawing conclusions); along with the background and processes by which Congress operates will be examined.

Caucus – Caucuses in the United States

A caucus refers to a meeting of the members of a political party to nominate candidates for elections or to plan policies in the Congress or other bodies of government. It is believed that it first emerged in the English colonies of North America. In early United States History, the Congressional nominating caucus and legislative caucus were influential meetings of congressmen to decide the party’s

nominee for President and legislative policy. Similar caucuses were held by the parties at the state level. Some examples are the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African-American members of Congress, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, etc. Other examples include the caucuses used by some states to select presidential nominees, such as the Iowa caucuses (Caucus – Caucuses in the United States, n.d., para 1).

The legislative Process

The Congress of the United States which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives is given all the powers of lawmaking. There are many steps in the process of making laws. A brief overview of the legislative process within the House of Representatives is presented below (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 1).

The first step of the Congress is to introduce a proposal. There are four forms of the proposal: the bill, the combined, concurrent and simple resolution (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 2).

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  • “Bills are introduced in the House of Representatives and are designated by the letters ”H.R”. which signifies “House of Representatives”. It can be used for any kind of legislation i.e. temporary or permanent, general or special, public or private. These bills, once approved by the House of Representatives and Senate, are presented to the President for action” (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 3).
  • “The second form is the joint resolution which can be originated in both The Senate or in the House of Representatives. These proposed amendments in the Constitution. Unlike the bills, it is not presented to the President for approval after the approval by two-thirds of both the House and Senate but sent directly to the Administrator of General Services. It is designated “H.J.Res.” and also carries an individual number” (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 4).
  • “Concurrent resolutions are used for the matters affecting the functioning of the House of Representatives and Senate. It is signed by the clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. It is marked” H.Con.Res.” and carries its number” (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 5).
  • “Simple resolutions are initiated when the operations of either the House of Representatives or the Senate alone are affected. Such resolution carries the mark “H.Re.s.” and an individual number. This too is not presented to the President” (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 6).

Introduction and Referral to Committee

When the House is in session the bills can be introduced by any member at any time by placing them in the ‘hopper’ at the side of the Clerk’s desk in the House Chamber. It should be properly signed by the sponsor. It is assigned its legislative number and with the help of the Parliamentarian referred to the appropriate committee by the speaker. Thereafter, printed in its introduced form (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 7)

Once the measure is referred to the committees the crucial phase of the legislative process begins. At the present people get the chance to speak on the anticipated extent (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 8).

Consideration by Committee

The committee declares the date, place, and subject of the hearings to be conducted. Here the witnesses are allowed to present their viewpoints on the given measures. The committee gets the transcript printed and distributed frequently (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 9).

The bill is considered in the “mark-up” session now after the hearings are over. The viewpoints are studied thoroughly by the committee members and changes are offered which can be accepted or rejected by the committee members (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 10).

Eventually, the members of the committee or subcommittee have to vote for the action to be taken on the measure. The measure can be reported with or without amendments, or tabled denoting that no further action on it will be taken. In case of extensive amendments, a new bill can be reported incorporating all the amendments. In case of reporting a bill, the Committee Report is written describing the purpose and scope of the measure and the reasons for recommended approval (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 11).

House Floor Consideration

After being reported by a committee a measure is presented before the full House for consideration. A “rule” or resolution is passed by the House comprising the particulars of debate for a specific bill such as time allotted for debate, the possibility for amendments, etc. Debate time is divided between the members of the proponents and opponents willing to speak on the measure. Amendments are also debated and voted upon. The House is ready to vote on the final stage after all the debates are over and the amendments are decided (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 12).

The measure goes to the Senate for consideration now. Before presenting to the President for signature into law, it should be passed by both the bodies in the same form. If the Senate changes the language of the measure it must be negotiated on the House floor. The House may accept or reject the changes offered by the Senate. To resolve the differences a conference committee is appointed with the House and Senate members. This committee issues reports outlining the final version of the bill after reporting the measure back to both bodies for a vote (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 13).

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Final Step

Each individual in the house votes through an electronic voting system. These votes are referred to as Yea/Nay votes or recorded votes. Votes in the House may be by voice votes where no there is no record of the individual response. Once the measure is passed by both the House and Senate it gets enrolled and presented before the President who can make it law by signing it or veto it (Tying it All Together: Learn about the Legislative Process, n.d., Para 14).

