- There are three branches
of government in the US,
The legislative branch
is comprised of the United States
Congress, the bicameral
legislature responsible for
writing and passing all federal laws,
among various other functions.
Back when the Founding Fathers
drafted the Constitution, debate
stirred over the type of legislature
they'd have, one with equal
representation, ie, the same number
of representatives for each state,
or of proportional representation,
in which the number of representatives
reflected the size of each state's
Unable to choose, they
settled on both, a legislative branch
with two houses, the House
of Representatives and the Senate,
which together, form the Congress.
This was all outlined in Article I
of the Constitution, which also notes
the functions, powers,
and parameters of the Congress
and its individual representatives.
A congressman's primary
responsibilities include representing
the interests of their constituents,
working together to write laws,
overseeing other government agencies,
and passing bills.
But of course, that's all way easier
said than done.
To understand how it all works,
we have take a closer look
at the makeup of the two distinct houses.
The first and lower house
is the House of Representatives
made up of 435 elected officials.
Each state is allotted a number
of congressmen determined
by their total population.
To become a member of the House,
one must be at least 25,
have lived in the US for seven years,
live in this state they will represent,
and be elected by the people.
Congressmen serve two-year terms
and are up for re-election
every even year.
The House is led by the Speaker
of the House, who is elected by the House
The House has a few exclusive powers
not shared by the Senate.
Only the House can initiate tax laws
and spending bills.
Only the House can initiate impeachment
of a president or other government
And in the event that there is no majority
in the Electoral College for one
of the presidential candidates,
it's the House who casts
the deciding vote.
The Senate, or the Upper House,
is made up of only 100
elected members with two senators
from each state.
Here, a state like Wyoming
has as strong a voice as California,
even though California
has a much larger population.
To run for Senate, one
must be at least 30 years old,
have lived in the US for nine years,
and live in the state that they
Senators serve six-year terms.
Every even year, a third of the Senate
is up for re-election.
Before the 17th amendment
was ratified in 1912, senators
were elected by the state legislatures.
But now, they are elected
by us, the people.
The vise president of the United States
serves as the head of the Senate,
but he or she may only
cast a vote in the event of a tie.
The Senate exclusively
has the power to approve
And when the House moves to impeach
a government official,
it's the Senate that tries them.
Together, both houses have the power
to tax, coin money, declare war,
and regulate foreign and
But Congress's bread and butter
is writing and passing bills.
Getting a bill passed is no easy task.
A bill can originate in either the House
or the Senate.
But before it gets voted upon,
it goes through a series
of committees, and amendments,
and floor debates.
After a vote, it moves
to the other chamber, and the process
If the one chamber makes any edits
to a bill passed by the other,
it has to go back for another vote.
The House and Senate must vote to approve
the exact same bill before it
can move on.
If it fails to get a majority vote,
it has to be reintroduced.
If it passes, it goes to the president's
desk for approval.
If the president chooses
to veto a bill, which essentially voids
it, Congress can push back
the veto override.
But to do this, they needed 2/3 majority
vote in both houses.
Failing to pass legislation
is an inevitable part of congressional
Congress is the only branch of government
whose members are elected directly
by the people, and the only part
of government that tries to balance
the relationship between the power
of the nation and the individual states.