1 An Overview of the United States Congress Bethany Wilhelm POL/115 June 18, 2018 Janice Harder
2 An Overview of the United States Congress Most people do not understand how the United States Congress works, and this includes things like what makes the House and Senate different, how the parties are organized or what each major role does, the powers granted to the Congress under the Constitution, how laws get created, or what exactly “checks and balances” even means. It is important to learn the details of these things, in order to be an effective citizen. Imagine if the country operated without law, it would be chaos. And without a Congress, that is precisely what America would be – a land without law. Congress is the legislation branch of America’s government, sharing powers with both the presidency and the Supreme Court. The Founding Fathers believed that a Congress was vital to a peaceful and effective government. In fact, the framers of the Constitution believed that a Congress was so crucial that it was the first thing listed. It is the Congress that makes law – and more than ten thousand bills are examined each year by Congress. However, only a small percentage ever move on to become law. It is “through legislative debate and compromise [that] the U.S. Congress makes laws that influence our daily lives. It holds hearings to inform the legislative process, conducts investigations to oversee the executive branch, and serves as the voice of the people and the states in the federal government” ( Scholastic , 2018). The Senate and the House of Representatives The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature for the nation’s central form of government. Within Congress there are two separate “houses,” called the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is called the “upper house,” and the House is called the “lower house.” Additionally, the term “congress” doesn’t just refer to the legislative body collectively. It refers as well to a particular period of two-year segments. As an example, the serving body of congress from 2011 until 2012 is known as the 112th United States Congress. The members of
3 both houses are chosen through a process of direct election. Also applying to both houses, each state is represented. In the Senate, there are two senators, with the amount of populace for each state not playing a role in how many senators each state gets in the Senate. This is to make sure that every state has equal representation. Additionally, each senator serves a term of six years. The Constitution states that each senator must have met these three requirements before serving: be at least thirty years old, have been a United States citizen for a minimum of nine years, and they must also be a legal resident of the state they wish to represent ( United States Constitution , 1787).
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