Skip Nav

United States Congress

Site Content

❶Furthermore, the House of Representatives holds that the Senate does not have the power to originate appropriation bills , or bills authorizing the expenditure of federal funds.

Choose a video to embed

Navigation menu


For the bill to become law, both houses must agree to identical versions of the bill. In many cases, conference committees have introduced substantial changes to bills and added unrequested spending, significantly departing from both the House and Senate versions.

President Ronald Reagan once quipped, "If an orange and an apple went into conference consultations, it might come out a pear. There are a variety of means for members to vote on bills, including systems using lights and bells and electronic voting.

After passage by both houses, a bill is considered to be enrolled and is sent to the president for approval. The President may also choose to veto the bill, returning it to Congress with his objections. In such a case, the bill only becomes law if each house of Congress votes to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. Finally, the president may choose to take no action, neither signing nor vetoing the bill. In such a case, the Constitution states that the bill automatically becomes law after ten days, excluding Sundays, unless Congress is adjourned during this period.

Therefore, the president may veto legislation passed at the end of a congressional session simply by ignoring it; the maneuver is known as a pocket veto , and cannot be overridden by the adjourned Congress. Every Act of Congress or joint resolution begins with an enacting formula or resolving formula stipulated by law. The Constitution specifies that a majority of members constitutes a quorum to do business in each house.

The rules of each house provide that a quorum is assumed to be present unless a quorum call demonstrates the contrary. Representatives and senators rarely force the presence of a quorum by demanding quorum calls; thus, in most cases, debates continue even if a majority is not present. Both houses use voice voting to decide most matters; members shout out "aye" or "no," and the presiding officer announces the result.

The Constitution, however, requires a recorded vote on the demand of one-fifth of the members present. If the result of the voice vote is unclear, or if the matter is controversial, a recorded vote usually ensues.

The Senate uses roll-call votes; a clerk calls out the names of all the senators, each senator stating "aye" or "no" when his or her name is announced.

The House reserves roll-call votes for the most formal matters, as a roll-call of all representatives takes quite some time; normally, members vote by electronic device. In the case of a tie, the motion in question fails. In the Senate, the Vice President may if present cast the tiebreaking vote. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Redirected from Procedures of the U. Joint session of the United States Congress. Voting methods in deliberative assemblies.

Sullivan July 24, The Library of Congress. Sources of ideas for legislation are unlimited and proposed drafts of bills originate in many diverse quarters. Learn about the Legislative Process". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on The chief function of Congress is the making of laws.

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of , as amended, provides Congress with a procedure to establish appropriate spending and revenue levels for each year. The congressional budget process, as set out in that Act, is designed to coordinate decisions on sources and levels of revenues and on objects and levels of expenditures.

One of the first actions taken by a committee is to seek the input of the relevant departments and agencies about a bill. Frequently, the bill is also submitted to the Government Accountability Office with a request for an official report of views on the necessity or desirability of enacting the bill into law.

Normally, ample time is given for the submission of the reports and they are accorded serious consideration. Standing committees are required to have regular meeting days at least once a month. In the late 20th century, the media became more important in Congress's work. Article I of the Constitution creates and sets forth the structure and most of the powers of Congress. Sections One through Six describe how Congress is elected and gives each House the power to create its own structure.

Section Seven lays out the process for creating laws, and Section Eight enumerates numerous powers. Section Nine is a list of powers Congress does not have, and Section Ten enumerates powers of the state, some of which may only be granted by Congress. Congress also has implied powers derived from the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause.

Congress has authority over financial and budgetary policy through the enumerated power to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States".

There is vast authority over budgets, although analyst Eric Patashnik suggested that much of Congress's power to manage the budget has been lost when the welfare state expanded since "entitlements were institutionally detached from Congress's ordinary legislative routine and rhythm". The Sixteenth Amendment in extended congressional power of taxation to include income taxes without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Congress has an important role in national defense , including the exclusive power to declare war, to raise and maintain the armed forces , and to make rules for the military.

