The United States Congress forms the bicameral legislature of the United States Federal Government. A bicameral legislature consists of two chambers, in this case being, the House of Representatives and the Senate. All 50 states of America are united under the national government. Each state is represented by two Senators each serving 6 year terms. Each district has a Representative serving a 2 year term. There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives which are apportioned among the States according to the district’s population. The senators and representatives are all chosen by direct election.
In the legislative process, the Senate and the House of Representatives work as equals. Legislation cannot be enforced into law with out the consent of both these chambers. However, each chamber is granted their unique powers by the Constitution. The Senate grants the approval of Presidential appointments and ratifies treaties. The House of Representatives is tasked with initiating bills that raise revenues. While the Senate gives the decision on impeachment cases, it is the House that initiates them. Two thirds of the votes of the entire Senate will be required to be able to impeach a person out of his office.
The Congress meets in Washington DC, the capitol of the United States. It is also a term referred to as the meeting of all legislative branches. This meeting covers two years. At present, the 112th Congress convened last January 20, 2011. Any legislator from either house is referred to as a “member of the Congress” though congressmen, congresswomen or a congressperson is universally identified as such. Senators in general are referred to as members of the Senate.
Although members of the Congress do not achieve national acclaim like the President or the Justice of the Supreme Court, they do play an important role in the maintenance of peace and order in the country. They are the driving force behind the formulation of government policies and are extremely sensitive to public pressure. They represent local interests and they are the lawmakers for national interest as well. The Congress undergoes constant changes thru the years with the shifts in demographic and population changes. Its purposes still hold, however, to enact their dual obligations in representing the needs of the citizens and that of the nation. The Congress serves to unify the diversity among the States and in doing so strengthens the government with the balance that it creates.
If you step back into history, the first Continental Congress was convened in September 5, 1774 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a place called Carpenter’s Hall. In attendance were 55 delegates representing 12 out of 13 North American colonies. They discussed their options which included an economic boycott of the British trade, publishing their list of grievances and rights and the petitioning of King George to rectify these grievances.
When their appeal to the King had failed, a Second Continental Congress was held in May 10, 1975 as a prelude to the American Revolutionary War. The Second Congress was able to manage the colonial war effort and moved gradually towards independence. In July 4, 1976, the United States Declaration of Independence was adapted by the Second Congress. This enabled them to function as a de facto national government which eventually became the United States. Their functions included raising the armies, appointing diplomats, directing strategies and making formal treaties. When the Articles of the Confederation were ratified in 1781, the Congress then became the Congress of the Confederation. This created a government with unicameral body that consisted of a representative from each state that has the power to veto any decision. This made the government weak. There was no judicial or executive branch and there was very minimal authority over all the states. There was no power to collect taxes, enforce laws or to regulate trade.
This situation led to the 1787 Convention which created the bicameral congress we recognize today. During this time a proposal was presented for a revision in the constitution to create a two chamber congress. The ratification of the constitution led to the creation of a federal government that had two overlapping centers of power that subjected the citizens to both the power of the national and state government. A provision was made to separate the powers of each branch of the legislature to avoid abuse of power and to provide the necessary check and balance of each branch. This new form of government was put into force in 1789.