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?