United States Congress

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The Capitol from the Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

Congress (Congress of the United States) (a word derived from the Latin "congressum", from "congredior", meaning "to come together") is the term for the legislative body of the United States of America, composed of the House of Representatives and Senate. In the current 112th Congress, the House is controlled by the Republican Party while the Senate is controlled by the Democratic Party. The reelection rate for congressional incumbents is 93% despite persistently low approval ratings, typically near 20%.

Contents

Powers

The powers of Congress, called the Delegated Powers are detailed in Article I, section eight. Congress is vested with the power to impose and collect taxes, to borrow and coin money, and to regulate foreign trade and interstate commerce. Congress is also responsible to create post offices and federal courts, maintain the Army and Navy, and admit new states into the union. Additionally, Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution. The Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress all other powers necessary to carry out its duties.[1]

Origin

The Congress of the United States was created in the first article of the Constitution.[2] Most historians agree that the bicameral system within Congress is derived from the English Parliament.

Houses

Congress is divided into two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate gives equal weight for each state, with each state electing 2 senators who serve 6 year terms. The House is proportioned based upon population, with each House member serving a 2 year term. The House and Senate must agree for legislation to be enacted. The President can veto that legislation which can then be overridden by a 2/3rds majority of both Houses of Congress.

The basis of these two components come from James Madison's Virginia Plan and William Patterson's New Jersey Plan. During the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, Madison's Virginia Plan called for two houses both of which would be represent each state based on its population. Smaller states took issue with this, as the provision was highly favorable to Virginia. Thus, William Patterson proposed the New Jersey Plan - which called for one house that represented each stated with a single vote. Eventually the Connecticut delegates proposed the Connecticut Compromise - which called for two houses, the upper of which would represent each state equally, and the lower of which would represent each state according to population.[3]

Congressmen in the White House

Thirty-three members of Congress have gone on to become President of the United States and the vast majority of them were Republican members.[4] Among those who ascended to the White House are:

Benefits

Interior of the Library of Congress.

Notable Members

Quotations

There is no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress

-- Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself.

-- Mark Twain


References

Boyer, Paul, Clifford Clark, Jr., Nancy Woloch, Neal Salisbury, and Harvard Sitkoff. The Enduring Vision. 5th. New York: Charles Hartford,

Notes

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