June 28, 2013

US Congress: History, Purpose, And How They Represent The People Of The US

In the history of the United States, the First Continental US Congress met in the fall of 1774. However, this was simply for the purpose of the first American colonies to compose a list of grievances to send to English King George III. It was actually, in April of 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, that the Second Continental Congress formed. It was convened on May 10, 1775 with 12 colonies.

us congress

On July 4, 1776, the Congress declared 13 states free and called them the ‘United States of America’ and governed until 1789. It governed the United States because there was no chief executive or president. It is interesting that the name Congressman evolved, starting out as Congress man, meaning they were for Congress and against the king.

In 1776 the Articles of Confederation were written, providing a weak government, but did not go into effect until 1781. Each state was equally represented but, with no judicial or executive branch, congress had virtually no legal jurisdiction over the states. They could not collect taxes, enforce laws or regulate interstate commerce.

It was in May of 1787, in Philadelphia, that the Articles of Confederation were discarded and the current two houses, the Senate and the House of representatives, were established. It was at this time that executive, legislative and judicial branches were formed. The first Presidential elections took place in 1789. At the turn of the 20th century there was a change in the constitution regarding election of senators. Under the Seventeenth Amendment Senators would have to be chosen by direct election, not by state governments.

This part of government consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representative. It is their responsibility to vote and write bills but there is some differences in their voting. A Senator has the privilege of voting on Presidential judicial nominees, a Representative does not. There are 100 Senators in (two for each state) regardless of the state’s population. The number of Representatives depends on the state’s population with 435 current members. Each state has at least one Representative. This is why census taking is so important for the states.

A Senator serves a six-year term while a Representative serves for two years. There is also a difference in age and citizenship requirements. A Senator must be 30 years old and have been a U. S. Citizen for at least nine years. A Representative must be 25 years old and have been a U. S. Citizen for seven years. Both must reside in the state they represent.

There are differences in which kinds of bills they can introduce, as well. Senators, for example, cannot introduce any bills to raise revenue, such as taxes. There has been a struggle, from the very beginning between two political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, for control of Congress. What this control means is that the party with the most votes can get legislation passed that the other party might not particularly agree with. Today there is much more dissension in this matter than there was at the beginning.

When a person casts their vote for a person running either for the Senate or the House of Representatives they are electing someone they believe will express their views when laws are being formed that will affect them and everyone else in the United States. The person elected to office is a personal representative of the voters who elected him or her and has sworn to support their views to the best of their ability.

Resource link: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/index.html

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