Congress can establish post offices and post roads, issue patents and copyrights , fix standards of weights and measures, establish Courts inferior to the Supreme Court , and "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

One of Congress's foremost non-legislative functions is the power to investigate and oversee the executive branch. In the Plame affair , critics including Representative Henry A. Waxman charged that Congress was not doing an adequate job of oversight in this case. Congress also has the exclusive power of removal , allowing impeachment and removal of the president , federal judges and other federal officers. Bush , Bill Clinton , and George W. Bush [82] have made public statements when signing congressional legislation about how they understand a bill or plan to execute it, and commentators including the American Bar Association have described this practice as against the spirit of the Constitution.

Will called the Capitol building a "tomb for the antiquated idea that the legislative branch matters. The Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress in detail. In addition, other congressional powers have been granted, or confirmed, by constitutional amendments.

The Thirteenth , Fourteenth , and Fifteenth Amendments gave Congress authority to enact legislation to enforce rights of African Americans, including voting rights , due process , and equal protection under the law. Congress also has implied powers deriving from the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause which permit Congress to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Constitutional responsibility for the oversight of Washington, D. Each territory and Washington, D. House of Representatives as they have throughout Congressional history. They "possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives. Hamilton explained how Congress functions within the federal government:. To me the key to understanding it is balance. The founders went to great lengths to balance institutions against each other—balancing powers among the three branches: Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court; between the House of Representatives and the Senate; between the federal government and the states; among states of different sizes and regions with different interests; between the powers of government and the rights of citizens, as spelled out in the Bill of Rights No one part of government dominates the other.

The Constitution provides checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government. Its authors expected the greater power to lie with Congress as described in Article One. The influence of Congress on the presidency has varied from period to period depending on factors such as congressional leadership, presidential political influence, historical circumstances such as war, and individual initiative by members of Congress.

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson made the presidency less powerful than Congress for a considerable period afterwards.

Nevertheless, the Presidency remains considerably more powerful today than during the 19th century. Congress is slow, open, divided, and not well matched to handle more rapid executive action or do a good job of overseeing such activity, according to one analysis.

The Constitution concentrates removal powers in the Congress by empowering and obligating the House of Representatives to impeach both executive and judicial officials for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. The Senate is constitutionally empowered and obligated to try all impeachments.

A simple majority in the House is required to impeach an official; however, a two-thirds majority in the Senate is required for conviction. A convicted official is automatically removed from office; in addition, the Senate may stipulate that the defendant be banned from holding office in the future. Impeachment proceedings may not inflict more than this; however, a convicted party may face criminal penalties in a normal court of law. In the history of the United States, the House of Representatives has impeached sixteen officials, of whom seven were convicted.

Another resigned before the Senate could complete the trial. Only two presidents have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson in and Bill Clinton in Both trials ended in acquittal; in Johnson's case, the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. In , Richard Nixon resigned from office after impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee indicated he would eventually be removed from office.

The Senate has an important check on the executive power by confirming Cabinet officials, judges, and other high officers "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate. Furthermore, treaties negotiated by the President must be ratified by a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to take effect. As a result, presidential arm-twisting of senators can happen before a key vote; for example, President Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton , urged her former senate colleagues to approve a nuclear arms treaty with Russia in In , the Supreme Court established judicial review of federal legislation in Marbury v.

Madison , holding, however, that Congress could not grant unconstitutional power to the Court itself. The Constitution does not explicitly state that the courts may exercise judicial review; however, the notion that courts could declare laws unconstitutional was envisioned by the founding fathers. Alexander Hamilton , for example, mentioned and expounded upon the doctrine in Federalist No.

Originalists on the Supreme Court have argued that if the constitution does not say something explicitly it is unconstitutional to infer what it should, might or could have said.

It is a huge check by the courts on the legislative authority and limits congressional power substantially. In , for example, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of a congressional act of in its Dred Scott decision. Investigations are conducted to gather information on the need for future legislation, to test the effectiveness of laws already passed, and to inquire into the qualifications and performance of members and officials of the other branches.

Committees may hold hearings, and, if necessary, compel individuals to testify when investigating issues over which it has the power to legislate by issuing subpoenas. Most committee hearings are open to the public the House and Senate intelligence committees are the exception ; important hearings are widely reported in the mass media and transcripts published a few months afterwards.

Congress also plays a role in presidential elections. Both Houses meet in joint session on the sixth day of January following a presidential election to count the electoral votes, and there are procedures to follow if no candidate wins a majority. The main result of congressional activity is the creation of laws, [] most of which are contained in the United States Code, arranged by subject matter alphabetically under fifty title headings to present the laws "in a concise and usable form".

