The Congress is the legislative body of the United States. It consists of the House of Representatives, with 435 members and the Senate with 100 members. The most important powers held by the Congress are, among other things; the right to make laws, to lay and collect taxes, to declare war and to borrow money. The Congress also has the power to remove and federal official from office by impeachment. Another important duty of the Congress is to administer the District of Colombia, in which the federal government is seated.

Not all the duties of Congress can be performed by both chambers. That is, only the House of Representatives may initiate bills concerning taxes and tolls and only the Senate may confirm presidential appointments to federal offices, try impeachments or confirm treaties with other nations.

Though the Congress is a legislative body it does not hold the same legislative powers as its counterparts in other countries. This is because the constitution only grants the congress to make laws concerning certain things. Making laws concerning other matters is left to state legislatures.

How laws are made

Here’s a simplified version of how laws are made:
Most laws can originate from either the House of Representatives or the Senate, but laws concerning taxation or tolls can only originate from the House of Representatives. Regardless of what the law concerns or in which chamber it originates the process is pretty much the same.

First, a member of congress proposes the bill, which is then given a number beginning with H.R. if the bill originated in the House of Representatives or S. if it originated in the Senate. Then it is referred to the appropriate committee or subcommittee. For example, a bill on the introduction of penalty duties on Lego blocks would be referred to the Subcommittee of Trade. Most bills don’t make it any further than this. This is where most of the work is done. Here, the bill is debated and sometimes amended. When the committee is done with its work, the bill is debated and then voted on in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

If the bill is approved by one of the chambers it is then sent to the next chamber where it may also be sent to a committee or voted on immediately. (The bill is actually called an act when it has been approved by one chamber.) If the other chamber also approves the bill, it is sent to the President who has to sign the bill for it to become a law. He can also veto the bill. A veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by the Congress.

Node your homework!

Con"gress (?), n.; pl. Congresses (#). [L. congressus, fr. congredi, p.p. -gressus, to go or come together; con- + grati to go or step, gradus step: cf. F. congrs. See Grade.]


A meeting of individuals, whether friendly or hostile; an encounter.


Here Pallas urges on, and Lausus there;< heir congress in the field great Jove withstands. Dryden.


A sudden encounter; a collision; a shock; -- said of things.


From these laws may be deduced the rules of the congresses and reflections of two bodies. Cheyne.


The coming together of a male and female in sexual commerce; the act of coition.



A gathering or assembly; a conference.


A formal assembly, as of princes, deputies, representatives, envoys, or commissioners; esp., a meeting of the representatives of several governments or societies to consider and determine matters of common interest.

The European powers strove to . . . accommodate their differences at the congress of Vienna. Alison.


The collective body of senators and representatives of the people of a nation, esp. of a republic, constituting the chief legislative body of the nation.

⇒ In the Congress of the United States (which took the place of the Federal Congress, March 4, 1789), the Senate consists of two Senators from each State, chosen by the State legislature for a term of six years, in such a way that the terms of one third of the whole number expire every year; the House of Representatives consists of members elected by the people of the several Congressional districts, for a term of two years, the term of all ending at the same time. The united body of Senators and Representatives for any term of two years for which the whole body of Representatives is chosen is called one Congress. Thus the session which began in December, 1887, was the first (or long) session, and that which began in December, 1888, was the second (or short) session, of the Fiftieth Congress. When an extra session is had before the date of the first regular meeting of a Congress, that is called the first session, and the following regular session is called the second session.


The lower house of the Spanish Cortes, the members of which are elected for three years.

The Continental Congress, an assembly of deputies from the thirteen British colonies in America, appointed to deliberate in respect to their common interests. They first met in 1774, and from time thereafter until near the close of the Revolution. -- The Federal Congress, the assembly of representatives of the original States of the American Union, who met under the Articles of Confederation from 1781 till 1789. -- Congress bootgaiter, a high shoe or half-boot, coming above the ankle, and having the sides made in part of some elastic material which stretches to allow the boot to be drawn on and off. [U.S.] -- Congress water, a saline mineral water from the Congress spring at Saratoga, in the State of New York.

Syn. -- Assembly; meeting; convention; convocation; council; diet; conclave; parliament; legislature.


© Webster 1913.

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