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When the Constitution of the United States was crafted by the Founding Fathers, it was divided into 7 unique sections, or “articles”. These 7 articles each laid the foundation for a specific aspect of the American government. Article One of the Constitution laid the foundation for the United States Congress, which is the legislative branch of the federal government. This branch is tasked with the creation of new laws, or legislation. In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about Article One of the Constitution.
According to the foundation set forth in Article One of the Constitution, the United States Congress is a bicameral legislature. “Legislature” is another word for an assembly, or group of people tasked with deliberation. “Bicameral” means that this legislature has two distinct bodies, with these bodies being known as the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is known as the “lower house” of the United States Congress and the Senate is known as the “upper house”. The Senate has more power and more limited membership.
As the lower house of the bicameral United States Congress, the House of Representatives is tasked with the initial passing of federal legislation in the form of proposed “bills”. Once these bills are approved by the House of Representatives, they will then need to be approved by the Senate. The House of Representatives, as the name would suggest, features representatives from every state in the country. The amount of representatives is determined by the population of each state, with states with larger populations having a greater number of representatives.
As the upper house of the bicameral United States Congress, the Senate is the second deliberative body that bills will have to pass through before they make it to the desk of the Commander In Chief, or the president of the United States. The Senate is a much smaller body than the House of Representatives, and is much harder to become a part of. The vice president of the United States is in charge of the Senate, which is made out of representatives from each state, similarly to the House of Representatives.
The reason that Article One of the Constitution specifically lays the foundation for the United States Congress to be a bicameral legislative branch is that it allows for checks and balances in regards to what laws get passed. If one body was given autonomy, they could theoretically pass any laws they wanted. If that body were to become compromised or corrupt, there would be no other body to keep them in check.
The point of Article One is to ensure that only fair laws are allowed to become federal legislation. This system of checks and balances existing within the smaller microcosm of the legislative branch of the government mirrors the checks and balances that occur between the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches that make up the United States government as a whole. The Founding Fathers aimed to include as many checks and balances in the Constitution as possible in order to prevent the government from being corrupt.
Besides laying the foundation for this bicameral legislature and defining what these two bodies are tasked with doing, Article One of the Constitution also explicitly details how these two separate bodies are to be staffed. The terms for becoming a member of either the House of Representatives or the Senate are thoroughly explained in Article One, and both require some unique qualifications that aim to make it so only those who are truly up to the task of making important legislative decisions are allowed to join.
According to the terms put forth in Article One of the Constitution, members of the House of Representatives are to be elected once every two years. As addressed earlier, the number of seats available is determined by the current population of each state.
The terms set forth for staffing the Senate are slightly more strict, as the Senate has a slight increase in power over the House of Representatives. Instead of the number of representatives being determined based on population, every state is given two senators no matter what. This makes it so that states with lower, or more thoroughly dispersed, populations are not silenced by states with higher, or more condensed, populations. Each senator serves a six year term. Although Article One originally dictated that senators were supposed to be elected by the state legislatures themselves, senators are now elected directly by the general population of each state.
The remaining sections of Article One of the Constitution establish the specific goals and powers of the United States Congress and it’s two distinct branches. The United States Congress is given the autonomy to police it’s own elections, as well as police it’s own members by punishment or expulsion. The Constitution also sets forth how members of the United States Congress are to be compensated.
Section 7 of Article One of the United States dictates how bills are passed through the House of Representatives, then through the Senate, and finally make it to the desk of the president of the United States. The president has veto power, which means that the president can choose not to pass said bill into law. If the president agrees with the bill, they will sign it and the bill will be passed into law.
Sections 8, 9, and 10 give the United States Congress a few more important powers, such as the power to print and regulate money, the power to establish post offices, the power to establish federal courts beneath their own jurisdiction, and, perhaps most importantly, the power to declare war. While the Constitution of the United States was very careful in giving no single branch of the United States government total power, it certainly bestows a good deal of power on it’s legislative branch. Understanding all of the ramifications of the terms set forth in Article One are incredibly important, then, for understanding all of the United States Congress’ many powers.