The United States Congress has several primary roles and responsibilities as the legislative branch of the federal government.
Its functions are defined by the U.S. Constitution and encompass a wide range of duties.
Here are the key roles and responsibilities of Congress:
- Congress is responsible for creating, amending, and passing federal laws. Members of Congress introduce bills, which are proposals for new laws or changes to existing laws. These bills go through a legislative process, including committee review, debate, and voting. For a bill to become law, it must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- Congress serves as a representative body, with members elected to represent the interests and concerns of their constituents. In the House of Representatives, members represent specific geographic districts, while Senators represent entire states. This representation allows the views and needs of the people to be heard and considered at the federal level.
- Congress has the power of oversight, which involves monitoring and investigating the actions and operations of the executive branch, including the President and federal agencies. Congress ensures that the executive branch is following the law and serving the interests of the people. Oversight activities include holding hearings, conducting investigations, and requesting documents and information.
- Budget and Appropriations:
- Congress controls federal spending and the budget. It authorizes and appropriates funds for government operations, including programs, agencies, and the military. The power of the purse allows Congress to allocate funds and determine government priorities.
- The Senate has the constitutional authority to confirm presidential appointments to key positions within the federal government. This includes approving federal judges, members of the President’s cabinet, and other high-ranking officials. The confirmation process ensures that qualified individuals are appointed to important positions.
- The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach federal officials, including the President, Vice President, and judges. Impeachment is the process of charging an official with misconduct or wrongdoing. If the House approves articles of impeachment, the Senate conducts an impeachment trial, with a two-thirds majority vote required for removal from office.
- Declare War:
- The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war. This means that only Congress has the authority to formally initiate armed conflict or military interventions, ensuring that this important decision is made collectively.
- Amendment and Repeal:
- Congress has the authority to amend, repeal, or replace laws, including those previously passed by earlier sessions of Congress. This ensures that laws can be adapted to changing circumstances and public sentiment.
- Investigative Powers:
- Congress can conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and hold hearings on a wide range of issues. These investigations can address potential wrongdoing, failures in government programs, or the need for new legislation.
- Treaty Ratification:
- The Senate plays a role in the ratification of international treaties negotiated by the President. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required for a treaty to be ratified.
The primary roles and responsibilities of Congress collectively shape the nation’s laws, policies, and priorities, while ensuring a system of checks and balances in the U.S. government.
Congress plays a central role in the American political system by representing the people, overseeing the executive branch, and making and passing federal laws.