Congressional Legislation

Capitol Hill

The United States Constitution created a new government for the United States with three separate branches with unique responsibilities.  The legislative branch makes the laws for the federal government.  The framers of the Constitution created a bicameral Congress, similar to Britain’s Parliament, but the two houses were created for a different reason in America.

The House of Representatives is based on population;  the more people that live in a state, the more Representatives they get.  Representatives serve two-year terms.  The other house is called the Senate and it has equal representation: two from each state.  The Senate was given the more important jobs in the Constitution and its members serve six-year terms.

To create a law, a bill–or proposed law–is brought up in the House of Representatives.  Because of the number of suggested laws, all bills have to make it through Congressional committees before they are considered by the House.  If the bill makes it out of committee, then it gets debated on the floor of the House and eventually gets voted on.  If it passes, meaning a majority of the Representatives vote for it, the bill gets sent to the Senate.

The same process takes place in the Senate.  The bill must go through committee, then get discussed on the floor of the Senate and must get over 50% of the Senators to vote for it.  But the bill still isn’t a law yet because of the system of checks and balances.

The bill then goes to the President of the United States.  The President can choose to sign it, making it a law, or veto it.  When it gets vetoed, Congress has an opportunity to override a Presidential veto if they can get 2/3 of the House and the Senate to vote for it, but this rarely happens.

Sometimes a bad law makes it through this process.  The Supreme Court, using the power of judicial review, can strike down the laws for being unconstitutional if they get brought before them.  This often happens far later than when the laws was originally enacted.

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

Embargo Act of 1807

Missouri Compromise of 1820

Indian Removal Act of 1830

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854

Homestead Act of 1862

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Interstate Commerce Act of 1887

Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890

Meat Inspection Act of 1906

Pure Food and Drug Act of 1905

Federal Reserve Act of 1913

Espionage Act of 1917

National Origins Act of 1924

Social Security Act of 1935

Wagner Act/National Labor Relations Act of 1935

Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944

Interstate Highway Act of 1956

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Civil Rights Act of 1968

Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1972 (Title IX)

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

North American Free Trade Agreement of 1992

Patriot Act of 2001

Affordable Care Act of 2010

U. S. History and Government Regents Review 


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