Congress is split into two chambers—House and Senate—and manages the task of writing national legislation by dividing work into separate committees which specialize in different areas. Some members of Congress are elected by their peers to be officers of these committees.

Further, Congress has ancillary organizations such as the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress to help provide it with information, and members of Congress have staff and offices to assist them as well. In addition, a vast industry of lobbyists helps members write legislation on behalf of diverse corporate and labor interests.

The committee structure permits members of Congress to study a particular subject intensely. It is neither expected nor possible that a member be an expert on all subject areas before Congress. Committees investigate specialized subjects and advise the entire Congress about choices and trade-offs. The choice of specialty may be influenced by the member's constituency, important regional issues, prior background and experience.

While procedures such as the House discharge petition process can introduce bills to the House floor and effectively bypass committee input, they are exceedingly difficult to implement without committee action. Committees have power and have been called independent fiefdoms.

Legislative, oversight, and internal administrative tasks are divided among about two hundred committees and subcommittees which gather information, evaluate alternatives, and identify problems. At the start of each two-year session the House elects a speaker who does not normally preside over debates but serves as the majority party's leader. In the Senate , the Vice President is the ex officio president of the Senate. In addition, the Senate elects an officer called the President pro tempore.

Pro tempore means for the time being and this office is usually held by the most senior member of the Senate's majority party and customarily keeps this position until there's a change in party control.

Accordingly, the Senate does not necessarily elect a new president pro tempore at the beginning of a new Congress. In both the House and Senate, the actual presiding officer is generally a junior member of the majority party who is appointed so that new members become acquainted with the rules of the chamber.

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in It is primarily housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill , but also includes several other sites: Meade, Maryland; and multiple overseas offices. The Library had mostly law books when it was burned by a British raiding party during the War of , but the library's collections were restored and expanded when Congress authorized the purchase of Thomas Jefferson 's private library. One of the Library's missions is to serve the Congress and its staff as well as the American public.

It is the largest library in the world with nearly million items including books, films, maps, photographs, music, manuscripts, graphics, and materials in languages. The Congressional Research Service provides detailed, up-to-date and non-partisan research for senators, representatives, and their staff to help them carry out their official duties.

It provides ideas for legislation, helps members analyze a bill, facilitates public hearings, makes reports, consults on matters such as parliamentary procedure, and helps the two chambers resolve disagreements. It has been called the "House's think tank" and has a staff of about employees. It was created as an independent nonpartisan agency by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of It helps Congress estimate revenue inflows from taxes and helps the budgeting process.

It makes projections about such matters as the national debt [] as well as likely costs of legislation. Lobbyists represent diverse interests and often seek to influence congressional decisions to reflect their clients' needs.

Lobby groups and their members sometimes write legislation and whip bills. In , there were approximately 17, federal lobbyists in Washington. Some lobbyists represent non-profit organizations and work pro bono for issues in which they are personally interested.

Congress has alternated between periods of constructive cooperation and compromise between parties known as bipartisanship and periods of deep political polarization and fierce infighting known as partisanship. The period after the Civil War was marked by partisanship as is the case today. It is generally easier for committees to reach accord on issues when compromise is possible.

Some political scientists speculate that a prolonged period marked by narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress has intensified partisanship in the last few decades but that an alternation of control of Congress between Democrats and Republicans may lead to greater flexibility in policies as well as pragmatism and civility within the institution.

A term of Congress is divided into two " sessions ", one for each year; Congress has occasionally been called into an extra or special session. A new session commences on January 3 each year unless Congress decides differently. The Constitution requires Congress meet at least once each year and forbids either house from meeting outside the Capitol without the consent of the other house.

Joint Sessions of the United States Congress occur on special occasions that require a concurrent resolution from both House and Senate. These sessions include counting electoral votes after a presidential election and the president's State of the Union address. The constitutionally-mandated report , normally given as an annual speech, is modeled on Britain's Speech from the Throne , was written by most presidents after Jefferson but personally delivered as a spoken oration beginning with Wilson in Joint Sessions and Joint Meetings are traditionally presided over by the Speaker of the House except when counting presidential electoral votes when the Vice President acting as the President of the Senate presides.

