What does Congress do?
Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government. It makes the laws, determines which government agencies and programs will be created, and approves all funds spent by the government.
Congress also has specific powers: to collect taxes, raise armies, declare war, regulate commerce and provide for general welfare. It can also pass any law necessary to execute the powers granted to it by the Constitution.
Congress enacts legislation but cannot implement it. That’s left to the executive branch. But Congress does have oversight power and may investigate how the executive branch has administered the programs or laws Congress has approved.
What is Congress?
Each two-year term of the U.S. Congress is called a Congress. Congresses are numbered consecutively from the first to the current (example: 109th, 110th, etc.). A Congress always begins on January 3 of odd-numbered years and has two regular session, one each year beginning in January. A session of Congress may continue for the entire year and bills under consideration remain alive from one session to the next. Bills that have not been approved by the close of Congress die automatically.
Why does Congress have two “chambers?”
The Congress of the United States is the legislative branch of the federal government. Comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the two-chamber design is consistent with the basic principle of government embraced by our Constitution that government must be divided into units which share power with one another, providing a check against tyranny.
The two chambers are considered equal, although they differ from one another in many ways. In terms of legislative power, both must concur in and adopt identical legislation in order for it to be enacted into law. That is why when you see a piece of legislation, it is titled S. 589, meaning a Senate bill and you’ll also find a H.R. 623, a bill pending in the House of Representatives.
The Senate is sometimes called the upper body and the House the lower body. These are popular misnomers, arising from the simple fact that when Congress first met in New York City, the Senate chamber was located on the floor above the House. The two legislative bodies are equal, but different, and each is granted exclusive powers by the U.S. Constitution.
How many members make up the Senate and the House of Representatives?
There are 100 Senators; two are elected from each state and they serve a 6 year term.
There are 435 members in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives from each state is based on the number of people in each district. They are elected every two years.
What are the special duties of the Senate?
While the Senate shares legislative powers with the House, the Constitution also assigned it other special duties as part of the system of checks and balances. For example, the Senate shares certain executive powers with the President confirmation of appointments, including both executive branch officials and judicial branch nominees and ratification of treaties. In addition Senate shares power in the impeachment process the House has the power to bring charges against an accused official, while the Senate conducts the trial for removal from office. Following the presidential elections, both the Senate and the House count the electoral votes. If the vice presidential candidate fails to win an electoral majority, the Senate decides the winner, the House chooses the president if no candidate wins an electoral majority in that race.
What are the special duties of the House?
Although the House shares the power to legislate with the Senate, the Constitution gives it three special duties. The House
The steps of legislative procedure:
The official legislative process begins when a bill or resolution is numbered, (H.R. signifies a House bill and S. a Senate bill), referred to a committee, and printed by the Government Printing Office.
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