The Legislative Branch

Do you have what it takes?

Could you be in the Legislative Branch? What does it take?

You must be:

House of Representatives
  • 25 or older
  • a citizen for at least 7 years
  • inhabitant of the state you are representing when you are elected


Senate

  • 30 or older
  • a citizen for at least 9 years
  • resident of the state you are representing

Powers and Responsibilities of the Legislative Branch:

Could you do these things?

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are elected by the people, and there is an unlimited number of terms a person can be in Congress. There are many powers that both houses share, some delegated by the Constitution and some implied.


Some of the delegated powers and responsibilities include:

  • making an annual budget for the government
  • collecting taxes
  • borrowing money
  • declaring war
  • making the postal service
  • and coin money


There are also implied powers, such as:

  • the power to make laws that are "necessary and proper", like public television laws

You must be able to do these things to be a member of either house.

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Which house would you be in?

Which of these powers would you want?

There are also powers that only one House has:

  • The House of Representatives represents the states based on population. Representatives are elected every two years, and if the population of a state has increased, more representatives are elected for that state. There are 435 representatives currently. The House of Representatives is the only house that can introduce bills about spending or trade agreements.
  • The Senate has two members representing each state. Senators are elected every six years, but elections are staggered so there aren't two Senators being elected at the same time for one state. The Senate is the only house that can approve treaties and confirm appointments made by the president for government offices.

People Currently in The Legislative Branch:

These are some of the roles that you could have in the legislative branch. Could you do their jobs?

House of Representatives

Niki Tsongas

She is the representative for part of Andover Massachusetts. She is one of 435 current members of the House of Representatives.

Senate

How a bill becomes a law:

Could you go through this process to make laws?

  1. Someone in Congress introduces a bill.
  2. It is reviewed by a subcommittee that is an expert on a specific policy area related to the bill. Experts are often brought in to talk about pros and cons of the bill.
  3. If the subcommittee approves it, the bill is passed onto a committee who will decide if it should be changed, tabled, or passed.
  4. If it is approved, the bill is brought to the entire Congress, where it is debated in each house.
  5. A joint committee, with members from the House of Representatives and the Senate, works out disagreements between the two houses.
  6. Each house votes to pass the bill. The bill is passed if the majority of the house votes for it. Each house must pass identical versions of the bill.
  7. The Speaker of the House and Vice President must sign the bill.
  8. The bill is sent to the President. If he signs it, the bill becomes a law. If he vetoes the law, the congress can still pass the law with a two-thirds vote for the law. The President could choose to do nothing about the bill. If he does nothing, the bill can become a law after ten days if Congress is in session. If not, the bill does not become a law. This is called a pocket veto.

Could you be in the Legislative Branch?