safe congressional district: As usually defined, a district in which the winner receives 55 percent or more of the vote.

secondary group: An organization or group of people, such as a labor union, or a fraternal, professional, or religious group, that may influence an individual�s opinion.

Secret Service: The government agency that guards the President, the Vice-President, the major presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and their spouses.

segregation: The separation of persons by race.

select committees: See special committees.

senatorial courtesy: An unwritten custom by which individual senators who belong to the same political party as the President exercise an informal veto power over presidential appointments in their states.

Senior Executive Service (SES): A corps of about 8000 high-level administrators and managers at the top of the government bureaucracy who have less job security but who are eligible for substantial cash bonuses for merit.

seniority system: A system, until modified and reformed in the 1970s, that automatically resulted in those members of the majority party in a house of Congress with the longest continuous service on a committee becoming committee chairmen.

separate but equal: A doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1896 under which �Jim Crow� segregation laws were held to be constitutional.

separation of powers: The principle that each of the three branches of government is constitutionally equal to and independent of the others.

shared powers: The fusing or overlapping of powers and functions among the separate branches of government .

shield laws: Laws passed by state legislatures that are designed to protect reporters from being forced to reveal their news sources.

smoke-filled room: A phrase that grew out of the 1920 Republican Convention in Chicago, symbolizing the selection of a candidate by political bosses operating in secret.

social security: A compulsory national insurance program, finances by taxes on employers and employees. The insurance falls into four categories: old-age and survivors insurance, disability insurance, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.

sociological method: An approach in studying how the voters decide that focuses on the social and economic background of the voters, their income, social class, ethnic group, education, and similar factors.

Speaker of the House: The presiding officer and most powerful member of the House of Representatives. He is technically elected by the full House but in practice is chosen by the majority party.

special committees: Committees created by Congress to conduct special investigations.

special publics: A concept developed by political scientists to describe those segments of the public with views about particular issues.

spoils system: A practice under which victorious politicians reward followers with jobs.

standing committees: The permanent committees of a legislature that consider bills and conduct hearings and investigations.

stare decisis: A Latin phrase meaning �stand by past decisions� that is often, but not always, used by judges in deciding cases.

statutory law: Law enacted by Congress, or by state legislatures of local legislative bodies.

steering committee: A committee appointing senators to standing committees. Also known as assignment committee.

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT): Negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union that resulted in the signing of two arms agreements in 1972, and the SALT II agreement in 1979. As of 1980, SALT II had not been ratified by the Senate.

strategic deterrence: A policy followed by the United States since the Second World War that assumes that if enough nuclear weapons are deployed by the United States, an enemy would not attack for fear of being destroyed by a retaliatory blow.

subcommittees: Small committees formed from the members of a large committee.

subpoena: A written document issued by a court that orders a person to appear in court or to produce evidence.

subsidy: A government grant of money.

suffrage: The right to vote.

supports: The attitudes and actions of people that sustain and buttress the political system at all levels and allow it to continue to work.

supremacy clause: The clause in Article VI of the Constitution declaring that the Constitution and the laws of Congress are �the supreme Law of the Land� and shall prevail over any conflicting state constitutions or laws.

suspension of the rules: A procedure permitted for times a month under the rules of the House of Representatives, which allows any bill to be debated if two-thirds of the members who are voting agree.

system maintenance: The process of keeping a diverse, unwieldy, institution, such as the House of Representatives, functioning.


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