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1. An assembly of the deputies convened from different governments, to treat of peace or of other political affairs, is called a congress.
2. This name was anciently given in France, England and other countries, to the indecent intercourse between married persons in the presence of witnesses appointed by the courts, in cases when the husband or wife was charged by the other with impotence.
3. The name of the legislative body of the United States and is composed of two independent houses; the Senate and the House Of Representatives. U.S. Constitution, Art.1, s.1.
The Senate is composed of two senators from each state serving for six years. They were originally chosen by each state's legislature, but after constitution amendment, are now elected by popular vote. Each senator has one vote. They theoretically represent the states rather than the people, as each state has its equal voice and equal weight in the Senate, without any regard to the disparity of population, wealth or dimensions. The Senate has, from the first formation of the government, been divided into three classes, with the rotation of the classes originally determined by lots. The seats of one class are vacated at the end of the second year and one-third of the Senate is chosen every second year. Art.1, s.3. This provision was borrowed from a similar one in some of the state constitutions.
The qualifications the Constitution requires of a senator are that he should be thirty years of age, been nine years a citizen of the United States, and when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen. Art.1, s.3. The House Of Representatives is composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, who are qualified electors of the state in which they reside.
No person can be a representative until he has attained the age of twenty-five years, has been seven years a citizen of the United States and is an inhabitant of the state in which he is chosen at the time of his election. Art.1, s.2.
The Constitution, as amended, requires that the representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers of citizens, but each state shall have at least one representative.. Art.1, s.1.
Each house is made the judge of the election, returns and qualifications of its own members. Art.1, s.5. As each house acts in these cases in a judicial character, its decisions, like the decisions of any other court of justice, ought to be regulated by known principles of law and strictly adhered to for the sake of uniformity and certainty. A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as each may provide. Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings; punish its members for disorderly behaviour; and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member. Each house is bound to keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time, publish the same, excepting such parts as may, in their judgment, require secrecy; and on any question, to enter the yeas and nays on the journal, at the desire of one-fifth of the members present. Art.1, s.5.
The members of both houses are in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same. Art.1, s.6.
These privileges of the two houses are obviously necessary for their preservation and character, but even more important to the freedom of deliberation is that no member can be questioned in any other place for any speech or debate in either house. lb.
There is no express power given to either house to punish for contempts, except when committed by their own members, but they have such an implied power. This power, however, extends no further than imprisonment, and that will continue no farther than the duration of the power that imprisons. The imprisonment will therefore terminate with the adjournment or dissolution of congress.
The House Of Representatives has the exclusive right of originating bills for raising revenue, and this is the only privilege that house enjoys in its legislative character which is not shared equally with the other; and even those bills are amendable by the Senate in its discretion. Art.1, s.7.
The two houses are an entire and perfect check upon each other, in all business appertaining to legislatiou and one of them cannot even adjourn, during the session of congress, for more than three days, without the consent of the either nor to any other place than that in which the two houses shall be sitting. Art.1, s.5.
The powers of Congress extend generally to all subjects of a national nature. It is authorized to provide for the common defence and general welfare; and for that purpose, among other express grants, they have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises; to borrow money on the credit of the United States; to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states and with the Indians; to establish all uniform rules of naturalization and laws of bankruptcy throughout the United States; to establish post offices and post roads; to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for a limited time to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries; to constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court; to define and punish piracies on the high seas, and offences against the laws of nations; to declare war; to raise and support armies; to provide and maintain a navy; to provide for the calling forth of the militia; to exercise exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia; and to give full efficacy to the powers contained in the Constitution.
The rules of proceeding in each house are substantially the same; the House Of Representatives choose their own speaker; the vice-president of the United States is, ex officio, president of the senate, and gives the casting vote when the members are equally divided. The proceedings and discussions in the two houses are generally in public.
The ordinary mode of passing laws is, within the provisions of the Constitution, subject to each house's ever-changing rules, but is briefly and generally; one day's notice of a motion for leave to bring in a bill, in cases of a general nature, is required; every bill must have three readings before it is passed and these readings must be on different days; and no bill can be committed and amended until it has been twice read. In the House Of Representatives, after being read twice, bills are committed to a committee of the whole house with a chairman appointed by the speaker to preside over the committee when the speaker leaves the chair and takes a part in the debate as an ordinary member.
When a bill has passed one house, it is transmitted to the other and goes through a similar form. If a bill be altered or amended in the house to which it is transmitted it is then returned to the house in which it originated. If the two houses cannot agree they appoint a committee to confer on the subject.
When a bill is engrossed and has received the sanction of both houses, it is sent to the president for his approbation. If he approves of the bill, he signs it. If he does not, it is returned with his objections, to the house in which it originated, and that house enters the objections at large on their journal and proceeds to re-consider it. If, after such re-consideration, two-thirds of the house agree to pass the bill, it is sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it is likewise re-considered and if approved by two-thirds of that house, it becomes a law. But in all such cases the votes of both houses are determined by yeas and nays; and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill are to be entered on the journal of each house respectively.
If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress, by their adjournment, prevent its return; in which case it shall not be a law. Art.1, s.7.