Congress: Powers

Congress: Powers

Structure of Congress

  • The United States Congress comprises two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • The House of Representatives has 435 members, proportionally representing the population of each state; each member serves a 2-year term.
  • The Senate comprises 100 senators, two from each state, serving 6-year staggered terms.
  • The Vice President of the United States serves as the President of the Senate and can vote to break a tie.

Composition of Congress

  • Members of Congress are chosen via direct elections. Senators are elected statewide, while Representatives are selected through district-based elections.
  • Both the Democratic and Republican Parties heavily dominate Congress, but there are also independent members.
  • The racial, gender, and socioeconomic makeup of Congress has been diversifying, but it is still not representative of the American populace.

Powers of Congress

  • Legislative power: Congress can make laws on various matters, including commerce, defense, and federal property. Laws must pass through both houses and receive presidential approval before enactment.
  • Investigative power: To oversee Executive Branch actions, Congress can hold hearings and investigations.
  • Impeachment power: The House can vote to impeach federal officials; the Senate holds impeachment trials.
  • Advice and Consent: The Senate has the power to confirm federal appointments such as Supreme Court Justices and to ratify treaties.