Рефераты. Правительство Соединенных Штатов


The Constitution requires that U.S. senators must be at least 30 years of

age, citizens of the United States for at least nine years, and residents

of the states from which they are elected. Members of the House of

Representatives must be at least 25, citizens for seven years, and

residents of the states which send them to Congress. The states may set

additional requirements for election to Congress, but the Constitution

gives each house the power to determine the qualifications of its members.

Each state is entitled to two senators. Thus, Rhode Island, the smallest

state, with an area of about 3,156 square kilometers has the same

senatorial representation as Alaska, the biggest state, with an area of

some 1,524,640 square kilometers. Wyoming, with 490,000 persons in 1987,

has representation equal to that of California, with its 1987 population of


The total number of members of the House of Representatives has been

determined by Congress. That number is then divided among the states

according to their populations. Regardless of its population, every state

is constitutionally guaranteed at least one member of the House of

Representatives. At present, six states—Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota,

South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming—have only one representative. On the

other hand, six states have more than 20 representatives—California alone

has 45.

The Constitution provides for a national census each 10 years and a

redistribution of House seats according to population shifts. Under the

original constitutional provision, the number of representatives was to be

no more than one for each 30,000 citizens. There were 65 members in the

first House, and the number was increased to 106 after the first census.

Had the one-to-30,000 formula been adhered to permanently, population

growth in the United States would have brought the total number of

representatives to about 7,000. Instead, the formula has been adjusted over

the years, and today the House is composed of 435 members, roughly one for

each 530,000 persons in the United States.

State legislatures divide the states into congressional districts, which

must be substantially equal in population. Every two years, the voters of

each district choose a representative for Congress.

Senators are chosen in statewide elections held in even-numbered years.

The senatorial term is six years, and every two years one-third of the

Senate stands for election. Hence, two-thirds of the senators are always

persons with some legislative experience at the national level.

It is theoretically possible for the House to be composed entirely of

legislative novices. In practice, however, most members are reelected

several times and the House, like the Senate, can always count on a core

group of experienced legislators.

Since members of the House serve two-year terms, the life of a Congress

is considered to be two years. The 20th Amendment provides that the

Congress will meet in regular session each January 3, unless Congress fixes

a different date. The Congress remains in session until its members vote to

adjourn—usually late in the year. The president may call a special session

when he or she thinks it necessary. Sessions are held in the Capitol in

Washington, D.C.


Each house of Congress has the power to introduce legislation on any

subject except revenue bills, which must originate in the House of

Representatives. The large states may thus appear to have more influence

over the public purse than the small states. In practice, however, each

house can vote against legislation passed by the other house. The Senate

may disapprove a House revenue bill—or any bill, for that matter—or add

amendments which change its nature. In that event, a conference committee

made up of members from both houses must work out a compromise acceptable

to both sides before the bill becomes law.

The Senate also has certain powers especially reserved to that body,

including the authority to confirm presidential appointments of high

officials and ambassadors of the federal government as well as authority to

ratify all treaties by a two-thirds vote. Unfavorable action in either

instance nullifies executive action.

In the case of impeachment of federal officials, the House has the sole

right to bring charges of misconduct that can lead to an impeachment trial.

The Senate has the sole power to try impeachment cases and to find

officials guilty or not guilty. A finding of guilt results in the removal

of the federal official from public office.

The broad powers of the whole Congress are spelled out in the eighth

section of the first article of the Constitution:

— to levy and collect taxes;

— to borrow money for the public treasury;

— to make rules and regulations governing commerce among the states and

with foreign countries;

— to make uniform rules for the naturalization of foreign citizens;

— to coin money, state its value, and provide for the punishment of


— to set the standards for weights and measures;

— to establish bankruptcy laws for the country as a whole;

— to establish post offices and post roads;

— to issue patents and copyrights;

— to set up a system of federal courts;

— to punish piracy;

— to declare war;

— to raise and support armies;

— to provide for a navy;

— to call out the militia to enforce federal laws, suppress lawlessness or

repel invasions by foreign powers;

— to make all laws for the District of Columbia; and

— to make all laws necessary to enforce the Constitution.