Maturation of Caucuses

Scopes Mission Types, Strategy Historical, and Anticipated effectiveness

“The congressional caucuses played a major role in National Policy Making. The 1981 Udall-Obey alternative tax plan and 1987 amendment delaying President Regan’s action to reflag Kuwaiti oil tankers are a few of the DSG coordinated bills and amendments. The DSG became an influential informal group without being a part of the leadership as it believed that in this way it will be more useful” (Hammond, 2001, P.2).

“The Democratic Study Group or DSG was formed in September 1959, by a group of moderate-to-liberal Democrats, frustrated by the conservative senior democrats, in the House of Representatives. The DSG members, hoped to push through moderate-to-liberal policies and loosen conservative Democratic control, working as a caucus. Earlier, the meetings were fixed on updates and tactics about the pending floor legislation. Later, they put in place a whip system to obtain support from the members on floor votes of interest to the caucus by distributing information on legislation scheduled for the floor” (Hammond, 2001, P.1).

The passage of major changes in the Democratic caucus and House rules were achieved by the DSG in the mid-1970s by the way they developed and built the coalitions. These rules were designed to facilitate the approval of DSG members who supported the legislation. One of the results was, The Subcommittee Bill of Rights, which gave House subcommittee permanent jurisdictions, separate staff, and budgets, and more independence from the chair’s control. The information gap left open by the party leaders got filled by the briefing papers and information on scheduled floor legislation, by the DSG staff. The DSG legislative Report was even subscribed by the Republicans because of its thorough, balanced report of the bills and planned amendments scheduled for floor action”. “Survey by the House Committee on Administrative Review in 1977 reported that 37percent of House Members and 66 percent of legislative assistants rely heavily on DSG material”. As per Maisel (1981) ”An even higher proportion of legislative assistants used DSG information for committee work and to keep up-to-date on public issues (Hammond, 2001, P.1).

The DSG has very influential members. By 1984, the senior leadership aide asserted the necessity to listen to party caucuses by the leadership (Hammond, 2001, P.1).

“A new regulation governing informal caucuses in 1995 brought an end to DSG. All its publication functions were distributed or sold. While the study group continued as a caucus, the DSG continued its mission to serve as” (Brown-son 1995, 809) “an organization for democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives who wish to join together in a common effort to develop policy options; to assure more effective communication and coordination of efforts to enact programs and policies supported by DSG members; and to make Congress a more effective institution responsive to the needs of the nation” (Hammond, 2001, P.2).

“In 1983, the Republicans, led by Vin Weber and Newt Gingrich, formed the Conservative Opportunity Society or COS. This caucus, like DSG, map out strategies with a focus on speeches and floor procedures. The COS organized a series of short speeches to oppose the nuclear bill”. As Waller quoted in Pitney 1988,13, “ Cos offered numerous amendments that delayed passage to the bill and denied freeze sponsors a quick and stunning victory”. The COS also targeted the school prayer issues and Democrat’s Foreign policy (Hammond, 2001, P.3).

The COS played a major role, in 1985, to the House floor, the fight over whether to seat Republican Rick McIntyre or Democrat Frank McCloskey, as a representative from the Eighth District in Indiana (Hammond, 2001, P.3).

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With the help of its leaders and other caucuses, COS worked in agendas for achieving its party program and with an outside group to plot the GOP strategy. They regularly planned amendments to change programs or to belt funding. Some of the accomplishments of COS are twice the passing of an amendment to the FY1987supplemental appropriations measure to cut $300 million from various foreign assistance programs, even after the Democrats demand a second vote. In 1988, Jim Wright’s resignation from the speakership and the House also happened because of the charges fielded with the support of the COS (Hammond, 2001, P.4).

COS consistently campaigned for financial reforms, a strong military and foreign policy, and extension of private-sector laws covering congressional employees. In 1994, COS announced its “Contract with America” to win control of the House, and continued to develop programs and strategies under the leadership of Gingrich. The Republican revolution started with Gingrich being elected speaker of the House at the start of the 104th Congress in January 1995 (Hammond, 2001, P.4).

