Article 1 of the United States Constitution explains the powers of the legislative branch of the federal government. There are ten main Sections under Article 1.
Under Section 1, all the legislative powers are vested in the U.S. Congress. Congress consists of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Section 2 deals with the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is composed of members elected directly by the voters in the states, every second year. To become a Representative person must be a citizen of the United States for the previous seven years, be at least 25 years old, and must be an inhabitant of the state in which they are elected.
Section 2 further provides for the apportionment of representatives and taxes. Membership in the House of Representatives is apportioned state by state. Each state is guaranteed at least one Representative and larger states will have more representatives. Congress has the responsibility of conducting a census every ten years to find out the population of the states. The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the right to tax persons according to the size of their income, rather than according to the population of the state in which they happen to live.
When a vacancy occurs in a House seat, the state governor must call a special election to fill it. The House of Representatives must choose an officer called the Speaker to preside over House Sessions. The House alone has the sole power of impeachment.
Section 3 deals with the composition, classification, and qualification of Senators. The Senate of the United States is composed of two Senators from each State. Each Senator has one Vote. The Seventeenth Amendment provides for the direct election of Senators by the respective states’ voters.
Unlike the House of Representatives whose entire membership is up for re-election every 2 years, the Senate is a continuing body and every two years only one-third of the Senate is up for re-election. In the event of a vacancy, the governor has the power to elect one until special elections can be held.
To qualify as a Senator, the person must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen of not less than nine years standing, and a resident of the state in which he or she is elected.
The Vice President serves as president of the Senate. The Vice President does not have a vote because he is not a member of the assembly, but can vote in the event of a tie. The Senate elects an officer called the president pro tempore to lead meetings in the absence of the Vice President.
The Senate has the sole power to try impeachments. The chief justice of the United States presides over the impeachment trial of a president. A two-thirds supermajority of those Senators “present” is required to remove a person from office.
A person convicted on impeachment is immediately removed from office. Such a person may be barred from holding any public office in the future. Although no other punishment is inflicted, the convicted party can be liable for civil and criminal charges.
Section 4 deals with Congressional Elections. States have the authority to determine the “times, places and manner of holding elections”. However, the Congress has the authority to preempt State regulations with uniform national rules. Congress must assemble at least once each year.
Section 5 deals with the procedure and proceedings of the Congress. The House of Representative and Senate decide whether their members are qualified to serve and are properly elected. The majority of each House constitutes a quorum to do business; a smaller number may adjourn the House or compel the attendance of absent member.
Each house can make rules for their proceedings and punish its members for disorderly behavior. A member can be expelled by two-thirds vote.
Each House must keep and publish a journal of its proceedings. However, if necessary, they can also keep any part of the journal secret. The decisions of the House are recorded in the journal. If one-fifth of those present request it, the votes of the members on a particular question must also be entered.
During a session of Congress, neither House may adjourn, without the consent of the other, for more than three days. Additionally, neither House may meet in any place other than the place designated for both Houses, without the consent of the other House.
Section 6 deals with the compensation and privileges of the Senators and Representatives. Senators and Representatives shall receive compensation for their services. Senators and Representatives set their own compensation. Under the Twenty Seventh Amendment, any change in their compensation will not take effect until after the next congressional election. The compensation shall be paid out of the Treasury of the United States. Members of both Houses have certain privileges and the members attending, going to or returning from either House are privileged from arrest, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. Senators or Representatives cannot be sued for slander occurring during Congressional debate.
The members of Congress cannot create jobs or raise salaries of jobs they hope to hold in the future. The members of Congress may not simultaneously serve in Congress and hold a position in the executive branch. A member cannot resign to take a newly created or higher-paying political position. Rather, he/she must wait until the conclusion of his/her term.
Section 7 deals with the Bills. Any bill except for revenue bills may originate in either House of Congress. The House of Representatives has the authority to originate all revenue bills. Either House may amend any bill, including revenue and appropriation bills.
A bill passed by Congress goes to the President for the President’s signature. The President has ten days (excluding Sundays) to act upon it. If the President disapproves of the bill, he has to return it to the chamber from which it originated with a statement of the objections. This action is called a veto. The bill does not then become law unless both Houses, by two-thirds votes, override the veto. The President can also let a Bill become a law without signing it merely by letting 10 days pass. But a bill sent to the President during the last 10 days of a session of Congress cannot become a law unless it is signed. Any order, resolution or vote for which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States. It shall take effect on being approved by the President. It it is disapproved, the Congress, by a two-thirds vote in each House, can override the veto.
Section 8 enumerates the powers of the Congress. These powers include the power:
- To levy and collect taxes;
- To borrow money for the public treasury;
- To establish post offices and post roads;
- To establish bankruptcy laws for the United States;
- To issue patents and copyrights;
- To set up a system of federal courts;
- To declare war;
- To set the standards for weights and measures;
- To punish piracy;
- To raise and support army;
- To make rules and regulations governing commerce between the states and with foreign countries;
- To make uniform rules for the naturalization of foreign citizens;
- To coin money, state its value and provide for the punishment of counterfeiters;
- To make rules and regulations governing commerce among the states and with foreign countries;
- To provide for a navy;
- To call out the militia to enforce federal laws, suppress lawlessness or repel invasions;
- To make all laws for the seat of government,
- To make all laws necessary to enforce the Constitution.
Section 9 sets forth the limits on congressional powers. These limitations include:
- The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
- No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
- No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
- No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.
- No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Section 10 sets forth the limitation on States. States cannot exercise powers reserved for the federal government. The States shall not enter into any treaties, alliances or confederation, grant Letters of Marque or reprisal, coin money or issue bills of credit. Furthermore, no state will make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts. Only Congress has the power to coin the money that is to be used by the states. The states cannot pass any Bill of attainder, ex post facto Law, impair the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility. States cannot interfere with the international trade of the United States. States cannot tax goods entering or leaving the state without the consent of the congress. States cannot levy tonnage duties on ships of war in times of peace without the consent of the Congress. States may not, without the consent of Congress, keep troops or armies during times of peace and may not enter into alliances nor compacts with foreign states, nor engage in war unless invaded.