The Congress is the legislative
body of the United States
. It consists of the House of Representatives
, with 435 member
s and the Senate
with 100 members. The most important powers held by the Congress are, among other things; the right to make law
s, to lay and collect tax
es, 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.
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