What is the Congress? Everyone knows; and for those who don’t, it can be described as the “bicameral legislature” or in simpler terms the administrative set-up of the US Government also known as its federal government. It has two tiers of administration represented by its two houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives. And it is based in Washington DC, more precisely known as the Capitol. Now that we have the basic information listed, let’s get to the more interesting and less familiar facts of the Congress!
The US Congress was first instituted by the Constitution of the United States through Article 1. It came into being in 1789 and is considered the legislative component of the Federal government. It has the power to make laws, amend existing ones, and to repeal old ones.
It goes without saying that the Congress is a very powerful body. In fact, its powers have been classified into enumerated powers and implicit powers. The former are the ones that have been explicitly listed through the Constitution and include the power to declare war! The latter are extra powers granted through “clause 18” of the Constitution. This clause has also been nick-named the elastic clause.
The US Congress is known as a bicameral legislature because both the components of its administration – the Senate and the House of Representatives must work together to exercise its powers.
The Congress meets in the Capitol – everybody knows that! But did you know that they are required to conduct annual meetings. And yes, there is a specified time for this meeting – beginning January 3rd. This date was decided following the 20th amendment that happened in 1933.
Among all the powers and responsibilities vested on the US Congress, the most important one is to make laws for the United States! And this is done with the help of various committees such as conference committees, standing committees, joint committees, and special committees. The members of these committees are all bicameral members of the Congress.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are also known as the upper house and the lower house, respectively. And of the total 535 members of the Congress, 435 are from the lower house and the remaining 100 are Senators. The representatives for each state are determined by its population; while each state has two senators.
If you ever intend to become part of the Congress, the following information is the most vital you would need to know. To become a representative, you should have been a US citizen for at least 7 years and should be at least 25 years old. And if you are considering becoming a Senator, you should be at least 30 years and should have been a citizen for 9 years.
The US President has the power to veto a bill; however, the Congress can over-ride such a refusal if it can garner the support of at least two-thirds in both the houses. Whatever bills are accepted by the President become laws; however, if the Supreme Court feels that the law is unconstitutional it can be overturned! (And we complain about a stressful job!)
Did you know that the Congress is also one of the largest employers in the country? Besides the representatives and senators, it has a huge staff system that comprises of researchers, analysts, clerical, and support staffs that help get all the work done!
The Congress believes in women empowerment and equality; the proof – 104 of the 535 seats in the Congress are held by women, of which 20 are part of the Senate and 33 are of non-US origin! Nancy Pelosi enjoys the credit of being the first women speaker in the House.