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Congressthe federal legislature of the USA comprising two chambers: the Senate, made up of Senators, and the House of Representatives, made up of Representatives, or Congressmen and Congresswomen. The Congress represents the states. The Senators are elected on a state-wide basis and the Representatives on a district-wide basis. Legislative powers cover inter alia interstate and foreign commerce, federal tax, currency, the post, declarations of war, much commercial law and the establishment of the armed forces. So-called general clauses have allowed Congress, with the decisions of the Supreme Court, to be active in other areas. Statutes are passed by simple majority of both houses.
CONGRESS. This word has several significations. 1. An assembly of the
deputies convened from different governments, to treat of peace or of other
political affairs, is called a congress.
2. - 2. Congress is the name of the legislative body of the United States, composed of the senate and house of representatives. Const. U. S. art. 1, s. 1.
3. Congress is composed of two independent houses. 1. The senate and, 2. The house of representatives.
4.- 1. The senate is composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years, and each senator has one vote. They represent the states rather than the people, as each state has its equal voice and equal weight in the senate, without any regard to the disparity of population, wealth or dimensions. The senate have been, from the first formation of the government, divided into three classes; and the rotation of the classes was originally determined by lots, and the seats of one class are vacated at the end of the second year, and one-third of the senate is chosen every second year. Const. U. S. art 1, s. 3. This provision was borrowed from a similar one in some of the state constitutions, of which Virginia gave the first example.
5. The qualifications which the constitution requires of a senator, are, that he should be thirty years of age, have been nine years a citizen of the United States, and, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen. Art. 1, s. 3.
6.-2. The house of representatives is composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, who are qualified electors of the most numerous branch of the legislature of the state to which they belong.
7. No person can be a representative until he has attained the age of twenty-five years, and has been seven years a citizen of the United States, and is, at the time of his election, an inhabitant of the state in which he is chosen. Const. U. S. art. 1, Sec. 2.
8. The constitution requires that the representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states, which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. Art. 1, s. 1.
9. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one representative. Ib.
10. Having shown how congress is constituted, it is proposed here to consider the privileges and powers of the two houses, both aggregately and separately.
11. Each house is made the judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of its own members. Art. 1, s. 5. As each house acts in these cases in a judicial character, its decisions, like the decisions of any other court of justice, ought to be regulated by known principles of law, and strictly adhered to, for the sake of uniformity and certainty. A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as, each may provide. Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings; punish its members for disorderly behaviour; and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member. Each house is bound to keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time, publish the same, excepting such parts as may, in their judgment, require secrecy; and to enter the yeas and nays on the journal, on any question, at the desire of one-fifth of the members present. Art. 1, s. 5.
12. The members of both houses are in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to, and returning from the same. Art. 1, s. 6.
13. These privileges of the two houses are obviously necessary for their preservation and character; And, what is still more important to the freedom of deliberation, no member can be questioned in any other place for any speech or debate in either house. lb.
14. There is no express power given to either house to punish for contempts, except when committed by their own members, but they have such an implied power. 6 Wheat. R. 204. This power, however, extends no further than imprisonment, and that will continue no farther than the duration of the power that imprisons. The imprisonment will therefore terminate with the adjournment or dissolution of congress.
15. The house of representatives has the exclusive right of originating bills for raising revenue, and this is the only privilege that house enjoys in its legislative character, which is not shared equally with the other; and even those bills are amendable by the senate in its discretion. Art. 1, s. 7.
16. The two houses are an entire and perfect check upon each other, in all business appertaining to legislation and one of them cannot even adjourn, during the session of congress, for more than three days, without the consent of the either nor to any other place than that in which the two houses shall be sitting. Art. 1, s. 5.
17. The powers of congress extend generally to all subjects of a national nature. Congress are authorized to provide for the common defence and general welfare; and for that purpose, among other express grants, they have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises; to borrow money on the credit of the United States; to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indians; 1 McLean R. 257; to establish all uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws of bankruptcy throughout the United States; to establish post offices and post roads; to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for a limited time to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries; to constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court; to define and punish piracies on the high seas, and offences against the laws of nations; to declare war; to raise and support armies; to provide and maintain a navy; to provide for the calling forth of the militia; to exercise exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia; and to give full efficacy to the powers contained in the constitution.
18. The rules of proceeding in each house are substantially the same; the house of representatives choose their own speaker; the vice-president of the United States is, ex officio, president of the senate, and gives the casting vote when the members are equally divided. The proceedings and discussions in the two houses are generally in public.
19. The ordinary mode of passing laws is briefly this; one day's notice of a motion for leave to bring in a bill, in cases of a general nature, is required; every bill must have three readings before it is passed, and these readings must be on different days; and no bill can be committed and amended until it has been twice read. In the house of representatives, bills, after being twice read, are committed to a committee of the whole house, when a chairman is appointed by the speaker to preside over the committee, when the speaker leaves the chair, and takes a part in the debate as an ordinary member.
20. When a bill has passed one house, it is transmitted, to tho other, and goes through a similar form, though in the senate there is less formality, and bills are often committed to a select committee, chosen by ballot. If a bill be altered or amended in the house to which it is transmitted, it is then returned to the house in which it originated, and if the two houses cannot agree, they appoint a committee to confer on the subject See Conference.
21. When a bill is engrossed, and has received the sanction of both houses, it is sent to the president for his approbation. If he approves of the bill, he signs it. If he does not, it is returned, with his objections, to the house in which it originated, and that house enters the objections at large on their journal, and proceeds to re-consider it. If, after such re- consideration, two-thirds of the house agree to pass the bill, it is sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it is likewise re-considered, and if approved by two-thirds of that house, it becomes a law. But in all such cases, the votes of both houses are determined by yeas and nays; and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill, are to be entered on the journal of each house respectively.
22. If any bill shall not be returned by the president within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the congress, by their adjournment, prevent its return; in which case it shall not be a law. Art. 1, s. 7. See House of Representatives; President; Senate; Veto; Kent, Com. Lecture xi.; Rawle on the Const. ch. ix.
CONGRESS, med. juris. This name was anciently given in France, England, and other countries, to the-indecent intercourse between married persons, in the presence of witnesses appointed by the courts, in cases when the husband or wife was charged by the other with impotence. Trebuchet, Jurisp. de Med. 101 Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales, art. Congres, by Marc.