“According to Congressional Yellow Book 1996, VI-50, “the COS is an activist group of more than 100 Republican Members of Congress who are dedicated to formulating the conservative agenda on the House floor and throughout the United States”. Pre1995, the caucus could be credited with major successes in the Democratic-controlled House. It was successful in different legislative battles, brought about major changes in the operating style of the party, and strategized in taking Republican control of the House. For the first time in forty years, a Republican speaker was installed in 1995 (Hammond, 2001, P.5).

States depending on the railroads established the Senate Rail Caucus in the early 1980s by their respective Senators. The sole purpose of the caucus was to inform the members about rail issues. Representatives of various consumer and provide groups were invited together to discuss problems affecting the states. These meetings made it easier for the Senators to deal with the problems as they became more educated about the problems and understood more about the concerns of other Senators (Hammond, 2001, P.6).

After the Republicans gained control of the Congress in the 1990s, the Coalition, also known as the Blue Dog Democrats, formed to develop and pursue middle-of-the-road policy proposals, especially on welfare and budget.” The group was made up of moderate to conservative House Democrats and formed about two dozen votes swing group, very crucial in a House with a small GOP majority. It became a central factor in ongoing budget debates and negotiations in the second session of the 104th Congress (Hammond, 2001, P.6).

Senators continued to create new caucuses after the takeover of Congress by Republicans in 1995”. The bipartisan Family Caucus was founded by Social conservatives, to pursue agenda that included “ returning voluntary school prayer, reaffirming parental rights, establishing abstinence-based sex education, enacting tougher laws against obscenity and child pornography, and eliminating federal financing of abortion (congressional Yellow Book 1996, VI-37) (Hammond, 2001, P.6).

“The internet Caucus was formed in March 1996 by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) and Representatives Rick White (R-Wash.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va), as a bipartisan and bicameral group to increase awareness of this new technology, issues of access and control and to increase the use of the Internet to reach out to constituents, among their colleagues. As per White “the Internet Caucus exists because most of Congress is lost in cyberspace” (Hammond, 2001, P.7).

“The factors driving the Caucus establishment and their organizational variety can be briefly illustrated by the range of caucus interest and activities”. “Their main aim is to provide information to its members, affect agendas, draft bills and amendments, develop legislative strategy, build a supportive coalition, form voting blocs and even launch congressional leadership careers”. The DSG and COS were looking for change and modernization, they were successful in the remarkable shifts in committee and part power (Hammond, 2001, P.7).

The congressional caucuses are informal member groups, outside of the formal system. Every caucus is a boundary subunit though they are not subunits of the formal structure of either the Senate or the House. “Each has a firm structure, is in progress, and has properly stated goals. They do research, exchanges information’s, set agenda, formulate policies, and build a coalition and thus influence the policy process” (Hammond, 2001, P.8).

Caucuses were formed as the members were searching for new organizations in the late twentieth century to advance career and policy interests. Caucuses do not require formal system approval and are easy to establish and operate. It will be difficult to control and regulate caucuses and they likely will persist even in congressional centralization, because of their importance in policymaking and their contributions to member’s careers (Hammond, 2001, P.19).

Caucuses of the caucus system vary in membership, range of interests, issue focus, activities, and strategies. Yet they share characteristics. Caucuses are organized and pursue policy purposes, they intersect the formal committee and part system whether in Senate or House. They design activities to overcome deficiencies in the formal system. They work both within and outside Congress and are active at all stages of the policy process (Hammond, 2001, P.20).

Caucuses ranged from 3 members (the Territorial Caucus) to 325 members (the Environmental & Energy Study Conference) during the 100th Congress. The Art Caucus, the DSG, the National Security Caucus, the Competitiveness Caucus, and the North-East-Mid west Congressional Caucus each had 198 or more members (Hammond, 2001, P.21).

All Caucuses have either one leader or a maximum of four leaders sharing responsibilities. The co-chaired leadership provides the equal participation of all the parties in the case of a bicameral caucus. Most of these caucuses also have one or multiple vice-chairs. Some of them even had other officers as a secretary or a treasurer (Hammond, 2001, P.21).

Table. Primary Reason for Establishing Caucuses, by Caucus Types. Source: “compiled from Congressional Research Service, Informal Congressional Groups and Member organizations, various years; Congressional Research Service, Caucuses and Legislative Service organizations, various years; Richardson 1993, 1996; Congressional Yellow Book, various years, Hammond, 2001 P.45.”

