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United States Government

Legislative Branch - Congress

The Legislative Branch is also called the Congress. There are two parts that make up Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Legislative Branch is the part of the government that writes up and votes on laws, also called legislation. Other powers of the Congress include declaring war, confirming Presidential appointments for groups like the Supreme Court and the Cabinet, and investigating power.

Capitol building of the United States
Capitol of the United States
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House of Representatives

There are 435 total Representatives in the House. Each state has a different number of representatives depending on their total population. States with more people get more representatives.

Representatives are elected every two years. They must be 25 years old, have been a US citizen for at least 7 years, and live in the state they represent.

The Speaker of the House is the leader of the House of Representatives. The House elects the member they want to be the leader. The Speaker is third in line in succession to the President.

The Senate

The Senate has 100 members. Each state has two Senators.

Senators are elected every 6 years. To become a Senator a person must be at least 30 years old, have been a US citizen for at least 9 years, and must live in the state they represent.

Making a Law

For a law to be made it must go through a bunch of steps called the Legislative Process. The first step is for someone to write a bill. Anyone can write a bill, but only a member of Congress can present it to the Congress.

Next the bill goes to a committee that is an expert on the subject of the bill. Here the bill may be rejected, accepted, or changed. The bill may go to a number of committees. Experts are often brought in to witness and give their opinions on the pros and cons of a bill. Once the bill is ready and the committee agrees, it goes before the entire Congress.

Both the House and the Senate will have their own debates about the bill. Members will speak for or against the bill and then the Congress will vote. A bill must get a majority of the votes from both the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass.

The next step is for the President to sign the bill. The president can sign the bill into law or choose to veto the bill. Once the president veto's a bill, congress can then try to override the veto by getting two thirds of the vote from both the House and the Senate.

Other Powers of Congress

In addition to making laws, congress has other responsibilities and powers. These include creating an annual budget for the government and taxing the citizens to pay for it. Another important congressional power is the power to declare war.

The Senate has the specific job to ratify treaties with other countries. They also confirm presidential appointments.

Congress also performs government oversight. They are supposed to make sure that the government is spending the tax money on the right things and that the different branches of government are doing their jobs.

Activities To learn more about the United States government:

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

Legislative Branch
House of Representatives
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
Landmark Cases
Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Sonia Sotomayor
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights

Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office

Works Cited

History >> US Government

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