(PatriotWise.com) – The Founding Fathers wanted a separation of powers, a system of checks and balances, so to speak. As such, they structured the US government into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial branches. While the legislative branch is known primarily for making laws, it’s not the only power it holds.
The Foundation of the Legislative Branch
Congress governs the legislative branch, which consists of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The citizens of each state elect the members of Congress to serve their interests. Senators are elected for 6-year terms, and serve the entire state, while Representatives serve their congressional district for 2 years. All in all, Congress consists of 100 senators, 2 for each state, and 435 representatives, where the state’s population determines the number of representatives for each state.
The legislative branch also includes several offices and special agencies that support Congress, such as the Government Accountability Office, Copyright Office, US Capitol Police, and others.
Making laws is the primary — and most recognizable — task the branch carries out. While anyone can propose an idea for a bill, only Congress can draft up a proposed law. It’s as simple as a member of either chamber introducing the bill and sponsoring it. From there, it goes to a committee, and then the chamber responsible for introducing the bill votes on it.
Once it passes both chambers, it goes to the president who can then sign it into law or veto it. If it’s vetoed, this is not the end. Rather, Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in each house.
The president cannot unilaterally decide to declare war. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 — also known as the War Powers Clause — bestows this power upon Congress. After a declaration, however, the president becomes the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
In addition to the above, the legislative branch has the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce. State and local governments regulate intrastate commerce. This branch is also in charge of taxation and spending policies.
While it’s primarily known as the branch that creates the laws governing the US, the truth is Congress holds a lot of power. Because citizens of the US elect officials to their positions, it’s extremely important to head to the polls not just during a presidential election, but during midterms, too, to have your voice heard and elect those who have your primary concerns at heart.
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