The chief job of the House of Representatives—aka, “the House”– is to represent the interests of the people—those American citizens that vote and elect each representative. Compare this to the role of the Senate: to represent the interests of each state.
The U.S. House of Representatives makes up one half of Congress. The other half is made up by the Senate. Together they are also known as the legislative branch of government—the part that introduces and handles laws and amendments to laws.
At any one time the House has a variable number of representatives. Unlike the Senate, which has 2 senators from each state, the number of representatives per state depends on its population, but all must have at least one. The more populous the state—like Florida or California—the greater the number of representatives.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution, defines the unique powers of both the Senate and the House. Despite the fact that there is some overlap in responsibility, there are key differences in powers.
According to the Constitution the U.S. House of Representatives has the following key powers:
- Power to set in motion impeachment proceedings (it is up to the Senate to bring those proceedings into a trial setting). For example, had Richard Nixon not resigned his position as president for his role in Watergate, the House would likely have voted (a majority) to impeach him, at which point any formal proceedings would have moved to the Senate.
- Power to elect the President of the United States. This would only happen if electoral votes were tied. The Senate has the power to do the same with the office of Vice President. Of course it cannot choose randomly, but must select from candidates with the most electoral votes.
- Power to introduce laws and legislation that specifically deal with revenue and taxes. Because revenue and taxes are issues closely related to their constituents or the people that voted for them, the House is granted the power to introduce these.
- Power to introduce laws and legislation other than revenue-related, but this is also a power shared with the Senate.
- Power to participate in Joint Committees alongside senate members, such as the Joint Committee on Taxation or Joint Economic Committee.
About the U.S. House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives is broken down into a number of parts and roles:
- Of the Leadership Offices, by far the most familiar is that of the Speaker of the House. This role is given to a senior leader of the majority party, usually a key Democrat or Republican, who is voted in by his/her fellow party-members.
- Committees are used to distribute advisory responsibilities among members and logically separate topics of business, such as agriculture, finance, transportation, and energy.
- Special committees may be created to deal with current issues, for example, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
- There are additional organizations and commissions.
For more information, including a list of current committees and a House Calendar, visit House.gov. [http://www.house.gov/Welcome.shtml ]