* Members of the public hold the institution in relatively low regard while expressing satisfaction with their individual representatives. * If the Federal bureaucracy makes a mistake, the senator’s or representative’s office tries to resolve the issue. What most Americans see of Congress, therefore, is the work of their own representatives in their home states. * Why Was Congress Created?
* Congress was created to work not just for local constituents but also for the nation as a whole. * The Founders of the American republic believed that the bulk of the power that would be exercised by a national government should be in the hands of the legislature. * The leading role envisioned for Congress in the new government is apparent from its primacy in the Constitution. * Article I deals with the structure, the powers, and the operation of Congress. * Bicameral legislature – Senate and House of Representatives * The two chambers of Congress reflected the social class biases of the founders. * They wished to balance the interests and the numerical superiority of the common citizens with the property interests of the less numerous landowners, bankers, and merchants. * This goal was achieved by providing in Sections 2 and 3 of Article I that members of the House of Representatives should be elected directly by “the people,” whereas members of the Senate were to be chosen by the elected representatives sitting in the state legislatures, who were more likely to be members of the elite. * With the passage of the 17th amendment in 1913, the Senators are also to be elected directly by the people. * The logic of separate constituencies and separate interests underlying the bicameral Congress was reinforced by differences in length of tenure. * Members of the House of Representatives are required to face the electorate every two years. * Senators could serve for a much more secure term of six years – even longer than the four-year term provided for the President. * Terms are staggered so that only 1/3 of the senators would face the electorate every two years, along with all of the House members. * The Powers of Congress
* The Constitution is both highly specific and extremely vague about the powers that Congress may exercise. * The first 17 clauses of Article I, Section 8, specify most of the enumerated powers of Congress – that is, powers expressly given to that body. * The right to impose taxes and import tariffs (one of the most important of the domestic powers) * Borrow money
* Regulate interstate commerce and international trade (one of he most important of the domestic powers) * Establish procedures for naturalizing citizens
* Make laws regulating bankruptcies
* Coin and print money and regulate its value
* Establish standards of weights and measures
* Punish counterfeiters
* Establish post routes
* Regulate copyrights and patents
* Establish the federal court system
* Punish pirates and other committing illegal acts on the high seas * Declare war (most important foreign policy power) * Raise and regulate an army and a navy
* Call up and regulate the state militias to enforce laws, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions * Govern the District of Columbia
* Congress is also able to establish rules for its own members, to regulate the electoral college, and to override a presidential veto. * Some functions are restricted to only one chamber. * Under Article II, Section2, the Senate must advise on, and consent to, the ratification of treaties and must accept or reject presidential nominations of ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and “all other...