2017 America's Legacy Book NEW

The Legislative Branch The framers of the Constitution gave more space to the legislative, or lawmaking, branch of the government than to the other two branches combined because they expected the greater power to lie with Congress. Article I of the Constitution specifies the two separate legislative bodies that make up Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate . How the House and Senate Differ Although they are considered equal, the two chambers differ in a number of ways, including size and rules, terms of office, base of representation, requirements of office and special powers under the Constitution. The House of Representatives has 435 members, or one elected from each congressional district. The Senate has 100 members, or two elected from each state. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is nominated by the majority political party in that chamber. The vice president of the United States presides over the Senate. Because of its larger size, the House has stricter rules than the Senate. Members of the House are elected to two-year terms of office. Since representatives must seek reelection much more frequently than senators, they pay especially close attention to the opinions of their constituents or the people in the districts they represent.

How Congress Checks Power

Congress can check the president by:

• Refusing to pass a bill the president wants • Passing a law over the president’s veto • Using impeachment powers to remove the president from office • Refusing to approve a presidential appointment (Senate only) • Refusing to ratify a treaty the president has signed (Senate only)

Congress can check the federal courts by:

• Changing the number and jurisdiction of the lower courts • Using impeachment powers to remove a judge from office • Refusing to approve a person nominated to be a judge

Committee Consideration of Bills Except for bills concerning revenue, bills may be introduced in either chamber. They are then referred to a committee, where much of the important work of the Congress occurs. Each committee has its own specialty such as agriculture, health, taxation, energy or education. The committees distribute bills to even more specialized subcommittees. Since committees have limited time, only a small percentage of bills referred to them are addressed. Many bills simply die in committee. If a bill is of particular importance, the committee will usually schedule hearings to gather information about it and listen to the opinions of those who favor or oppose it. Only if the committee votes to report (approve) the bill will it be scheduled for consideration by the chamber’s full membership. Floor Consideration of Bills On the floor of the chamber, a bill is subject to debate, and amendments to it may be made or it may be returned to the committee. If passed in one chamber, the bill must then be sent to the other chamber, where the entire process begins again. Because a bill will rarely pass both chambers of Congress in the same form, a conference committee is selected to work out differences between the Senate and House versions. Only then can the legislation be sent to the president, who must sign it before it can become law. If the president vetoes (disapproves) a bill, it requires a two-thirds majority vote of members present in both the House and Senate for passage.

Senators are elected to six-year terms, and the Constitution requires one-third of the Senate to be elected every two years.

The Senate has special responsibility for the approval of treaties with foreign countries. This gives the Senate more influence in foreign policy matters. Candidates nominated by the president for the cabinet and federal judges require approval by the Senate.

However, all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House. Further, the House has the sole power of impeachment.

THE U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING IS THE HOME OF CONGRESS and the seat of the legislative branch. It sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Capitol forms the origin point for the District’s street-numbering system and four quadrants.


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