What Is Congress Anyway? | SPARK Episode 1
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What Is Congress Anyway? | SPARK Episode 1

You hear a lot about legislators. Call them!
Email them! Tweet them! Okay, okay! But who exactly are these “legislators?” Don’t
worry, whether you need a little refresher or at this point you’ve just been too afraid
to ask, we’ve got you covered. Legislator basically means lawmaker. It’s
someone who can decide what becomes law. In the United States, legislators are members
of Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. Most citizens — sorry D.C.
and the territories — are represented by one member of the House and two senators.
Each of these people handle every issue under the sun – from trade to energy to whether
there should be a Post Office named after Elvis. To manage this workload, both the House
and the Senate are broken down into committees that handle particular subject matter – like
education, agriculture, aliens. Probably. Congress does a lot of stuff like regulates
commerce, approves Supreme Court justices, and can even attempt to impeach the President.
Shout out to my fellow 90s kids. Most relevant for us though, they can pass laws. The President
can veto those laws, but Congress can override that veto if they get enough votes. Also,
the Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional. But let’s rewind to actually making laws.
A draft of a law is called a bill and anyone can write a bill. Yeah even you, but only
members of Congress can introduce it into the House or the Senate. Bills are kinda like
vampires, they need an invitation from someone who lives in Congress to get in. Once a bill
is cleared by the Congress bouncers, it gets examined by those committees we mentioned.
They study it and vote on changes they want to make. If the committee gives it a thumbs
up, a like, or a reblog, it’s eligible to get voted on by the full House of Representatives
and/or the Senate, if that’s what the leaders of those chambers want. If not, or if it never
“clears” the Committee, well, it probably won’t ever be seen again. RIP Bill. To get turned into Officially Official Law,
it has to pass both the House and the Senate, but sometimes they approve different versions
of the bill. Kinda like if someone invited you over to watch Star Wars and you were expecting
the original versions, but it turned out they wanted to watch the remastered versions from
1997. Uh, sorry dude, Han shot first. If that happens, a special “conference committee”
of members from both the House and the Senate have to iron out the differences and draft
a final bill. So I guess, in the case of Star Wars, that final bill everyone is happy with
would be… uh, The Force Awakens? Once a bill is passed by both the House and the Senate,
the President has 10 days to sign or veto it. This process also more or less happens
at the state level. In the United States we have both federal aka national AND state governments.
This means you’re represented by members of the U.S. Congress as well as members of
state legislatures. That word, representing, is important, because
legislators are supposed to represent the people who elected them. That’s why everyone
wants you to contact your legislators, because if they don’t know how you feel about something
they can’t properly represent you. Each episode we’ll be setting small challenges
you can take to make a big change in your community. To start this week: look up who
your state and federal representatives and senators are. Being familiar with local government
is key to making change. And let us know in the comments what issues you care about right
now. And be sure to subscribe to follow our eight part series on creating change and taking
action. So join us next time when we take a peek behind the scenes of government life.
Thanks for watching and good luck!


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