What is the Purpose of the United States Congress?

 President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform.
President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform.

The US Congress

The Congress of the US is the legislative branch of the federal government, and it is a bicameral legislature, implying that it is made up of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Capitol in Washington DC is the place where the Congress meets regularly. The Senators and the representatives are elected directly by popular vote, and the gubernatorial appointment may fill any vacancy in the Senate. The member of the Congress is affiliated either to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, but in some cases, there could be some members of other parties or an independent candidate. The Congress has 535 members who vote out of which 435 are representatives while 100 are senators.

The US Sentate

The Senate is more powerful than the House of Representatives and has distinct powers that are not shared with the House. The Senate can debate and review bills and treaties, propose legislation, and provide some oversight of the president's administration. The primary function of the Senate is to represent the interest of the state in the political process as opposed to the House of Representatives which represents the interest of the people. In the Congress, there are 100 senators at any given time and each state has two senators. The senator serves for a term of six years and can be elected over and over indefinitely. Ted Kennedy was the senator from Massachusetts from 1962 until his death in 2009.

The Senate can review and provide advice on presidential nominations and appointments ratify treaties through the majority vote. The Senate needs only 2/3 majority vote and the president to approve. In a situation where the electoral votes for the vice president tied the senate would elect the vice president. The Senate can create new laws by introducing the legislation to the house usually at the subcommittee level, where they have more power to debate, modify, and even block the proposed legislation. However, the introduction of a bill that relates to the revenue or a legislation touching on the use of federal money is the prerogative of the House of Representatives. There are 20 committees that deal with specialized areas of legislation, statutes, and laws. There are also four joint committees of bicameral membership or comprised of members of the Senate and the House of representatives. These committees deal with specialized areas like Taxation (Joint Committee on Taxation), Economy (Joint Economic Committee)

The House Of Representatives

The house of representatives also known as the House has the responsibility of representing the citizens as opposed to the senate which represents the interest of the state. The members of the House were chosen by the legislatures of the state until 1913, when the 17th amendment was introduced and from then, they were elected directly by the popular vote. The House has the power to initiate impeachment process, and the senate will bring to the proceedings into the trial setting. They can elect the president when there is a tie in the electoral votes. The House of Representatives can introduce legislation that touches on federal revenues and Taxes.

Duties Of The Congress

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives make up the Congress, though each has different duties and responsibilities there is always an overlap in responsibility through the Joint committees. The most important duty of the Congress is legislation. Once the bills have been passed they have to be signed by the president within ten days; otherwise, they become law automatically. The congress also has the duty of maintaining national defense and therefore has the exclusive power to declare war, to maintain the armed forces, to raise and make rules for the military.Section 8 of the Constitution of the US has granted the Congress with the power to regulate commerce and the ruling like the McCulloch v Maryland has further widened the scope of the congressional authority to legislate commerce beyond the initial limits. The Constitution further gives the Congress the power to borrow money and appropriate funds.


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