The power to make laws is given to a Congress made up of two chambers (bicameral): the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Election and Term of Office
Every two years the voters choose new Congress members to serve in the House of Representatives.
Representatives must be 25 years old, citizens of the United States for 7 years, and residents of the state and the district they represent.
Divisions of Representatives among the States
The number of representatives from each state is based on the size of the state ’ s population (Census). Each state is entitled to at least one representative. There are 435 members in the House of Representatives
Vacancies in the House are filled through special elections called by the state’s governor.
The Speaker of the House is the leader of the majority party in the House and responsible for choosing the various heads of House Committees. Also, impeachment indictments are brought forth in the House.
1. Number of Members, Terms of Office, and Voting Procedure Originally, Senators were chosen by state legislatures of their own states. The 17th Amendment changed this, so that Senators are now elected directly by the people. There are 100 Senators, two from each state
One-third of the Senate is elected every two years. Temporary appointments may be made each state’s governor.
Senators must be at least 30 years old, citizens of the United States for at least 9 years, and residents of the state they are to represent.
President of the Senate
The Vice President (Executive Branch) presides over the Senate and votes if there is a tie. When the Vice President is not in attendance, the President Protempore, the most senior member of the majority party, presides over the chamber .
Selection of the officers of the Senate are in accordance with majority and minority party status.
Trial of Impeachment
The Senate tries impeachment cases. The Chief Justice acts as the judge and the Senate acts as the jury. A two-thirds vote by members present is needed to convict.
1. Revenue Bills
All tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives.
2. How a Bill becomes a law [see How a Bill becomes law-Schoolhouse Rock notes]
3. Presidential Veto or Approval
Powers Granted to Congress
(1) Expressed powers – those granted to Congress explicitly in the Constitution. (A) Government Finances (B) Regulation of Commerce (C) National Defense (D) Law Enforcement (E) National Sovereignty
(2) Implied powers- those granted by reasonable deduction from the expressed powers.
Elastic Clause- must be related to one of the 17 enumerated or stated powers…“necessary and proper”
(3) The inherent powers are granted through the Constitution’s creation of a National Government for the United States.
Powers Denied to the Federal Government
A writ of habeas corpus requires a law official to bring a prisoner to court and show cause for holding the prisoner. The writ may be suspended only during wartime
Bills of Attainder
Congress cannot pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto laws. A bill of attainder is a bill that punishes a person without a jury trial and an ex post facto law is a law that makes an act a crime after the act has been committed.
Congress was initially forbidden from collecting taxes directly from Americans. However, the 16th Amendment gave Congress the ability to pass an income tax.