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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Does the Constitution Still Matter?

People who ask this question usually want to start a fight or are pathetically ignorant. Our Constitution emerged 225 years ago today. It matters as long as the United States exists. Yet Americans still argue about it, file lawsuits about it, claim to love it, and swear to uphold it. They accuse each other of violating it. But most have never READ IT. So let’s look at it.

The founders’ first attempt at creating a government in 1781, the Articles of Confederation, didn’t work very well. So six years later, they tried again and gave us the United States Constitution.

Fifty-five farmers and businessmen, serving as Constitutional Convention delegates, contributed their ideas. James Madison and Gouverneur Morris wrote most of the text, consisting of 4,400 words. The founders didn’t want to write an intricate daily operating manual. The Constitution is an outline for our government. Madison and Morris deliberately included some very general language.

The Constitution contains three parts – the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments.

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What is the Constitution Anyway?

Our schools don’t teach this stuff.

The U.S. Constitution has been in the news more in recent years than at any time that I can remember. Many Republicans have been throwing temper tantrums about the Constitution. They screech and whine and holler that they just love it eversomuch, but they’re usually wrong about what it says.

Schools used to teach “Civics”, which concerns the rules by which our governments are organized and how they operate. Then the schools stopped teaching civics for a while; it just wasn’t fashionable. Now, some schools teach it and some don’t. When they do teach it, they do it very poorly. And today, America has two generations of citizens who have no idea how our own government works. But that doesn’t stop them all from hollering at each other.

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http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/9198825/what_is_the_constitution_anyway.html?cat=37