United States Congress
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%.
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 an coin money, and to regulate foreign and interstate trade. Congress is also responsible to create post offieces 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.
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.
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. Among those who ascended to the White House are:
- Larry McDonald, a passenger on Korean Airlines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviets on Sept. 1, 1983, the only congressman reported killed by the Soviets during the Cold War
- Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first black members of Congress in 1870.
- Republican Florence Prag Kahn was the first Jewish woman and first widow elected to Congress
- William Jennings Bryan, four-time presidential candidate, best known as the prosecutor in the 1920 Scopes Monkey Trial
|“||There is no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress||”|
Boyer, Paul, Clifford Clark, Jr., Nancy Woloch, Neal Salisbury, and Harvard Sitkoff. The Enduring Vision. 5th. New York: Charles Hartford,