In this section, you will learn about:
Representatives in the U.S. Congress
How to identify and contact your representative
The role of committees in the legislative process
The names and jurisdictions of the committees in the House of Representatives
The House Leadership offices and their duties in Congress
First, let's take a look at the role of Congress and the
U.S. government and their effects on American lives, including
What form of government does the United States have?
Under its Constitution, the United States is a federal, representative,
democratic republic at the local, state, and national levels.
- Federal because power is shared by the local,
state, and national governments
- Representative because delegates are elected by the
people by free and secret ballot
- Democratic because the people govern themselves
- Republican because the U.S. government derives its
power from the will of the people
What is the citizen's role in our government?
The U.S. government is the basis for a participatory
democracy, which Abraham Lincoln described as a government
made "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Under the Constitution, U.S. citizens have the right to influence public policy. In addition to this, citizens have constitutional responsibilities,
such as obeying laws and paying taxes.
The right to vote allows citizens to help choose the officials
who will determine public policy. Another way citizens can participate
in the electoral process is by contributing their time and money
to campaigns to help nominate and elect the candidates they support.
The active role of the citizen in the electoral process helps to
ensure the legitimacy of a government based on democratic principles.
What is Congress?
Article I of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress
will consist of two separate houses. A lawmaking body with two
houses is called a bicameral legislature. The two houses that
make up the U.S. Congress are the House of Representatives and
Congress is the primary lawmaking body
in the U.S. government. To solve problems,
Members of Congress introduce legislative proposals called bills
or resolutions. After considering these
proposals, Members vote to adopt or to reject them. Members of
Congress also review the work of executive agencies to determine
if they are following government policy, and may introduce
new legislation based on what they discover.
How are laws passed?
Bills accepted by both houses of Congress and by the
President become law. When the President vetoes
a bill and returns it to Congress, Congress reviews the reasons
for the rejection but may still act to pass the bill. The U.S.
Constitution allows Congress to override the President's
veto with a two-thirds majority vote of both the House and the
What is the role of the Internet in our legislative process?
The Internet has made it possible for our government to interact with the
public in new and exciting ways. Using the Internet, the government can:
- Publish congressional proceedings more frequently
- Post the status of bills
- Publish legislative work schedules and official government records online
- Update legislative news hourly, or even post it immediately
- Display notices of public meetings and hearings
- Show the result of roll call votes on websites
- Enable citizens to express their views by e-mailing elected officials