Caucus Type
Personal National State / Total
Reason Party Interest Constituency Regional District Industry (%)
Policy 8 15 0 5 1 2 20
Coordination 1 10 5 8 7 5 23
Issue 0 14 0 5 16 25 38
Leader or party
failure 9 1 1 1 2 0 8
Other 0 2 0 6 4 3 10

The Contemporary Era

The current Caucus system differs drastically from the strewn, unplanned, informal groups of the previous eras. They are now well planned, highly organized, unrelenting, and dynamic. They are legitimate actors in the policy process and accepted and recognized by the members (Hammond, 2001 P.39).

Newly established caucuses can reflect the external changes and internal deficiencies by the policy changes that cannot be handled by the formal congressional structure. Issues that are not handled by the formal committee and the party system are expected to be the focal point of the new caucuses (Hammond, 2001 P.40).

“Party control of the White House affects caucus formation and that caucus’s form to oppose presidential policies with which its members disagree”. This also acts as a stimulus, for the opposition to form a caucus. Members who disagree with their president’s party also form caucuses. To hold its members together, the majority of parties and intraparty groups view caucuses as a way to work within the party. It also helps in the achievement of both individual and party interests (Hammond, 2001 P.40).

From 1959 to 1964, for six years, DSG or Democratic Study Group was the only informal group of members that was neither a social club nor a state or city delegation. From 1965 to 1969 only two more additions happened in the form of Wednesday Group formed by the moderate to liberal Republicans in the House and Arms Control and Foreign policy Caucus which was bipartisan and bicameral. Ten more groups were established between 1970 to 1974; three of them were in the Senate and about half were bipartisan (Hammond, 2001 P.41).

There was an explosion of caucus formation in the late 1970s; compared to four years earlier by 1977-78 it had more than doubled, and it had more than tripled by 1979-80. The new caucus’s numbers remained fairly stable for some time until the large increase to thirty-one in 1989-90 and forty-three in 1995-96. “The rate of Caucus formation increased from one in 1959-70 period to seven in early and mid-1970s, to nineteen each in the late 1970s. By the late 1980s, caucus formation increased to twenty-five. It remained high in the early and mid-1990’s” Attached two tables (Hammond, 2001 P.42).

Table 1. Caucus established, by Chamber 1959-1996. Source: “compiled from Congressional Research Service, Informal Congressional Groups and Member organizations, various years; Congressional Research Service, Caucuses and Legislative Service organizations, various years; Richardson 1993, 1996; Congressional Yellow Book, various years, Hammond, 2001 P.42.”

Period House Senate Bicameral
1959-70 3 0 1
1971-76 9 5 6
1977-80 22 7 9
1981-86 28 16 20
1987-90 32 9 9
1991-96 54 6 16
Total 148 43 61

Table 2. Caucus Establishment, by Caucus Type, 1959-1996. Source: “compiled from Congressional Research Service, Informal Congressional Groups and Member organizations, various years; Congressional Research Service, Caucuses and Legislative Service organizations, various years; Richardson 1993, 1996; Congressional Yellow Book, various years, Hammond, 2001 P.42.”

Caucus Type
Personal National State /
Period Party Interest Constituency Regional District Industry Total
1959-70 2 1 0 1 0 0 4
1971-76 5 6 2 5 1 1 20
1977-80 1 5 3 5 9 15 38
1981-86 6 25 0 7 10 16 64
1987-90 2 17 0 7 8 16 50
1991-96 7 21 1 9 21 17 76
Total 23 75 6 34 49 65 252

With the increase in the rate of formation of Caucuses several changes occurred. First, the Senate lags, the House, by five years in caucus formation; they were not established until after the 1970s. Only a few partisan groups were established in the Senate in between the period from 1959-69 and 1971-76. Second, more bipartisan groups were formed in the later periods. Third, the more recently established caucuses were focused on single-issue or industry unlike the old causes which were engaged in a broad range of issues (Hammond, 2001 P.41)

Emerging and important issues were reflected by the newly formed caucuses. Issues on Arms Control (1966), Black Americans (1971), and the economic issues of the Great Lakes, New England, the Midwest, and rural America were the issues that led to the formation of earlier caucuses of the contemporary era. In the mid and late 1970’s issues related to women, the environment (the Environmental and Energy Study Conference, the High Altitude Caucus, the Solar Coalition) and some foreign policies (National Security, South Africa Monitoring) led the formation of caucuses. In 1975-76, some caucuses were formed around the regional and industrial issues.

