The Founding Fathers And The Senate
Although the U.S. Senate in its present form dates back to 1789, the year Congress as it is currently constructed met for the first time, it was not part of the original unicameral legislature established by the Founding Fathers.
Initially, the Founding Fathers, or framers of the U.S. Constitution, drafted a document called the Articles of Confederation, which was written in 1777 and ratified in 1781 by the Continental Congress .
The Articles established a unicameral Congress and the Supreme Court, but no Office of the President. Indeed, the first Congress had wide-ranging powers that included the authority to declare war and sign and negotiate treaties. Other government functions, such as taxation and the collection thereof, were left to the states.
This original Congress was made up of members elected by each of the states, which were represented equally. However, it soon became clear that this form of government was inadequate in many waysnamely, the more-populated states complained that they should have greater representation in the government than their smaller counterparts and that the unicameral legislature did not provide adequate checks and balances against potential abuse of power.
The Bill Is Debated And Put To A Vote
Once the bill is released by the committee, representatives or senators debate it and propose amendments or other changes prior to putting the bill to a vote. After passing in the initial body , the bill goes to the other body, where its researched, discussed, and amended further.
After both chambers accept the bill, joint committees work out the differences between the two versions. Both houses then vote on the exact same bill. If the bill passes, its sent to the president for approval.
State Governments Of The United States
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State governments of the United States are institutional units exercising functions of government at a level below that of the federal government. Each U.S. state‘s government holds legislative, executive, and judicial authority over a defined geographic territory. The United States comprises 50 states: 9 of the Thirteen Colonies that were already part of the United States at the time the present Constitution took effect in 1789, 4 that ratified the constitution after its commencement, plus 37 that have been admitted since by Congress as authorized under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.
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What Is The Legislative Branch
The legislative branch is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, known collectively as the Congress. Among other powers, the legislative branch makes all laws, declares war, regulates interstate and foreign commerce and controls taxing and spending policies.
CrashCourse U.S. Government and Politics, produced in collaboration with PBS, explains the Bicameral Congress :
Of all federal government institutions, theHouse of Representatives is designed to be closest to American voters, most closely reflecting the individual cares and concerns of American taxpayers. In fact, the House is the only institution that has been directly elected by American voters since its formation in 1789.
If proportional representation takes place, the small States contend that their liberties will be in danger. If an equality of votes is to be put in its place, the large States say their money will be in danger, explained Benjamin Franklin. What eventually emerged from weeks of stalemate was called the Great Compromise and created a bicameral legislature with a House, where membership was determined by state population, and a Senate, where each state had two seats regardless of population.
Membership Qualifications And Apportionment
Under Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states by population, as determined by the census conducted every ten years. Each state is entitled to at least one representative, however small its population.
The only constitutional rule relating to the size of the House states: “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.” Congress regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until it fixed the number of voting House members at 435 in 1911. In 1959, upon the admission of Alaska and Hawaii, the number was temporarily increased to 437 , and returned to 435 four years later, after the reapportionment consequent to the 1960 census.
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Executive Branch Of The Us Government
The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.
American citizens have the right to vote for the president and vice president through free, confidential ballots.
Key roles of the executive branch include:
- PresidentThe president leads the country. He or she is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces. The president serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times.
- Vice presidentThe vice president supports the president. If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president. The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
- The CabinetCabinet members serve as advisors to the president. They include the vice president, heads of executive departments, and other high-ranking government officials. Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate51 votes if all 100 Senators vote.
Executive Branch Agencies, Commissions, and Committees
Much of the work in the executive branch is done by federal agencies, departments, committees, and other groups.
Would You Rather Get In Touch With Members Of Congress Using Social Media
Using the steps above, navigate to the Congress members personal website to find links to their social media accounts, usually indicated by the icon of the social media platform and often located in the upper or lower left or right corners of the website homepage.
CSPAN also maintains a list of members of Congress here: .
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How A Bill Becomes Law
The procedure that Congress must follow to enact legislation is described in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution. USA.gov explains that anyone who has an idea for a new law is encouraged to contact their U.S. representative or senator to suggest it. However, most bills originate in the offices of one or more of their legislative sponsors.
Responsibilities Of The House
Per the Constitution, the House and Senate together make and pass federal laws, introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments, and serve on committees that enable members to develop specialized knowledge on the matters under that committees jurisdiction. Though both make up Congress, there are a few distinctions between the two. In particular, the Constitution provides that only the House of Representatives may originate revenue bills, and by tradition it also originates appropriation bills.
Additionally, while the Constitution does not specifically mention investigations and oversight, the authority to conduct investigations is implied since Congress possesses all legislative powers. The House initiates impeachment proceedings and passes articles of impeachment .
Finally, during a presidential election, the House of Representatives steps in if no candidate receives a majority of the total electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote to choose the President from among the top three candidates with the largest number of electoral votes.
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Enumerated Implied Resulting And Inherent Powers
This gives Congress the right to exercise any means which are appropriate to perform its constitutional duties, unless those means are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
- Implied powers are those that arent explicitly stipulated in the Constitution, but the government assumes these powers are granted to it by inference based on prior Supreme Court decisions, as the Legal Dictionary explains.
- Resulting powers are those that Congress has because theyre needed for it to fulfill its duties. Theyre derived from other powers specifically granted to the government so that it can exercise its enumerated powers. The Legal Information Institute gives as an example the power to acquire territory, which results from the enumerated powers to make war and treaties.
- Inherent powers are also called implied powers, as the Constitution Annotated notes. Theyre powers that Congress possesses even though theyve never been explicitly exercised. An example would be the power to tax internet service providers.
