Role of Parliament in Germany

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  • Topic: Germany, Bundestag, Parliament
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  • Published : February 13, 2013
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BUNDESTAG:
This article is about the current parliament of Germany. For the governing body of the Germany. Confederation from 1815 to 1866, see Bundesversammlung (German Confederation). Confederation from 1815 to 1866, see Bundesversammlung (German Confederation). The Bundestag (Federal Diet; pronounced [ˈbʊndəstaːk]) is a legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag was established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier Reichstag. It meets in the Reichstag Building in Berlin. Norbert Lammert is the current President of the Bundestag. With the new constitution of 1949, the Bundestag was established as the new (West) German parliament. Because West Berlin was not officially under the jurisdiction of the Constitution and because of the Cold War, the Bundestag met in Bonn in several different buildings, including (provisionally) a former water works facility. In addition, owing to the city's legal status, citizens of West Berlin were unable to vote in elections to the Bundestag, and were instead represented by 20 non-voting delegates, indirectly elected by the city's House of Representatives.

The Bundeshaus in Bonn is the former Parliament Building of Germany. The sessions of the German Bundestag were held there from 1949 until its move to Berlin in 1999. Today it houses the International Congress Centre Bundeshaus Bonn and in the north areas the branch office of the Bundesrat (upper house). The southern areas became part of German offices for the United Nations in 2008.

The former Reichstag building housed a history exhibition (Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte) and served occasionally as a conference center. The Reichstag building was also occasionally used as a venue for sittings of the Bundestag and its committees and the Bundesversammlung, the body which elects the German Federal President. However the Soviets harshly protested against the use of the Reichstag building by institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany and tried to disturb the sittings by flying supersonic jets close to the building.

Since 1999, the German parliament has again assembled in Berlin in its original Reichstag building, which dates from the 1890s and underwent a significant renovation under the lead of British architect Sir Norman Foster. Parliamentary committees and subcommittees, public hearings and faction meetings take place in three auxiliary buildings, which surround the Reichstag building: the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus, Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus.

Together with the Bundesrat, the Bundestag is the legislative branch of the German political system.

Although most legislation is initiated by the executive branch, the Bundestag considers the legislative function its most important responsibility, concentrating much of its energy on assessing and amending the government's legislative program. The committees (see below) play a prominent role in this process. Plenary sessions provide a forum for members to engage in public debate on legislative issues before them, but they tend to be well attended only when significant legislation is being considered.

The Bundestag members are the only federal officials directly elected by the public; the Bundestag in turn elects the Chancellor and, in addition, exercises oversight of the executive branch on issues of both substantive policy and routine administration. This check on executive power can be employed through binding legislation, public debates on government policy, investigations, and direct questioning of the chancellor or cabinet officials. For example, the Bundestag can conduct a question hour (Fragestunde), in which a government representative responds to a previously submitted written question from a member. Members can ask related questions during the question hour. The questions can concern...
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