Issue changes in the external environment continued to be highlighted by the new caucuses or the old caucuses with the names changed. Issues of the importance of budget and deficit reduction, like Balanced Budget, Export Competitiveness, new foreign policies related to terrorism, and emerging social issues related to family and crime, were highlighted by the Reagan era caucuses. Some caucuses were formed to cut back the scope of the government, like, Depot, B-2 Stealth, and Senate Air and Space. Importance of trade (Taskforce to end the Arab Boycott and Jobs and Fairtrade Caucus), environmental issues (regional ecosystem), health issues (health care reform caucus), and cutting back the government (constitutional Liberty, Debt Limit and Porkbusters Caucuses) were the issues of 1990’s caucuses (Hammond, 2001 P.43-44).

Reforming Congress

The period of the 1970s is very important to understand the history of government reforms. “This decade is usually remembered for disco dancing, great movies, and swingers”. Since the Progressive Era, the federal government had a relatively insulated, hierarchical, and stable governing structure but now they moved to an uncertain, fragmented, and partisan polity, this was due to the governmental reforms in the 1970s. According to Richard Hofstadter “turn of the twentieth century is called as Age of Reform, politicians, business, good-government reformers, experts and social movements introduced a period characterized by the interest group and congressional committee politics, a newspaper-based media committed to objectivity and institutions and norms that nurtured bipartisanly and constrained scandal (Zelizer, 2004, P.1).

The institutional formation of the progressive era became the object of change and brought about the second wave of reforms. There was a widespread consensus that there is a need for a policy for the reconstruction of the political process under new leadership. To break the remaining hold of the party elites, the nomination procedure for presidential candidates was changed by the reformers. Information on any government arm was made easily accessible. Permanent rights for public interest groups in the administrative process was secured by the reformers, and a practical role in defending the voting rights of the citizens were embraced by the federal government. Investigation of political corruption was institutionalized by the FBI, an office of the Independent Counsel, and grand juries at the same time. All of these led to an era defined by strong partisanship without a secure party leader; a 24 hrs news cycle by the television centered media; criminalization of politics; poll dependence; the codified rule of principles. A historic shift in the era is signaled by these reforms (Zelizer, 2004, P.2).

The Legislative Women’s Caucus

The Legislative Women’s Caucus works to improve the participation of women in the government; provide a network of support for women in the state legislation; and support issues that benefit and affect women. Since its inception in 1983, it has advocated programs and services that benefit women, working closely with women’s organizations and concerned individuals across the state, the Governor, state agencies, and other legislators (Legislative Women’s Caucus, 2010, Para 1 – 5)

Financial Services Committee

Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over several issues including, international finance, securities, and exchange, monetary policy, insurance, banking, and housing. The financial services regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve are also overseen by this committee (Capuano. ND, Para 2)

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee oversees issues related to aviation, maritime transportation, railroads, highways, transit and pipelines, and water resources (Capuano. ND, Para 3).

House Administration Committee

House Administration Committee focuses on the federal election process, general administrative issues in the House and works on House security issues with Capitol Police (Capuano. ND, Para 4).

The following is the list of eleven new caucuses or congressional member organizations registered in the 111th Congress. Commission on Divided Family, Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Congressional Caucus on Lumber, Congressional Kidney Caucus, Congressional Motor Sports Caucus, Congressional Ski and Snow Board Caucus, Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus, House Tea Party Caucus, Tax Equity Caucus, The Freedom Caucus, Venezuela Democracy Caucus (congressional Aid, 2010, Para 1-3)

What is a UAV?

“A UAV is an “unmanned aerial vehicle” or an aircraft, which is not maneuvered by a pilot but controlled by a remote. UAV’s are capable of flying at a controlled and sustained speed and height. These are used for a variety of missions like surveys or attack missions. Moreover, these can be reused. The UAV’s are used to support the U.S. military personnel on the ground in the modern concept” (Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, n.d., Para 1).