Ideas for legislation can come from members, lobbyists, state legislatures, constituents, legislative counsel, or executive agencies. Anyone can write a bill, but only members of Congress may introduce bills. Most bills are not written by Congress members, but originate from the Executive branch; interest groups often draft bills as well. The usual next step is for the proposal to be passed to a committee for review. Representatives introduce a bill while the House is in session by placing it in the hopper on the Clerk's desk.

Joint resolutions are the normal way to propose a constitutional amendment or declare war. On the other hand, concurrent resolutions passed by both houses and simple resolutions passed by only one house do not have the force of law but express the opinion of Congress or regulate procedure.

Bills may be introduced by any member of either house. Congress has sought ways to establish appropriate spending levels. Each chamber determines its own internal rules of operation unless specified in the Constitution or prescribed by law.

Each branch has its own traditions; for example, the Senate relies heavily on the practice of getting "unanimous consent" for noncontroversial matters. Each bill goes through several stages in each house including consideration by a committee and advice from the Government Accountability Office. The House has twenty standing committees; the Senate has sixteen.

Standing committees meet at least once each month. Witnesses and experts can present their case for or against a bill. After debate, the committee votes whether it wishes to report the measure to the full house. If a bill is tabled then it is rejected. If amendments are extensive, sometimes a new bill with amendments built in will be submitted as a so-called clean bill with a new number. Generally, members who have been in Congress longer have greater seniority and therefore greater power.

A bill which reaches the floor of the full house can be simple or complex [] and begins with an enacting formula such as "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. A final vote on the bill follows. Once a bill is approved by one house, it is sent to the other which may pass, reject, or amend it.

For the bill to become law, both houses must agree to identical versions of the bill. The Constitution specifies that a majority of members known as a quorum be present before doing business in each house. However, the rules of each house assume that a quorum is present unless a quorum call demonstrates the contrary.

Since representatives and senators who are present rarely demand quorum calls, debate often continues despite the lack of a majority. Voting within Congress can take many forms, including systems using lights and bells and electronic voting.

The Constitution, however, requires a recorded vote if demanded by one-fifth of the members present. If the voice vote is unclear or if the matter is controversial, a recorded vote usually happens. The Senate uses roll-call voting , in which a clerk calls out the names of all the senators, each senator stating "aye" or "no" when their name is announced.

In the Senate, the vice president may cast the tie-breaking vote if present. The House reserves roll-call votes for the most formal matters, as a roll call of all representatives takes quite some time; normally, members vote by using an electronic device.

In the case of a tie, the motion in question fails. Most votes in the House are done electronically, allowing members to vote yea or nay or present or open. After passage by both houses, a bill is enrolled and sent to the president for approval. A vetoed bill can still become law if each house of Congress votes to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. Finally, the president may do nothing—neither signing nor vetoing the bill—and then the bill becomes law automatically after ten days not counting Sundays according to the Constitution.

But if Congress is adjourned during this period, presidents may veto legislation passed at the end of a congressional session simply by ignoring it; the maneuver is known as a pocket veto , and cannot be overridden by the adjourned Congress. Senators face reelection every six years, and representatives every two.

Reelections encourage candidates to focus their publicity efforts at their home states or districts. Nevertheless, incumbent members of Congress running for reelection have strong advantages over challengers. As a result, reelection rates of members of Congress hover around 90 percent, [6] causing some critics to accuse them of being a privileged class.

Both senators and representatives enjoy free mailing privileges called franking privileges. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has treated campaign contributions as a free speech issue.

Elections are influenced by many variables. Some political scientists speculate there is a coattail effect when a popular president or party position has the effect of reelecting incumbents who win by "riding on the president's coattails" , although there is some evidence that the coattail effect is irregular and possibly declining since the s.

If a seat becomes vacant in an open district, then both parties may spend heavily on advertising in these races; in California in , only four of twenty races for House seats were considered highly competitive. Since members of Congress must advertise heavily on television, this usually involves negative advertising , which smears an opponent's character without focusing on the issues. The first regular session of Congress begins on January 3 after aNovember election.

This session always takes place in an oddnumbered year. Majority of congress required for session? A simple majority is required for a session of Congress.