A few of these powers are now outdated—the District of Columbia today is

largely self-governing—but they remain in effect. The 10th Amendment sets

definite limits on congressional authority, by providing that powers not

delegated to the national government are reserved to the states or to the

people. In addition, the Constitution specifically forbids certain acts by

Congress. It may not:

— suspend the writ of habeas corpus, unless necessary in time of rebellion

or invasion;

— pass laws which condemn persons for crimes or unlawful acts without a


— pass any law which retroactively makes a specific act a crime;

— levy direct taxes on citizens, except on the basis of a census already


— tax exports from any one state;

— give specially favorable treatment in commerce or taxation to the

seaports of any state or to the vessels using them; and

— authorize any titles of nobility.


A congressman once observed that "Congress is a collection of committees

that come together in a chamber periodically to approve one another's

actions. " That statement correctly identifies the standing and permanent

committees that are the nerve centers of the U.S. Congress. In a recent two-

year session of Congress, for example, members proposed a total of I], 602

bills in the House and 4,080 in the Senate. For each of these bills, the

committees responsible had to study, weigh arguments [or and against, hear

witnesses and debate changes, before the bills ever reached the House or

Senate floors. Out of almost ] 5,000 measures introduced, only 664—fewer

than six percent—were enacted into law.

The Constitution does not specifically call for congressional

committees. As the nation grew, however, so did the need for investigating

pending legislation more thoroughly. The committee system began in 1789,

when House members found themselves bogged down in endless discussions of

proposed new laws. The first committees dealt with Revolutionary War

claims, post roads and territories, and trade with other countries.

Throughout the years, committees have formed and disbanded in response to

political, social and economic changes. For example, there is no longer any

need for a Revolutionary War claims committee, but both houses of Congress

have a Veterans' Affairs committee.

Today, there are 22 standing committees in the House and 16 in the

Senate, plus four joint permanent committees with members from both houses:

Library of Congress, printing, taxation and economics. In addition, each

house can name special, or select, committees to study specific problems:

Because of an increase in workload, the standing committees have also

spawned some 300 subcommittees. Almost 25,000 persons help with research,

information-gathering and analyses of problems and programs in Congress.

Recently, during one week of hearings, committee and subcommittee members

discussed topics ranging from financing of television broadcasting to the

safety of nuclear plants to international commodity agreements.

And what do ail these "little legislatures" actually do? After all the

facts are gathered, the committee decides whether to report a new bill

favorably or with a recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

Sometimes, the bill will be set aside, or tabled, which effectively ends

its consideration. When bills are reported out of committee and passed by

the full House or Senate, however, another committee goes into action,

ironing out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the

same bill. This "conference committee, " consisting of members of both

houses, completes a bill to all members' satisfaction, then sends it to the

House and Senate floors for final discussion and a vote. If passed, the

bill goes to the president for his signature.

Congressional committees are vital because they do the nuts-and-bolts job

of weighing the proposals, hammering them into shape or killing them

completely. They continue to play a large part in the preparation and

consideration of laws that will help shape the United States in its third




|Agriculture |Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry |

|Appropriations |Appropriations |

|Armed Services |Armed Services |

|Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs |Banking. Finance and Urban Affairs |

|Budget |Budget |

|District of Columbia |Commerce, Science and Transportation |

|Education and Labor |Energy and Natural Resources |

|Energy and Commerce |Environment and Public Works |

|Foreign Affairs |Finance |

|Government Operations |Foreign Relations |

|House Administration |Governmental Affairs |

|Interior and Insular Affairs |Judiciary |

|Judiciary |Labor and Human Resources |

|Merchant Marine and Fisheries |Rules and Administration |

|Post Office and Civil Service |Small Business |

|Public Works and Transportation |Veterans' Affairs |

|Rules | |

|Science, Space and Technology | |

|Small Business | |

|Standards of Official Conduct | |

|Veterans' Affairs | |

|Ways and Means | |


The Constitution provides that the vice president shall be president of the

Senate. He or she has no vote, except in the case of a tie. The Senate

chooses a president pro tempore to preside when the vice president is

absent. The House of Representatives chooses its own presiding officer—the

speaker of the House. The speaker and the president pro tempore are always

members of the political party with the largest representation in each


At the beginning of each new Congress, members of the political parties

select floor leaders and other officials to manage the flow of proposed

legislation. These officials, along with the presiding officers and

committee chairmen, exercise strong influence over the making of laws.


