The Legislative Branch

"All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."

--Article I, Section 1,
The Constitution of the United States

  1. What is the Congress?
    The legislative branch of the federal government consists of the Congress, which is divided into two chambers--the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each member of Congress is elected by the people of his or her state. The House of Representatives, with membership based on state populations, has 435 seats, while the Senate, with two members from each state, has 100 seats. Members of the House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms, and Senators are elected for six-year terms.

  2. What are some of Congress' powers and responsibilities?
    The Constitution grants specific powers to Congress. These include the ability to borrow money, provide for a monetary system, regulate commerce, establish lower federal courts, maintain a military, and declare war. Congress also handles all revenue bills and has the ability to tax.

    Taxing allows Congress to raise necessary monies to finance the government so that it can provide important services. Taxes raised by the federal government fund interstate highways, federal law enforcement, and our military, among other things.

  3. How does a bill become a law?
    One of Congress' most important jobs is debating and passing the laws that govern our country. In order to create a new law, a member of the House or Senate introduces a bill. The bill is then referred to one or more committees that discuss the bill and make any desired changes. Once in final form, the bill is debated on the floor of the chamber where it was first introduced, and amendments may be offered, accepted, or rejected at that time. If the legislation is passed by a final vote, it is referred to the other chamber. There, the bill goes through similar committee meetings and debates and undergoes another vote. Once both houses of Congress approve the same version of a bill, it can finally be sent to the President for his approval or veto.