Congress & You

Dr. Dan Benishek M.D., Representing Michigan's 1st District

What is Government?

The U.S. government leads the nation. It is made up of the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch. The executive branch, led by the President and the Vice President, enforces our laws. The judicial branch, led by the Supreme Court, interprets our laws. The legislative branch, which makes our laws, is the Congress.

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The Constitution

The Constitution is one of the most important documents in the country. It sets up the structure of our government – it tells us how it should operate. It explains the rules, or limits, to the government’s power so that our rights to be free are preserved.

At the beginning of the Constitution is a paragraph called the Preamble. The Preamble is important because it sums up who we are and what we stand for. It starts with the words “We the People,” which means that the government’s power comes from us, the people. The government only has the powers that the people give to it to carry out certain purposes.

In the Preamble, it says that the reasons for having a Constitutional government are to create a more perfect country, establish justice (which means to make laws more fair), to ensure peace within our borders; provide for a military to defend the country, and to help the citizens of America enjoy our freedom.

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Congress: House and Senate

Congress has two parts: the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Each state has two U.S. Senators and at least one U.S. Representative; the more residents a state has, the more U.S. Representatives it is allowed. There are 100 U.S. Senators and 435 U.S. Representatives.

The laws Congress makes help Americans. There are laws that say kids have to go to school, laws that set standards for vehicle and highway safety, and laws that the safety of food you eat, and laws that protect animals and nature.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

A bill is a proposed law. But how is it made? Well, like we said earlier, it starts with Congress. When someone in the House or Senate wants to make a law, they start by writing a bill, which is an early version, or draft, of the proposed law. The bill has to be voted on by both houses of Congress. If they both vote for the bill to become law, the bill is sent to the president, who can then choose whether or not he wants to sign it into law. If the president decides not to sign the bill, he vetoes it, and the bill gets sent back to Congress. If he decides to sign the bill, it then becomes a law!

Get involved in your government!

Be an active and informed citizen!

  • Learn about and pay attention to important public issues

  • Come up with an idea for a law

  • Vote (when you are old enough)

  • Hold public office

  • Volunteer for a project to help others

  • Participate in a project to inform others
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Important Terms to Know

  • Americans: Citizens of the United States of America.
  • Bill: An idea for a law. A legislative proposal.
  • Capitol: The building where the United States Congress meets.
  • Checks and Balances: A major feature of the Federal Government’s organization, by which power is distributed across the three branches of government so that each branch checks the others.
  • Constitution: The legal document that sets up the structure of the United States federal government and its powers.
  • Districts: Each state is divided into districts based on the state's population. Each district elects on Representative to serve in the House of Representatives.
  • Government: The leadership of a community, state, or nation.
  • House: The House of Representatives meets.
  • Laws: The rules followed by the people in a certain community, state, or nation.

Contact Me

I value all feedback from residents of the 1st Congressional District of Michigan. I am here to serve you, and so is my staff. Below please find the best means by which you may contact me or my offices.

More Resources for Further Information