Congress

The United States Congress makes up the legislative branch of the federal government.  It consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Senators serve in the Senate and Representatives serves in the House.  Both are chosen through direct election.  Congress was created by Article I, section 1, of the Constitution, adopted by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787.  The primary duty of Congress is to debate and pass bills, which are then sent to the president for approval.

The first Congress under the Constitution met on March 4, 1789, in the Federal Hall in New York City.  Members of the House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms.  To be eligible for election individuals must be at least 25 years old, should have been citizens of the United States for at least seven years, and must be residents of the state from which they are elected.  The House of Representatives is led by the Speaker of the House.  Members of the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states according to their populations in the federal census.

Senators on the other hand are elected for six-year terms.  They must be at least 30 years old, must have been U.S citizens for at least nine years, and legal residents of the state from which they are elected.  The Vice-President has formal control over the Senate and he presides over the Senate for important ceremonies or to cast a tie-breaking vote.  The president pro tempore, member of the majority party in the Senate, is elected by the Senate and presides over the day-to-day operations of the Senate.

The House and the Senate have equal power in the legislative process because legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers.  Congress mainly passes legislation on national policies and directs government spending.  The senate is uniquely empowered to ratify treaties and to approve top presidential appointments.   Revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives. .


Inside Congress