The primary function of Congress is to pass rules that all Americans must obey, a function called lawmaking. Parties, interest groups, and constituents all influence members of Congress in their vote choices, and members also compromise and negotiate with one another to reach agreements.
Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district. Among other duties, representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees.
What Congress Does Make laws. Declare war. Raise and provide public money and oversee its proper expenditure. Impeach and try federal officers. Approve presidential appointments. Approve treaties negotiated by the executive branch. Oversight and investigations.
The most important responsibility of Congress is that of making the laws of the United States. In both houses the work of preparing and considering legislation is done by standing committees, and in addition there are special committees in each house as well as joint committees with bicameral membership.
The duties carried out by a Member of Congress are understood to include representation, legislation, and constituent service and education, as well as political and electoral activities.
Limits on Congress pass ex post facto laws, which outlaw acts after they have already been committed. pass bills of attainder, which punish individuals outside of the court system. suspend the writ of habeas corpus, a court order requiring the federal government to charge individuals arrested for crimes.
The House and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process—legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers. However, the Constitution grants each chamber some unique powers. The Senate ratifies treaties and approves presidential appointments while the House initiates revenue-raising bills.
Senators represent their entire states, but members of the House represent individual districts. The number of districts in each state is determined by a state’s population. Today, Congress consists of 100 senators (two from each state) and 435 voting members of the House of Representatives.
To balance the interests of both the small and large states, the Framers of the Constitution divided the power of Congress between the two houses. Every state has an equal voice in the Senate, while representation in the House of Representatives is based on the size of each state’s population.
Because the House wanted a manageable number of members, Congress twice set the size of the House at 435 voting members. The first law to do so was passed on August 8, 1911. Finally, in 1929 the Permanent Apportionment Act became law. It permanently set the maximum number of representatives at 435.
The most important power of Congress is its legislative authority; with its ability to pass laws in areas of national policy. The laws that Congress creates are called statutory law. Most of the laws which are passed down by Congress apply to the public, and on some cases private laws.
Under Article One, Congress is a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Article One grants Congress various enumerated powers and the ability to pass laws “necessary and proper” to carry out those powers.
The Senate is often considered a more prestigious body, in part because there are far fewer senators than representatives, but also because the Constitution gives the group unique powers.