Congress: Structure

Congress: Structure

  • The US Congress is the legislature of the US federal government, consisting of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

  • The House of Representatives consists of 435 elected members, distributed among the 50 states in proportion to their total population. There is also one resident commissioner from Puerto Rico and four delegates from America’s other territories and from Washington, D.C., none of whom may vote.

  • The Senate is made up of 100 Senators, two from each of the 50 states, irrespective of the state’s population size. Senators serve six-year terms, while House members serve two-year terms.

  • Congressional districts refer to the area that a member of the House represents, though the number and shape of districts can change with the census every 10 years.

  • Each house of Congress has leadership roles, the positions of Speaker of the House and the Majority and Minority Leaders in both the House and Senate are particularly significant.

  • Committees in Congress are key, dividing much of the legislative work, with bills typically written and negotiated in committee. Committees vary by subject matter, standing committees, select or special committees and joint committees are types that exist.

  • A unique aspect of the Congress structure is the process of checks and balances. The Constitution grants each house of Congress unique powers to ensure they check each other as well as the executive branch, promoting balance in the government.

  • Congressional decision-making is heavily influenced by political parties, the internal rules of each chamber and the individual beliefs and personalities of its members.

By understanding these key points about the structure of Congress, students should get a comprehensive view of how this key part of the US political system is designed and functions.