The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct jasminlive election. Each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives represents a district and serves a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the members by population. Each state, regardless of population, has two senators; since there are fifty states, there are one hundred senators who serve six-year terms.
The terms are staggered, so every two years, approximately one-third of the visitors is up for election. While it's theoretically possible to have total turnover in the House every two years and in the lnippon border every six years, actual turnover is much less, since most incumbents seek re-election, and their historical likelihood of winning subsequent elections exceeds 90% from audience.
Article I of the Constitution states "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives." The House and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process––legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers. However, the Constitution grants each chamber some unique powers. The Senate ratifies treaties and approves top presidential appointments while the House initiates revenue-raising bills. The House initiates impeachment cases, while the Senate decides impeachment cases. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required before an impeached person can be forcibly removed from office.
The term congress can also refer to a particular meeting of the legislature. A "Congress" covers two years, and the current 112th Congress convened on January 3, 2011. A legislator in either house is a "member of Congress", though usually only representatives are referred to in speech as a congressman, congresswoman, or congressperson, because members of the Senate are almost universally referred to as senator.
Scholar and congressperson Lee Hamilton asserted that the "historic mission of Congress has been to maintain freedom" and insisted it was a "driving force in American government" and a "remarkably resilient institution."
Congress is the "heart and soul of our democracy", according to this view, even though legislators rarely achieve the prestige or name recognition of presidents or Supreme Court justices; one wrote that "legislators remain ghosts in America's historical imagination". One analyst argues that it is not a solely reactive institution but has played an active role in shaping government policy and is extraordinarily sensitive to public pressure. Several academics described Congress: Congress reflects us in all our strengths and all our weaknesses. Whenever you buy it reflects our regional idiosyncrasies, our ethnic, religious, and racial diversity, our multitude of professions, and our shadings of opinion on everything from the value of war to the war over values. Congress is the government's most representative body ... Congress is essentially charged with reconciling our many points of view on the great public policy issues of the day. Congress is constantly changing, constantly in flux.
In recent times, the American south and west have gained House seats according to demographic changes recorded by the census and includes more minorities and women although both groups are still underrepresented, according to one view. While power balances among the different parts of government continue to change, the internal structure of Congress is important to understand along with its interactions with so-called intermediary institutions such as political parties, civic associations, interest groups, and the mass media. Think of Congress as an automobile. While drivers of various skills can take the automobile in different directions on various types, the internal machinery of the vehicle plays a crucial role in determining how smooth the drive will be, as well as how far and fast the driver can go. All congresspersons serve two distinct purposes that sometimes overlap: representation of local interests and lawmaking for the national interest. There has been debate throughout American history about how to straddle these dual obligations of representing the wishes of citizens and those of the nation. Compromise is often required.
Pay and benefits of the Congress
From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a daily payment of $6 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815 of $1,500 per year. In 2006, congresspersons received a yearly salary of $165,200. Congressional leaders were paid $183,500 per year. The Speaker of the House of Representatives earns $212,100 annually. The salary of the President pro tempore for 2006 was $183,500, equal to that of the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. Privileges include having an office and paid staff. In 2008, non-officer members of Congress earned $169,300 annually. Some critics complain congressional pay is high compared with a median American income of $45,113 for men and $35,102 for women. Others have countered that congressional pay is consistent with other branches of government. Congress has been criticized for trying to conceal pay raises by slipping them into a large bill at the last minute.Others have criticized the wealth of members of Congress.
Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Like other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and participants' contributions.
Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3% of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2% of their salary in Social Security taxes. And like Federal employees, members contribute one-third of the cost of health insurance with the government covering the other two-thirds. The size of a congressional pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest three years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary. In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives under CSRS was $60,972, while those who retired under FERS, or in combination with CSRS, was $35,952. Congresspersons are encouraged to journey on fact-finding missions to learn about other countries and stay informed, but these outings can cause controversy if the trip is deemed excessive or unconnected with the task of governing. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported lawmaker trips abroad at taxpayer expense, which included spas, $300-per-night extra unused rooms, and shopping excursions. Lawmakers respond that "traveling with spouses compensates for being away from them a lot in Washington" and justify the trips as a way to meet officials in other nations.
United States congressional hearing
Congressional hearings are the principal formal method by which committees collect and analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking. Whether confirmation hearings - a procedure unique to the Senate - legislative, oversight, investigative, or a combination of these, all hearings share common elements of preparation and conduct. Hearings usually include oral testimony from witnesses, and questioning of the witnesses by members of Congress. George B. Galloway termed congressional hearings a goldmine of information for all the public problems of the United States. A leading authority on U.S. government publications has referred to the published hearings as "the most important publications originating within Congress."
The Senate Library in a similar vein noted "Hearings are among the most important publications originating in Congress." Hearings were not published generally until the latter part of the 19th Century, except some early hearings (generally of special investigative committees) were published in the series that are part of the Serial Set. Published hearings did not become available for purchase from the United States Government Printing Office until 1924 and were not distributed to depository libraries until 1938. Unlike the documents and reports that are compiled in the Serial Set "hearings do not constitute a real series" although in the modern era a trend toward uniformity of numbering has resulted in all Senate hearings and prints for each Congressional Session (commencing with the 98th Congress in 1983) being assigned a unique numerical designation (in the style of what one scholar dubbed a "combination code") published on the cover and title page (e.g. S. HRG. 110-113; S. PRT. 110-13).
