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About Congress


The term congress not only refers to the collective legislative body, but also to a specific two-year period. For example, the congress for the years 2011-2012 is also called the 112th U.S. Congress.

The composition of the House is established by Article One of the United States Constitution. The House is composed of representatives who sit in congressional districts that are allocated to each of the 50 states on a basis of population as measured by the U.S. Census, with each district entitled to one representative. Since its inception in 1789, all representatives have been directly elected. The total number of voting representatives is fixed by law at 435. As of the 2010 Census, the largest delegation is that of California, with fifty-three representatives. Seven states have only one representative: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

As a check on the regional, popular, and rapidly changing politics of the House, the Senate has several distinct powers. For example, the "advice and consent" powers (such as the power to approve treaties and confirm members of the Cabinet) are a sole Senate privilege. The House, however, has the exclusive power to initiate bills for raising revenue, to impeach officials, and to choose the president in the event that a presidential candidate fails to get a majority of the Electoral College votes.
The Senate and House are further differentiated by term lengths and the number of districts represented: the Senate has longer terms of six years, fewer members (currently one hundred, two for each state), and (in all but seven delegations) larger constituencies per member. The Senate is informally referred to as the "upper" house, and the House of Representatives as the "lower" house.

How Congress Select ?


The United States House of Representatives, commonly referred to as "the House," is the lower house of the U.S. Congress. Each state receives representation in the House in proportion to its population but is entitled to at least one representative. The total number of voting representatives is currently fixed at 435.
There are also five delegates and one resident commissioner, who do not have full voting rights. House representatives serve two-year terms.

According to the U.S. Constitution, representatives must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 25 years old

  • Be a U.S. citizen for at least seven years

  • Be a resident of the state he or she represents

Do You Know ?

After extensive debate, the framers of the Constitution agreed to create the House with representation based on population and the Senate with equal representation.

U.S. Constitution


All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The formation and powers of Congress are laid out in ten sections of Article I of the United States Constitution:

  • Section 1: Gives all legislative powers to Congress

  • Section 2: Defines the basic formation of the House of Representatives and the qualifications for its members

  • Section 3: Defines the basic formation of the Senate and the qualifications for its members

  • Section 4: Defines how elections are held

  • Section 5: Defines how legislative meetings should be conducted

  • Section 6: Gives compensation for services to members, provides certain freedoms from arrest during sessions, limits membership in other civil offices

  • Section 7: Defines how bills originate and become law

  • Section 8: Lists specific powers granted to Congress

  • Section 9: Provides limits to certain powers

  • Section 10: Limits certain powers of the states



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About Congress

The term congress not only refers to the collective legislative body, but also to a specific two-year period. For example, the congress for the years 2011-2012 is also called the 112th U.S. Congress.


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