The Legislative Branch at the Federal Level
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The Legislative Branch at the Federal Level


Today we will learn about the Legislative Branch at the Federal level. Federal means National or for the whole country, so the Legislative Branch at the Federal level makes laws for the whole country. The Legislative Branch is one of the three branches of government, and we often call the Legislative Branch “Congress” Congress is made of two Houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of the Congress are elected every two years in November, in what we call General Elections. Meetings in Congress are called session and each session begins in January 3rd. Each member of Congress is paid an annual salary of 174,000 dollars, has a budget for offices within their state and Washington D.C. and its given money to travel home to meet with their constituents. Constituents are the people they represents. Members of the Congress are also given free use of the postal service to mail information to their constituents. The House of Representatives has 435 members, each member represents over 500,000 constituents from specific areas, within their State, called the District. The 435 Representatives are divided among the 50 states, based on populations, smaller states get fewer representatives, while the larger states gets more, to make sure each state is getting the correct number of representatives, every 10 years the United Stated conduct a Census, which is an official count of the population, if the state population goes up, it gains representatives if it goes down, it looses representatives. The Senate is a bit different, with each state getting an equal number of Senators. The Seante has 100 members and each states gets 2, regardless of their populations, both Senators represents their entire State, that means the Senators for Wyoming, the least popular state represents only about 590,000 people, while the Senators for California, the most popular state, represents almost 40,000,000. The qualifications for Representatives and Senators are also different, In the House each representative must be at least 25 years old, has been a U.S citizen for at least 7 years, and live in the State he/she represents. They are elected for 2 years terms and there is not term limit, meaning they can run for office as many time as they like, as long as their constituents continue to re-elect them. In the Senate, each Senator must be at least 30 years old, has been a US citizen for at least 9 years, and live in the state he or she represents. They are elected for 6 years term, and there is also no term limit. The House and the Senate also have different leaders. The Chief Officer of the House is the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the members of the House of Representatives. The Speaker runs session of the House, and keeps order, enforces all the rules, send bills to committees, and appoints new members to committees. The Speaker is second in line to become President after the Vice President. The Chief Officer of the Senate is the President of the Senate, unlike the Speaker of the House, this position isn’t elected by the members of the Senate. instead the Vice President of the United State automatically gets this job. The President of the Senate doesn’t have nearly as much power as the Speakers of the House, but can vote if there’s a tie. If the President of the Senate is away on other business for his role of Vice President The Senate is lead by a temporary leader called “President Pro Tempore” who is elected by the other members of the Senate. Each House of Congress has some special job, that only they can fulfill for example, if the electoral college doesn’t elect a presidential candidate with the majority of votes, it’s up to the House of Representatives to elect the President. The House also has the sole power to start tax bill, and impeach government officials. There’s also some job only the Senate can do, like approving appointments, which are people the President hires to officials positions, impeachment trials can also, only be held in the Senate. Both Houses of Congress are divided into committees, they specializes in writing bills on certain topics, each member of Congress serves on at least one committee. The Constitution gives Congress many powers, the main job of Congress is to raises money and spend it on people’s needs, Congress raises money through taxes and all tax bills must start the bill to law process in the House of Representatives. There many different type of taxes, like income tax, which comes out of your paycheck, and taxes on gasoline, cigarettes and alcohol. Congress also has the power to spend. Congress spend money on things like the military, war, and programs for the general welfare, like social security payments to the elderly and medicare Congress also have the power to print money, borrow money and make rules for trade. The Constitution also mention someting known as the “Elastic Cause” which allowed Congress to make all laws, which are necessary and proper, for example, at the beginning of our Country, the Contitution gave Congress power over the Army and Navy, and the Elastic Clause gave them the power to create the Air Force, after planes were invented, even though the power to create an Air Force isn’t written word for word in the Constitution. There are also many things Congress can not do, for example, Congress can not punish someone without a trial, they can not pass laws that favor one state over another, and they also may not hold people prisioners without informing them of their charges. Federal laws are laws the entire country must follow it is Congress’s job to passed the laws that governed the United States, before a law is been pass, it is called a bill and whether the bill is introduces in the House or the Senate, the Bill to Law Process is the same. All bills are introduced, sent to committees, voted on by the entire House of Congress, and then sent to the other House of Congress to repeat the entire process, then the billis is either signed into law or vetoed by the President. Most law making in Congress is done in committees, they research bills, gathers facts and listen to people speaking for and against the bill, in fact, most bills are set aside and never make it out of their committee. Most committees are permanent committees called “Standing Committees” Some example of Standing Committees includes Agriculture, the Budget, and Foreign Affairs as we discussed earlier, for a bill to be send to the President’s desk, it must passed in both Houses of Congress. If both Houses can not agreed on the same version of the bill, a temporary committee is formed with members of each House. These Senators and Representatives work together in the Conference Committee, to write one version of the bill, both Houses can agreed on. The bill is then voted on by the entire House and the entire Senate. If it passes, it is then, send to the President to sign. If the bill lands on the President’s desk and he refuses to sign it, this is called a veto. He must then, send the bill back to the house that originated in, with a statement explaining why he didn’t sign it. The veto can only be overriden and pass into law by 2/3 votes in each House of Congress. Will end with one more interesting fact in the Bill to Law Process. The Senate has a special power to stop a bill from been pass called the “filibuster” A filibuster ocurr when a Senator or group of Senators refuses to sit down and stop talking about why they feel a bill shouldn’t be pass. The record for the filibuster is 24 hours and 18 minutes. Historically, filibuster only occur once or twice a year, and can only be stop by 3/5 vote of the Senate called Cloture.

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