A growing number of House Committees are assigning numerical or alphabetical designations for their publications (e.g. 110-35, 110-AA). The Law Library of Congress in a collaborative pilot project with Google is undertaking the digitizing of the Library's entire collection of printed hearings (constituting approximately 75,000 volumes). As of 2010 three collections (on the decennial Census, FOIA and Immigration) have been selectively compiled as a test. It is hoped the project will eventually provide full-text access of the entire collection which will be posted online by Google and the Library.
Necessary Term Limits in Congress
There is a crisis of epidemic portions in this country, and it continues to attack the American People. This growing epidemic has it ground zero in Washington, DC and it's center of origin is Congress. We have let greed and ambition run rampant in our nation's capital.
The every streamate visitor really hasn't taken the time to really look at the individuals in Congress, how long they have been in office and what they have done or not done for this country. The average American has been too busy trying to keep a roof over their head, food on the table and keeping their bills paid. We have been so busy trying to live our lives that we have let Congress and the White House get away with too much.
While generations past put term limits on the Office of the President, they did not have the fore site to do the same for members of Congress. That has unfortunately come back to haunt the current population and will continue to haunt future generations. Congress is no longer in the business of representing the American People, but in the business of greed, politic favor and lining their pockets. Greed and corruption are more common than honor and duty.
There have been members of Congress who have served for more than 50 years. While it is true that the voters put them there, you have to wonder if the American People would have been better served if their term of service had been limited to a total of terms. Perhaps there would have been less partisan and more bipartisan within both the House and Senate.
Special Interest Groups, huge campaign donations, back room deals, congressional hearings that are for show; all speak to Congress being out of control and out of touch. Lawyers make up the majority of Congress, with this type of majority, how can their truly represent the American People. Where are the doctors, business people, farmers and others who could speak for the populace. Why has campaign reform never been fully addressed? Could it be that money talks?
Congressional members receive a salary of between $150,000 to $250,000. That's quite a bit more then the Average American. They also receive a pension for life, even if they serve on a 2 year term. They vote themselves raises, without taxpayer consent. Our founding fathers served in Congress for NOTHING! They also didn't make it a career.
Congressional Leaders will never address this issue, because it's their job and they like the perks that go along with it. It's going to take the American People to voice their objections to this abuse of power. The American People need to vote out every incumbent and make Congress wake up and realize that change will happen.
Both major political parties need to realize that Americans across the country are tired of the lack of leadership that exists. Conservatives, Moderators and Liberals in both parties need a wake up call. Americans want real change, not the blame game that continues to play out in the media. Americans want their jobs back. The ones that Congress allowed to leave for foreign countries. We want our industrial base back. We want our elected representative to do their jobs or get out of the way and let real leaders take a shot at it. The American People are tired of "business as usually" mentality that seems to prevail in Congress and in Washington.
Politics can no longer be for. Every American, no matter where they live, need to become involved. We have to stop looking at skin color, religious preference or any other barrier. We need to become involved and informed. We need to be the people that we can be and the leaders that we need to be.
"An apple and an orange could go into a conference committee and come out a pear," so said President Ronald Reagan about the congressional conference committees. Few of us realize the power of these committees when it comes to crafting the legislation that had already passed both houses of Congress, but differed in content. These committees are formed to adjust the differences in the two chambers' bills. Each committee is ad hoc. The committees are formed when necessary either by the head of each chamber or by the heads of the involved committees. Use of these conference committees seems to be far worse and more pervasive than any tyranny of a filibuster by a different minority.
There is little restraint on what can happen in conference, especially in regards to the omnibus bills! Congress only started using legislation of the omnibus spending type in 1950. This was done to avoid fights over individual legislation for the funding of the different government branches. More intense lobbying would occur. Anything can be added or subtracted to these far-ranging pieces of legislation by the committee. Congress specifically passed rules that allowed conference committees to be free from the limitation of the legislation under consideration. Last year's omnibus highway bill of $388 billion was about 1,600 double-sided pages and weighed fourteen pounds. It arrived to the floors of both chambers a few hours before passage. Because of the timing and its huge content, congress members missed a provision that staff members of Congress could review all Americans' tax returns. Needless to say, many of the recently approved Federal governmental projects that we see around the country, such as: the multi-benefit projects in West Virginia, attributed to Robert Byrd or the bridge that goes no where in Alaska, recently approved are good examples of what the conference committees can get done.
We then have the secret gangs that Congress and the president use to determine legislation involving Social Security, budget cuts and tax reform. The recent gang of fourteen over the filibuster is another example of a few ruling the majority.
The original intent of our Founding Fathers was for each chamber to enact legislation and pass it on to the other chamber for its thoughts. Thus, a bill went back and forth until both houses passed it. It was only after the Civil War, when there was a flood of veterans' pension legislation that the conference committee evolved.
Today, there is a very small and limited group of congressional members that dictate the legislation that emanates from Congress. It has become a tyranny of the minority. The larger body of congress members that we all vote for are really impotent, unless they become so powerful that they can be appointed to these conference committees.