Only congress may declare war, levy taxes, and regulate commerce
The power to declare war, levy taxes, and regulate commerce are among the congressional powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The taxing and spending clause and the commerce clause have been used to broaden congressional authority over federal tax and economic policy.
The House originates all revenue legislation
Bills require only a numerical majority vote
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United States House Of Representatives
|United States House of Representatives|
|Flag of the U.S. House of Representatives|
|Plurality voting in 46 statesVaries in 4 states|
The United States House of Representatives, usually referred to as the House, is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States.
The House’s composition was established by Article One of the United States Constitution. The House is composed of representatives who, pursuant to the Uniform Congressional District Act, sit in single member congressional districts allocated to each state on a basis of population as measured by the U.S. Census, with each district having one representative, provided that each state is entitled to at least one. Since its inception in 1789, all representatives have been directly elected, although universal suffrage didn’t come to effect until after the passage of the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement. Since 1913, the number of voting representatives has been at 435 pursuant to the Apportionment Act of 1911. The Reapportionment Act of 1929 capped the size of the House at 435. However, the number was temporarily increased to 437 when Hawaii and Alaska were admitted to the Union.
Comparison To The Senate
As a check on the regional, popular, and rapidly changing politics of the House, the Senate has several distinct powers. For example, the “advice and consent” powers are a sole Senate privilege. The House, however, has the exclusive power to initiate bills for raising revenue, to impeach officials, and to choose the president if a presidential candidate fails to get a majority of the Electoral College votes. Additionally, the House also confirms a nominee when the vice presidency is vacant, along with the Senate, as Section 2 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment provides that “whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.” The Senate and House are further differentiated by term lengths and the number of districts represented: the Senate has longer terms of six years, fewer members , and larger constituencies per member. The Senate is referred to as the “upper” house, and the House of Representatives as the “lower” house.
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Personnel Mail And Office Expenses
House members are eligible for a Member’s Representational Allowance to support them in their official and representational duties to their district. The MRA is calculated based on three components: one for personnel, one for official office expenses and one for official or franked mail. The personnel allowance is the same for all members the office and mail allowances vary based on the members’ district’s distance from Washington, D.C., the cost of office space in the member’s district, and the number of non-business addresses in their district. These three components are used to calculate a single MRA that can fund any expenseâeven though each component is calculated individually, the franking allowance can be used to pay for personnel expenses if the member so chooses. In 2011 this allowance averaged $1.4 million per member, and ranged from $1.35 to $1.67 million.
The Personnel allowance was $944,671 per member in 2010. Each member may employ no more than 18 permanent employees. Members’ employees’ salary is capped at $168,411 as of 2009.
About The House Of Representatives
The United States is also divided into 435 congressional districts with a population of about 750,000 each. Each district elects a representative to the House of Representatives for a two-year term.
As in the Senate, the day-to-day activities of the House are controlled by the majority party. Here is a count of representatives by party:
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How Do The House And Senate Operate Differently
With four times more members than the Senate, the functioning of the House, by necessity, is far more controlled and formal. For instance before legislation comes before the House, more often than not it will be considered before a committee but in the Senate this step is easily bypassed. The House usually also limits its debate times to one hour but in the Senate discussion is unlimited. Senators may speak on issues other than the bill under consideration during their speeches, and any amendment can be introduced.
Party leaders and committees function differently in the House and Senate. With their 435 members, theres no time for everyone to have their say in the lower chamber, so the House elects a Speaker who holds great power. The Speaker, currently Nancy Pelosi, is in charge of which bills are debated and when. She also influences the House Rules Committee in deciding which legislation will be considered. The Senate does not have a position with similar control to the House Speaker. In the Senate, the majority and minority leaders generally work together in consultation with all members to determine the schedule.
Size Of Senate Vs House
While there are 100 seats in the Senate , there are 435 seats in the House of Representatives .
The Reapportionment Act of 1929 set the final number of the House at the current 435, with district sizes adjusted according to population growth. However, as district borders were never defined definitively, they can and often do stretch into peculiar shapes due to a practice known asgerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is used at the state legislature level to create districts that overwhelmingly favor one party. Federal and Supreme Court rulings have overturned gerrymandering efforts that have been perceived to be based on race, but otherwise some districts have been reconfigured to give one or another party an extreme political advantage, thus allowing that party to secure more power in the state and in the House of Representatives.
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What Are The Powers And Roles Of The House And The Senate
Both chambers are reliant upon the other when it comes to passing laws, they are intertwined in this way. When a new law is written, at first its either accepted or rejected by a committee. If the bill gets approval by committee it then gets reported to the floor of the House or Senate and the relevant chamber gets to decide when to schedule the session for consideration, if at all. Then if it passes the first consideration, it needs to also pass in whichever happens to be the second chamber in order to be signed into law by the president. So if a bill is first considered in the House, it later goes to the Senate to be passed and vice versa.
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Power is currently split in Congress with Republicans controlling the Senate for now and the Democrats who took control of the House in the 2018 midterms. Given the above system, this makes it extremely difficult to pass laws.
The Senate has unique powers compared to the House and for this reason is often considered more prestigious. Senators approve presidential nominations, such as Supreme Court justices where the House doesnt get a look in. The Senate also has the power to approve treaties with foreign countries.
In general, the House tends to be more concerned with taxes and spending, awarding it a lot of influence when it comes to the national purse. Currently Democrats hold power in the lower chamber and it looks likely to stay that way in 2020.
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