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American Government Part 1: Congress

Joshua Hurtado has been driving for Uber Eats since August 2018. Joshua has also graduated with an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studie

Introduction

Hello everyone! Have you ever had the news on and wondered how our government works? Well, you are not alone. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation only 36% of Americans can pass a multiple choice version of the citizenship test that is required for immigrants to gain their citizenship. In this article I will explain the basics of how the American federal government works. And the first branch we will learn about is Congress.

Congress: The House of Representatives

Congress was established via Article I of the U.S. Constitution and it is the only branch which holds legislative powers, meaning that it is the only branch that can make laws. Congress consists of two separate chambers. The first chamber is called the House of Representatives, commonly referred to as the U.S. House of Representatives to distinguish between the State governments and it is also referred to as the House. For the purposes of this article we will refer to it as the House.

The House is currently made up of 435 elected Representatives. To be eligible to be a Representative you must be at least twenty-five years old, have been a citizen of the United States for seven years, and you have to be an inhabitant of the state of which you are going to represent. Once elected members serve a term of two years. There are currently not limits to how long a U.S. Representative can serve so there are only two things that are stopping them from serving forever, one is their own decision making, and another is the will of the voters.

It is also important to point out that all revenue bills have to first be brought in the House. Now, anyone can propose a bill that would raise revenue but, any such bill can not first be introduced in the Senate, it must first be officially introduced in the House. The Senate will still vote on amendments to the bill and would ultimately vote on the bill as a whole, but it can not originate there. This leaves control over the purse strings with the branch, and the chamber of government which is most answerable to the voters since the entire House is up for election every two years. However, if a vacancy occurs between election cycles, the governor of the state the Representative was residing in has to call a special election. Under these circumstances whoever wins the special election will have to run during the next election cycle. This means that it is totally possible for someone to run a campaign, win in a special election that is held in May, and then have to be up for election again within the next six months depending on when they filled the vacancy.

Another unique power that the House holds is in regards to impeachment. The House is the only entity of government that can impeach the President of the United States. Impeachment is essentially when the House comes up with wrongs and offenses that it believes it can charge the President with and when the President is formally impeached they are basically charged with wrong doing. After this, the process moves over to the Senate.

The House also has the constitutional authority to chose all of its own officers. This also includes choosing the Speaker of the House. A fun fact is that the House could choose anyone to be their officers, this includes the Speaker of the House. There is no requirement that the Speaker of the House has to also be an elected member, however it is customary of the House to choose their Speaker from the elected members.

Congress: The Senate

The second chamber of Congress is called the Senate. The Senate is made up of fifty senators, two from each states. One of the differences between the House and the Senate is that senators are elected to serve a six year term. Like the house, senators have to be a resident of the state they are representing. To serve as senator a person has to be at least thirty years old and has to have been a citizen for at least nine years. It is also important to point out that the Senate is organized in such a way that one third of it's members are up for election every two years.

When the Senate was originally founded it was intended to represent the State they were from to the federal government, not the people of the State. In fact, they were not even elected by the people of the State they were from. Instead, they were elected by the State's legislature.

The Senate, like the House, has the authority to select all of it's own officers. However, there is one kind of exception to this. The Vice-President presides as the Senator of the Senate. The Senate may also choose a President pro tempore who presides over the Senate while the Vice-President is not presiding over the Senate. This is actually quite the common occurrence now that the Vice-President acts more on the behalf of the President.

The Senate has the sole authority to try all impeachments. Once the House has decided to bring articles of impeachment against the President they are also brought to the Senate where the trial will be held. During the trial the Vice-President may not preside over the proceedings because if the President is removed the will them become the President. Instead, the process is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. For the Senate to convict a President there has to be a two-thirds majority voting for their conviction. After the Senate convicts, the President is removed from office.

The constitution also states that for the United States to enter into a treaty that the Senate must also approve of the treaty. The Constitution calls this the advice and consent of the Senate. This helps to keep too much power from resting in the hands of the Executive branch when it comes to foreign policy.

Sources

Citizenship test: https://woodrow.org/news/national-survey-finds-just-1-in-3-americans-would-pass-citizenship-test/

References to the Constitution: https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/

Number of Representatives: https://www.thoughtco.com/members-in-the-house-of-representatives-3368242

Revenue bills: https://colors-newyork.com/what-type-of-bills-must-originate-in-the-house-of-representatives/

President of the Senate: https://www.cop.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Constitution_Senate.htm#5

  • American Government Part 3: Judiciary
    Have you ever heard someone say that they will fight something all the way to the Supreme Court and wondered how the process would go? I seek to answer that question in this article.
  • American Government Part 2: President
    Have you ever had the news on and wondered how our government works? You are not alone. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation only 36% of Americans can pass a multiple choice version of the citizenship test that is required f

© 2021 Joshua Hurtado

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