This isknown as a quorum. Since the Senate has members, 51 of themmust be present. And since the House has members, must bepresent. What is the difference between congress and parliament?

It's the system of government. Countries which follow the American model of government have a Congress which makes laws and works seperately of the Executive Branch. Countries which follow the British model have a Parliament which makes laws but also controls the Executive Branch.

When does congress start a session or term? The term starts with the first session out of two on January 3rd at noon. What is the difference between the continental congress and the second continental congress? So when it went through the first time everyone went to the second one. What is a Joint Session of Congress? Congress is commonly called a "Joint Session" but there really are different type of meetings where the whole House and Senate get together: Several examples of the Joint Session are mandated by the Constitution such as the State of the Union address that the President is required to provide each year.

Joint Sessions also include meeting to formally count the electoral votes following a presidential election. Joint Sessions may also be requested by the President. Two examples of such a Joint Session are President Roosevelt's speech after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and President Bush's speech after the attacks of 11 September Other combined meetings of the House and Senate are referred to as Joint Meetings. These occur with unanimous consent to recess and meet.

Joint meetings are usually for the purpose of allowing U. Meetings of Congress for presidential inaugurations are a special case called formal joint gatherings , but may also be joint sessions if both houses are in session at the time. Which session of Congress is in session? The first session in of the meeting of the th Congress. Congress has two session each year unless the president calls Congress into an additional special session.

Every two years, new members are elected in November and a new meeting of those elected takes office the following January. Elections for the th Congress were held in November and the first meeting of the th Congress began in January What is the difference between the General Assembly and the Congress? Congress is the federal government and the General Assembly is the state government.

When do the sessions of congress begin and end? Congressional sessions begin on January 3rd of each year. Eachsession lasts a full year, ending on January 3 of the next year asthe new session begins. Obviously there are adjournments andvacations during the year. What is the difference between a parliament and a congress? What is the difference between government and congress? Government refers to all three branches of government, the executive President and cabinet , the Judicial the Courts , and legislative Congress Congress refers to the U.

House of Representatives and U. Senate, which together, form one branch of government. How have sessions of congress changed? What is a term for congress? The Congress is made up of the Senate and the House ofRepresentatives. A term for a Senator is six years and the term forRepresentatives is two years, with the exception of Alabama,Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and North Dakota, who hasfour-year terms. How is a session of congress related to a term?

In the House of representatives, it's two years. In the senate, it's six years. A session is merely a period of time where congress is actively doing things e. Congress is currently not in session as they're all back in their home districts running for re-election except for those senators who aren't up for re-election this go round. What is the current term and session of congress?

Sessions of Congress happen constantly. For they meet for a few months, and close. Then, after an event is over, the Congress goes back to Washington, D. There are "Special Sessions of Congress," that may be called for by the President of. An example of this would be "Home Land Security. What is it called when Congress is not in session? When can the President prorogue a session of Congress?

The president has the power to prorogue a session of congress. Thiscan happen only if two houses cannot agree on a date foradjournment. What is the difference between unicameral and a biocameral congress? A unicameral legislature has one body of lawmakers and a bicameral legislature has two bodies of lawmakers. The congress of the United States is bicameral.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

A "Term of Congress" covers two years, and consists of two sessions. For the calendar year , the current term of Congress is the th Congress, 1st Session. bophona.ml

Privacy FAQs

Each Congress usually has two sessions, since members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms. The congressional calendar refers to measures that are eligible for consideration on the floor of Congress, although eligibility doesn't necessarily mean that a measure will be debated.

About Our Ads

two sessions per term what is the relationship between congressional terms and sessions? start with census, then reapportionment, then redistricting state . List of United States Congresses This is a list of the United States Congresses, including their beginnings, endings, and the dates of their sessions. Each "term" of Congress lasts for two years. Before the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which fixed Congressional dates.

Cookie Info

Presidents, Vice Presidents, & Coinciding Sessions of Congress; Presidential Vetoes; List of Individuals Impeached by the House of Representatives; 1st to Present Congress (March 4, to Present) Date Type Terms . Question: What is the relationship between U.S. congressional terms and sessions? Congress Convenes. When crafting the Constitution, the Founding Fathers put in language in which the legislative.