The U.S. military has experimented with many RPA’s(remotely piloted aircraft) and UAV systems for over 50 years. The first UAV program was a Lightning Bug which was used for surveys during the Vietnam War. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, there were other proper applications for the RPA’s and UAV. Some faced test failures cost overruns and unchecked requirement growth. Few programs failed because of the changing political situations (Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, n.d., Para 2).

Because of the reduced tension with the Soviet Union and China, the U.S. leaders were reluctant to permit the survey operations overflights of those countries. Besides this, the developing surveillance satellites also affected the growth of these air-breathing platforms. There was no major development in the RPA’s and UAV’s in the late 1970s and the early1980’s as the Vietnam War was over and the U.S. did not need to spend on such programs and defense (Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, n.d., Para 3).

It was in the mid-eighties that the U.S. started buying Israeli unmanned systems which Israel had been deploying since the early 1980s. Later on, the United States also began to develop new systems such as the RQ-1 Predator A. These systems are used to gather information about base security, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, force protection, targeting, and strike capabilities (Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, n.d., Para 4).

There are several small as well as large systems, in the U.S. now. Some are Raven, Pointer, and the Force Protection Aerial Surveillance System, Global Hawk, Predator, Hunter, Shadow, and others (Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, n.d., Para 5).

Discussion with Caucus Staff (UAV)

Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has been appointed as the Co-Chair of the congressional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Caucus in December 2010. Before this, he was Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism. To help secure borders, he repeatedly emphasized his concerns about, weak border security and the need for the unmanned system (McAlister, 2010, Para 1)

“As stated by Congressman McKeon (R-CA) on the appointment of Cuellar as the Co-Chair, “Henry Cuellar is a devoted servant of Texas and a vigilant guardian of our nation’s borders. As an advocate for unmanned systems, I’m proud to welcome him as Co-Chair of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus” (McAlister, 2010, Para 2).

“Cuellar stated, “I’m honored to be named Co-Chairman of the UAV Caucus and look forward to continuing my work with Congressman McKeon, who is a motivated leader on this important issue”. He further added, “UAV’s have increasingly become a familiar means for providing homeland security. The ability of UAVs to gather intelligence information benefits our domestic security strategy and gives us new tools to meet the evolving threats of the 21st century. By putting “eyes in the Sky,” we can provide real-time information to our law enforcement on the ground. This combination of technology and manpower keeps our law enforcement steps ahead of the challenges they face” (McAlister, 2010, Para 3).

Mission Statement of UAV

Educating members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of the unmanned system is the main mission of the UAV Caucus. It also actively supports new development and acquisition of more systems and engages the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety (McKeon,n.d., Para. 1)

Members of the Caucus acknowledges: (McAlister, 2010, Para 2)

  • “Importance of these systems to the defense, intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement, and scientific communities.
  • Supporting the ongoing civil, military, and law enforcement operations, they recognize the urgent need to fast develop and deploy more unmanned systems.
  • To seek fair and equitable solutions to challenges created by UAV operations in the U.S. National Air Space, they work with the military, industry, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other stakeholders.
  • Creation of thousands of jobs for Americans by supporting the world-class industrial base that engineers, develops, manufactures, and tests unmanned systems.
  • For a more robust national security unmanned system capability, they support policies and budgets that promote it” (McAlister, 2010, Para 2).

“Caucuses help in filling the gaps created by the insufficient coordinating mechanisms of the formal system. There are several kinds of coordination issues like, children or trade, which fall under the jurisdiction of multiple committees. Issues that are shared by several districts and states are another kind of coordination. The third kind of coordination is of congressmen who are separated as committee members and non-members but share a common constituency interest or who are not in the relevant committee but strongly share issue interest. The fourth kind is the coordination of interested parties from diverse constituencies or adversaries such as labor and business, producers and consumers” (Hammond, 2001 P.40).

Reasons for the formation of informational caucuses are not clear that reflect the personal interest of its members. Salient emerging or neglected issues can also lead to the formation of these groups. Indirectly, through the committee system, chamber control may be a reason for caucus formation. More informational caucuses are likely to form if the committee ignores or seek jurisdiction over issues of interest of these caucuses. In the same way, White House control may affect caucus formation (Hammond, 2001 P.41).

A remarkable feature in recent years, the formation of some caucuses dealing with a range of interests, and most of them are predominantly bipartisan.