One of the major characteristics of the Congress is the dominant role

committees play in its proceedings. Committees have assumed their present-

day importance by evolution, not by constitutional design, since the

Constitution makes no provision for their establishment.

At present the Senate has 16 standing (or permanent) committees: the

House of Representatives has 22. Each specializes in specific areas of

legislation: foreign affairs, defense, banking, agriculture, commerce,

appropriations and other fields. Every bill introduced in either house is

referred to a committee for study and recommendation. The committee may

approve, revise, kill or ignore any measure referred to it. It is nearly

impossible for a bill to reach the House or Senate floor without first

winning committee approval. In the House, a petition to discharge a bill

from a committee requires the signatures of 218 members; in the Senate, a

majority of all members is required. In practice, such discharge motions

only rarely receive the required support.

The majority party in each house controls the committee process.

Committee chairmen are selected by a caucus of party members or specially

designated groups of members. Minority parties are proportionally

represented on the committees according to their strength in each house.

Bills are introduced by a variety of methods. Some are drawn up by

standing committees; some by special committees created to deal with

specific legislative issues; and some may be suggested by the president or

other executive officers. Citizens and organizations outside the Congress

may suggest legislation to members, and individual members themselves may

initiate bills. After introduction, bills are sent to designated committees

which, in most cases, schedule a series of public hearings to permit

presentation of views by persons who support or oppose the legislation. The

hearing process, which can last several weeks or months, opens the

legislative process to public participation.

One virtue of the committee system is that it permits members of

Congress and their staffs to amass a considerable degree of expertise in

various legislative fields. In the early days of the republic, when the

population was small and the duties of the federal government narrowly

circumscribed, such expertise was not as important. Each congressman was a

generalist and dealt knowledgeably with all fields of interest. The

complexity of national life today calls for special knowledge, which means

that elected representatives often acquire expertise in one or two areas of

public policy.

When a committee has acted favorably on a bill, the proposed legislation

is then sent to the floor for open debate. In the Senate, the rules permit

virtually unlimited debate. In the House, because of the large number of

members, the Rules Committee usually sets limits. When debate is ended,

members vote either to approve the bill, defeat it, table it—which means

setting it aside and is tantamount to defeat—or return it to committee. A

bill passed by one house is sent to the other for action. If the bill is

amended by the second house, a conference committee composed of members of

both houses attempts to reconcile the differences.

Once passed by both houses, the bill is sent to the president, for

constitutionally the president must act on a bill for it to become law. The

president has the option of signing the bill—by which it becomes law—or

vetoing it. A bill vetoed by the president must be reapproved by a two-

thirds vote of both houses to become law.

The president may also refuse either to sign or veto a bill. In that

case, the bill becomes law without his signature 10 days after it reaches

him (not counting Sundays). The single exception to this rule is when

Congress adjourns after sending a bill to the president and before the 10-

day period has expired; his refusal to take any action then negates the

bill—a process known as the "pocket veto."


One of the most important nonlegislative functions of the Congress is the

power to investigate. This power is usually delegated to committees—either

the standing committees, special committees set up for a specific purpose,

or joint committees composed of members of both houses. Investigations are

conducted to gather information on the need for future legislation, to test

the effectiveness of laws already passed, to inquire into the

qualifications and performance of members and officials of the other

branches, and on rare occasions, to lay the groundwork for impeachment

proceedings. Frequently, committees call on outside experts to assist in

conducting investigative hearings and to make detailed studies of issues.

There are important corollaries to the investigative power. One is the

power to publicize investigations and their results. Most committee

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