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American Politics

The United States Congress is composed of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Committees. The Senate consists of 100 members, two from each state, regardless of population or area, elected by the people in accordance with the 17th Amendment to the Constitution (Johnson). The members include the Senate President, President pro tempore, Majority/Minority leaders, and whips.

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The House of Representatives consist of 435 members, which include the Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and whips, elected every two years from among the 50 states, distributed to their total populations (Johnson).

There are different kinds of Committees in the United States Congress: Standing Committees, ad hoc committees, conference committees, and House Rules committees. According to Johnson, the Article 1, Section 1 of the United States Constitution states that only the Congress has the power to make laws and to write all the laws that are required to make the Constitution into implementation. The Congress has also the constitutional power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce. It has the sole authority to raise, finance and regulate forces of the military units and to declare war.

Moreover, Congress can alter the number of justices on the Supreme Court and can ascertain which cases the federal courts can hear by establishing limitations on their jurisdictions. It is Congress that played a role in the establishment of the departments, agencies, and bureaus that cover the majority of the executive branch. Most sources of legislation and proposed drafts of bills are conceived by a Member but may also come from various interest groups and private citizens and the President.

These sources may come from the election campaign during which the Member had promised, if elected, to introduce legislation on a particular subject (Johnson). In addition, the executive communication has turned into a source of legislative proposals, usually in the form of a message or letter from a member of the President’s Cabinet, the head of an independent agency, or the President himself (Johnson). These legislative proposals are then forwarded to Congress with a request for their enactment (Johnson). In the Senate, a Senator usually introduces a bill or resolution (Johnson).

If there is no objection, it is read by title and referred to the appropriate committee and is placed on the Calendar (Johnson). In the House of Representatives, the bill is assigned its legislative number and then referred to the appropriate committee. A committee will then ask the input of the relevant departments and agencies about a bill (Johnson). The committee may schedule a date for public hearings if the bill is of sufficient importance (Johnson). The subcommittee will consider the bill in a session, referred to as the markup session, after hearings are completed.

Bills are read for amendment in committee by section and members may offer amendments (Johnson). Bills will be given consideration by the entire Members of the House with adequate opportunity for debate and the proposing of amendments (Johnson). After passage or rejection of the bill by the House, the bill goes to the Senate for consideration. Votes on final passage may be taken by the electronic voting system. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall be presented to the United States President before it becomes a Law (Johnson).

If the President approves the bill, he/she signs it and usually writes the word approved and the date (Johnson). If the President does not approve the bill, he/she shall return it, with his/her objections to the House and proceed to reconsider it (Johnson). When a law has been enacted, it shall be made known to the people who are to be bound by it (Johnson). Reference Johnson, C. W. How Our Laws Are Made. Retrieved May 22, 2009, from http://www. senate. gov/reference/resources/pdf/howourlawsaremade. pdf.