The United States Congress: Myths and Facts

Too many Americans don’t know what Congress is, or how it works.

Congress has most of the political power in the United States. Public support for Congress has reached another all-time low. Our disapproval should be based in reality, not in fantasy, rumor, or ignorance. Our schools don’t bother to teach this stuff.

What’s a Congress?
The Constitution requires that a new “Congress” convene every two years. Members are elected in November of even-numbered years and the new Congress opens in the following January. There are two sessions of each Congress; each lasts one year. The first Congress assembled in 1789. The 113th Congress opened in January 2013 and will close in January 2015, when the 114th Congress will open.

All of the bills that were pending before a Congress, but not passed, expire when that Congress ends. Anything that didn’t pass will have to be re-introduced.

Somehow, a lot of Americans got the idea that there is something called “Congress and the Senate”.  There is not. After the Preamble, the very first section of the United States Constitution defines Congress. US Constitution, Article I, Section 1:

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.

Yes, folks. Congress consists of the House AND the Senate. They are called the two “houses” or “chambers” of Congress.

And yes, ALL legislative powers. Presidents do not make laws. Government agencies do not make laws. Corporations do not make laws.  Political parties do not make laws.  Members of Congress make laws.  And we need to hold them accountable for the laws they make – or don’t make.  The Constitution does permit Presidents to issue Executive Orders and executive branch agencies to issue regulations, but those are not laws.

There is no limit to the number of terms that members of Congress can serve. They serve until they retire, die, or the voters elect someone else.

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How a Federal Government Shutdown Affects You

Here We Go Again.

News reports have been chattering about a possible government shutdown since July. Both Democrats and Republicans have been posturing and saber-rattling and making a lot of noise, but none of them bother to explain what that means for the public.

First, some background. Each federal fiscal, or budget, year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. Fiscal year 2013 began on October 1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2013. Fiscal year 2014 will begin on October 1, 2013. Federal law requires Congress and the president to agree on a final budget before each fiscal year begins. They couldn’t reach that agreement in 2012, so the United States government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions since October 1. That means that the government can keep operating and paying its bills temporarily. When there is no funding, federal law requires the government to cease all non-emergency activities. The current resolution ends on Monday, September 30.

While it’s possible to operate on continuing resolutions, and without a real budget, indefinitely, it has been unlikely until now. The politicians usually make noise until one side or the other blinks. It appears that the Democrats have finally grown a spine and won’t give in this time.  But I could be wrong. Contrary to what many believe, the Constitution does not give all budgetary power to the House of Representatives or require budget bills to begin in the House. It doesn’t even require that Congress produce an annual budget. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 does that, but not the Constitution.

Until we have a budget, the Republicans threaten to block new continuing resolutions and shut down the federal government unless the Democrats agree to eliminate all funding for the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. President Obama has said that he will veto any bill which does that.

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The 113th Congress Opens for Business

Just What is a “Congress” Anyway?

 

Every two years, Congress reboots. Like a bright New Year’s Day, it’s fresh, and clean, and brief. The 113th Congress assembled on Thursday, January 3 – a day for family and tradition, smiles and handshakes. They’ll return to the backstabbing soon enough.

For some reason, many Americans think that “Congress” is only the House of Representatives. It is not. Article I, Section 1 of the United States Constitution says:

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.

That means that Congress makes the national laws and authorizes all federal spending. Yes, that’s right. The president can’t spend a dime without Congressional approval.

The Constitution requires that a new “Congress” convene every two years. In even-numbered years, every one of the 435 House seats and one-third of the 100 Senate seats, called a “class”, are up for election in November. The new Congress opens early in the following January. There are two sessions of each Congress; each lasts one year. The first Congress was elected in 1788 and assembled in 1789. The 112th Congress officially closed at noon on Thursday, January 3, 2013 and the 113th Congress opened moments later. The second session of the 113th will open in January 2014.

WHY don’t Americans know this stuff?

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http://voices.yahoo.com/the-113th-congress-opens-business-11963389.html

 

Nationwide Grassroots Project Will Amend U.S. Constitution to End Corporate Power in Elections

Restore American democracy. Corporations are not people.

Who inspires you? Abolitionists? Suffragists? Union organizers? Civil rights workers? Peace activists? Occupiers? They all have one thing in common. They were ordinary people faced with extraordinary injustice. Then they stood up, walked out of their comfort zones, and into history. They made the world better for all of us. Now we can all join them. 

Thanks to our right-wing activist Supreme Court, corporations and billionaires now legally and proudly own our politicians. Our elected representatives no longer have to pretend that they give two hoots about us. Americans’ confidence in our public institutions is at an all-time low. But there is a way to turn things around. There are people already working on it. And we need your help.

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http://voices.yahoo.com/nationwide-grassroots-project-will-amend-us-constitution-11090618.html?cat=9

 

 

What’s a Filibuster?

There is no such thing as a “filibuster-proof majority”

In his State of the Union address to Congress last week, President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Senate to amend or abolish its filibuster rules to break the Congressional gridlock. Don’t hold your breath. Neither party wants to change those rules because they always benefit the minority party, and each party will have its turn in that position.

You won’t find filibusters in the U.S. Constitution, but they are constitutional. Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 authorizes the House and Senate to make their own operating rules. Senate rules permit filibusters on the bills it considers. House of Representatives rules do not permit filibusters. The term first appeared in politics in the 1850s.

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State of the Union Address is Tradition, Not Law

Every year at this time, the president delivers his State of the Union address to a special joint session of Congress. President Obama will do so Tuesday night at 9:00 PM. The usual fanfare will accompany the event. Teevee talking heads will begin gushing and gossiping as early as 6:00. The U.S. Constitution divides our government into three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The courts are the judicial branch. Congress is the Legislative, or law-making, branch. The president heads the Executive, or management branch. The cabinet departments manage the nation’s daily business under the president’s direction. The president is the nation’s chief executive officer, just like the CEO of a large corporation. Eighteenth century communications weren’t quite as fast or thorough as they are today. So our founders required the president to report to Congress occasionally on how the nation was doing. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution says: He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. . . .

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http://voices.yahoo.com/state-union-address-tradition-not-law-10873589.html?cat=37

 

Presidential Czars and the U.S. Constitution

 One of the most absurd tools that the Republicans use in their distraction campaign  against us is the incessant whining about President Obama’s “czars”. Because the monarchs of imperial Russia were called czars, they assume that you will believe that anyone associated with that title is a communist and, therefore, evil. Yes, that’s what they think of you.

The term dates back as far as President Woodrow Wilson’s administration during World War I, but it has never been the official title for a presidential adviser. It is purely a creation of the media. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has appointed special advisers, which the media have termed “czars” because the actual job titles are too long for newspaper headlines. 

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http://voices.yahoo.com/presidential-czars-us-constitution-10796905.html?cat=37