Test Your Knowledge of the United States Congress with Our Quiz!
How many voting members are there in the United States Congress?
How long is a term for a senator in the United States Congress?
What is the primary non-legislative function of Congress?
Which of the following is NOT one of Congress's enumerated powers?
What is the main check the Supreme Court has on Congress?
What is the primary function of the Library of Congress in relation to Congress?
What is gerrymandering?
What is the Connecticut Compromise?
What is causing Congress to cede authority to experts at the executive branch?
The United States Congress is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, with 535 voting members, 100 senators, and 435 representatives. Senators are elected at-large in their state for a six-year term, while representatives are elected for a two-year term of a Congress. Congress members must meet certain requirements, including being a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years (House) or nine years (Senate). Congress is responsible for maintaining freedom, and its members are typically affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party. Congress initiates and approves legislation, ratifies treaties, approves presidential appointments, and impeaches individuals. Congress is directly responsible for governing the District of Columbia. The first Continental Congress gathered in 1774, and the current Congress, the 118th, began in January 2023. Congress has had four main eras since its creation, including the formative era (1780s-1820s), the partisan era (1830s-1900s), the committee era (1910s-1960s), and the contemporary era (1970-present). The media has become increasingly important in Congress's work, leading to greater publicity and a negative emphasis on sensational news. Congress has faced public dissatisfaction and low approval ratings due to unproductivity, gridlock, and brinksmanship.The Role and Powers of the United States Congress:
Overview of Powers:
- Congress is created and given powers by Article One of the Constitution.
- Congress has enumerated powers, including the power to tax, regulate commerce, declare war, and establish post offices.
- Congress also has implied powers through the Necessary and Proper Clause.
- Congress has an important role in national defense, including the power to raise and maintain the armed forces.
- One of Congress's foremost non-legislative functions is the power to investigate and oversee the executive branch.
- Congress has the exclusive power of removal, allowing impeachment and removal of the president, federal judges, and other federal officers.
Women in Congress:
- Women have historically faced social and structural barriers in gaining seats in Congress.
- Women candidates began making substantial inroads in the later 20th century, due in part to new political support mechanisms and public awareness of their underrepresentation in Congress.
- Women of color faced additional challenges that made their ascension to Congress even more difficult.
- Senate elections, which require victories in statewide electorates, have been particularly difficult for women of color.
Checks and Balances:
- The Constitution provides checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government, with Congress expected to have the greater power.
- The presidency remains considerably more powerful today than during the 19th century.
- The Constitution concentrates removal powers in the Congress by empowering and obligating the House of Representatives to impeach executive or judicial officials.
- The Senate has an important check on the executive power by confirming Cabinet officials, judges, and other high officers.
- The Supreme Court can nullify a congressional law through judicial review, which is a huge check by the courts on the legislative authority and limits congressional power substantially.
- Constitutional responsibility for the oversight of Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories rests with Congress.
- Each territory and Washington, D.C., elects a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Washington, D.C., citizens alone among U.S. territories have the right to directly vote for the President of the United States.
- Congress has authority over financial and budgetary policy.
- The Constitution grants Congress the exclusive power to appropriate funds, and this power of the purse is one of Congress's primary checks on the executive branch.
- Generally, the Senate and the House of Representatives have equal legislative authority, although only the House may originate revenue and appropriation bills.
- Congress can establish post offices and post roads, issue patents and copyrights, fix standards of weights and measures, establish Courts inferior to the Supreme Court, and "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof".
- The Constitution also grants Congress the power to admit new states into the Union.
Congress also has implied powers deriving from the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause which permit Congress to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof".
Broad interpretations of this clause and of the Commerce Clause, the enumerated power to regulate commerce, in rulings such as McCulloch v. Maryland, have effectively widened the scope of Congress's legislative authority farOverview of the United States Congress
Congress generates an enormous amount of information and can be described as a publisher.
Congress counts electoral votes and has procedures in place if no candidate wins a majority.
Congress creates laws, which are contained in the United States Code.
Congress is split into two chambers (House and Senate) with separate committees that specialize in different areas.
Committees investigate specialized subjects and advise the entire Congress about choices and trade-offs.
Committees write legislation, and the House Ways and Means Committee has considerable influence over House affairs.
The Speaker of the House is the majority party's leader, and the Vice President is the ex officio president of the Senate.
The Library of Congress provides research to help Congress carry out its official duties.
The Congressional Budget Office provides economic data to Congress to help with budgeting.
Lobbyists represent diverse interests and often seek to influence congressional decisions.
Congress has alternated between periods of cooperation and compromise (bipartisanship) and periods of political polarization and fierce infighting (partisanship).
Bills go through several stages in each house, including consideration by a committee and advice from the Government Accountability Office, before becoming law.The Challenges of Congress
Incumbent members of Congress have strong advantages over challengers, raising more money and benefiting from gerrymandering.
Elections are expensive, with TV advertisements being the largest expense.
Campaign contributions are treated as a free speech issue, but critics argue that members of Congress are more likely to attend to the needs of heavy campaign contributors than ordinary citizens.
Negative advertising is used heavily in Congress, which can sour the public on the political process.
The percentage of Americans eligible to vote who actually vote has been falling, and public opinion polls asking people if they approve of the job Congress is doing have hovered around 25% with some variation.
Members of Congress provide services to constituents, helping citizens navigate government bureaucracies, which can make a difference in close races.
Members of Congress enjoy parliamentary privilege, including freedom from arrest in all cases except for treason, felony, and breach of the peace, and freedom of speech in debate.
Members of Congress receive an annual salary, with congressional leaders being paid more, and they have access to free or low-cost medical care in the Washington D.C. area.
Members of Congress are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, with the size of their pension depending on the years of service and the average of the highest three years of their salary.
Members of Congress make fact-finding missions to learn about other countries and stay informed, but these outings can cause controversy if the trip is deemed excessive or unconnected with the task of governing.
The Connecticut Compromise gave every state, large and small, an equal vote in the Senate, but since then, the population disparity between large and small states has grown, giving residents of smaller states more clout in the Senate than residents of larger states.
Congressional issues are becoming more technical and complex and require expertise in subjects such as science, engineering, and economics, which is causing Congress to cede authority to experts at the executive branch.
Do you know the ins and outs of the United States Congress? Test your knowledge with our quiz! From the powers of Congress to the challenges faced by its members, this quiz covers it all. You'll learn about the role of women in Congress, the checks and balances system, the powers of Congress, and more. Whether you're a political science student or just interested in the workings of the U.S. government, this quiz is a great way to challenge yourself and expand your knowledge. So,
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