Robert Menendez

US Senator for New Jersey
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How Congress Works

As a compromise between the big states and the small states during the drafting of the constitution, the founding fathers divided the legislative branch into two parts — the Senate and the House of Representatives, which together form the United States Congress.

Each state gets two Senators, so Robert is one of one hundred Senators. Each state is divided into a number of districts according to its population.

Congress' main job is to pass laws for the United States. A law begins as a bill written by a representative or a Senator. It first goes to a committee, which is much smaller than either the Senate or the House as a whole. The members of the committee hold hearings to learn more about the issue and may change the bill. Next they take a vote, and if the bill passes it goes to either the entire House or the entire Senate depending on whether it was written by a Senator or a Representative.

If it passes, the bill then goes to the other half of the Congress for a vote. If they pass the bill, then the President must decide to sign it into law or to veto it. If the President vetoes the bill, the Congress can vote to override the President's veto, but this requires the votes of two-thirds of the members of both houses.

In addition, the Senate must vote on the President's choices for who should be federal judges and for other important jobs in the federal government like the Attorney General or Ambassadors to foreign countries. The Constitution says that these choices — called "nominations" — must be made with "the advice and consent" of the Senate. After the President nominates someone, the Senators vote whether or not to allow the person to have the job. This process is known as "confirmation."

Agreements and treaties that the President makes with the leaders of other countries also must be voted on by the Senate.

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