“Caucuses are a rich and promising lens through which to view the social nature of legislators because no legislator is required to serve in caucuses except legislative committees and they are a venue through which legislators can interact” (Victor and Ringe 2008, 2).

Caucuses have different forms and sizes. It is hard to classify them as they have different purposes (Victor and Ringe 2008, 2). “Some caucuses provide venues for legislators to share concern over policy issues (i.e., the Zero AMT Caucus), connect with constituent groups (i.e., Congressional Dairy Farmers’ Caucus), emphasize international relationships (i.e., The Afghanistan Working Group), or express a personal interest (i.e., Congressional Bike Caucus)” (Victor and Ringe 2008, 2).

“Some research suggests that caucuses are not about just information, communication and sending signals, but they influence the legislative agenda in positive ways” (Hammond, et al. 1985).

Israel (2010, Para 2) mentions that the caucusing is such a process where the mediator arranges a meeting with one party in absence of another party so it is a separate kind of meeting. Some mediators do pre-caucusing which happens before the first joint meeting with the mediator and each party (Israel 2010, Para 2).

Caucusing can have different styles.” It can either have one or two brief meetings with the mediation clients with one mediation session or it could be in that way where a mediator goes from one room to another room, mediating a constant sequence of caucuses” (Israel 2010, Para 3).

“Caucusing could be observed as a “carefully considered strategic intervention” (Israel 2010, Para 3). Many think that caucusing makes the mediators very powerful as they have the power of interpreting messages, define issues and that such kinds of activities should be given to the parties” (Israel 2010, Para 3).

Other mediators use caucuses as a method. “For them, it is a chance for a mediator to work distinctly with mediation clients that would help them to practice the messages which are sent by the other party privately”. It shows their care and attention to the particular party (Israel 2010, Para 4).

Israel (2010, Para 5) states that according to some other mediators caucusing is an interfering element in the transparency of the mediation process (Israel 2010, Para 5). “They think that it perverts the free flow of information and thoughts which are important for mediation” (Israel 2010, Para 5).

There could be some more dangerous situations through caucusing. A mediator has to offer to his clients- neutrality and lack of bias (Israel 2010, Para 6). During this process, they make the party feel the presence of both the elements, and one person is allowed to function something jointly (Israel 2010, Para 6).

Reference List

“11 New House Caucuses Register from July to October 2010.” That’s My Congress, Web.

“About UAV’s Congressional Aerial Vehicle Caucus.” Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, Web.

Capuano, Michael E. “Committees and Caucuses.” U.S. House of Representatives, Web.

Hammond, Susan Webb, 2001. Congressional Caucuses in National Policy Making, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Israel, Laurie. 2010. “To Caucus or Not to Caucus- That is the Question.” Israel, Van Kooy & Days LLC. Web.

“Legislative Women Caucus New York State.” Web.

Victor, Jennifer Nicoll & Ringe, Nils, 2008. “Legislative Caucuses as Social Networks in the 110th U.S. House of Representatives.” NIPS. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Zelizer, Julian E. 2004. On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and Its Consequences, 1948-2000. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.


Table. Primary Reason for Establishing Caucuses, by Caucus Types.

Caucus Type
Personal National State / Total
Reason Party Interest Constituency Regional District Industry (%)
Policy 8 15 0 5 1 2 20
Coordination 1 10 5 8 7 5 23
Issue 0 14 0 5 16 25 38
Leader or party
faliure 9 1 1 1 2 0 8
Other 0 2 0 6 4 3 10

Table 1. Caucus established, by Chamber 1959-1996.

Time Period House Senate Bicameral
1959-70 3 0 1
1971-76 9 5 6
1977-80 22 7 9
1981-86 28 16 20
1987-90 32 9 9
1991-96 54 6 16
Total 148 43 61

Table 2. Caucus Establishment, by Caucus Type, 1959-1996.

Caucus Type
Personal National State /
Time Period Party Interest Constituency Regional District Industry Total
1959-70 2 1 0 1 0 0 4
1971-76 5 6 2 5 1 1 20
1977-80 1 5 3 5 9 15 38
1981-86 6 25 0 7 10 16 64
1987-90 2 17 0 7 8 16 50
1991-96 7 21 1 9 21 17 76
Total 23 75 6 34 49 65 252
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