The Legislative Branch

The House of Representatives

  1. The House of Representatives is made up of 435 elected members, divided among the 50 states in proportion to their total population.
  2. In addition, there are 6 non-voting members, representing the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and four other territories of the United States.
  3. Members of the House are elected every two years and must be 25 years of age, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state.
  4. The presiding officer of the chamber is the Speaker of the House, elected by the Representatives. (He or she is third in the line of succession to the Presidency.)
  5. The House has several powers assigned exclusively to it, including the power to initiate revenue bills, impeach federal officials, and elect the President in the case of an electoral college tie.
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  • Unlike the Members of the Senate, Members of the House have no assigned seats but are by tradition divided by party. It is similar to how we do not have assigned seats in class but we sit in the same seat all year.
  • Members of the Democratic Party sit to the Speaker's right and Members of the Republican Party sit to the Speaker's left.


2. The framers of the constitution established a legislative system that is bicameral. However; it is not just bicameral, the two houses have distinct character and authority.

  • Britain had a strong government, and the US knew that because they were under British rule for so long. The bicameral system worked well in Britain and when the states were colonies, so the framers decided to use it on the national level. The decision to create a bicameral legislature was strongly debated but it served as a compromise between the New Jersey Plan and the Virginia Plan. Lastly, the final reason for the bicameral legislature was that it served as a system of checks and balances. Because the Legislative Branch was considered to be the most powerful, the framers felt as if there needed to be elements that stopped one state from becoming too powerful.

  • Because the House of Representatives are considered to be the “mad dogs,” the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach the president, vice president, and civil officers. The House members tend to be younger and more enthusiastic about their work, and they are entrusted with the duty of impeachment as a way to keep the Executive Branch in check. Many argued that this undermined the Executive power, but in actuality it was put in place to protect the citizens from tyranny.

-“A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” (Elbridge Gerry)

  • Because senators are generally older, more experienced, and wiser government officials, the framers entrusted the Senate with the sole duty to try all impeachments. There must be a two thirds majority vote to impeach officials. This adds to the system of checks and balances. Just because the house impeaches an official does not mean they will be convicted and removed from office, it is up to the Senate to decide the end result of an impeachment. The Framers wanted a way to protect the country from tyranny, they achieved that by giving the Senate the power of trying impeachments.
The Legislative Branch