Congress (True Books, Government)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. What happened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May, 1787?

Fifty-five delegates met at the State House for the Constitutional Convention.

Delegates came from twelve of the thirteen states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Did you know Rhode Island did not send any delegates?

The Articles of Confederation was ratified in 1781, and provided for a weak and ineffective central government. The delegates met in 1787, to draft a new plan establishing a stronger federal government. After four months of discussing and compromising, the Constitution of the United States was written.

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2. How many branches of government are established in the Constitution of the United States?
Three. The three branches of government are the legislative branch (Congress), the executive branch (President), and the judicial branch (Supreme Court). Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative branch which makes the laws. Article II establishes the executive branch which enforces the laws. Article III establishes the judicial branch which interprets the laws.

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3. True or False: The Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
True. Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative branch of the government which is the United States Congress. The Congress is a bicameral system which means it is made up of two chambers (or houses). One chamber is called the House of Representatives, and the other chamber is called the Senate.

During the Constitutional Convention, delegates from large states wanted the population to determine the numbers of members of Congress, and delegates from small states wanted each state to have the same number of members.

Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth (both from Connecticut), suggested an idea to balance the interests of the large and small states. The House of Representatives would be elected according to population. This pleased the large states because the large states would have more representatives. The Senate would be made up of two Senators from each state. This pleased the small states because each state would have the same number of Senators. This compromise is known as the Great Compromise.

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4. True or False: Every bill the Congress passes becomes law.
False. In order for a bill to became law, a bill must be passed by the Congress and signed by the president.

First, a bill must pass both houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate). Then the bill goes to the president. Once on the president's desk, there are several ways a bill becomes law or gets vetoed:

If the president signs the bill, it becomes law.

If the president vetoes the bill, it does not become law.

If the president fails to sign a bill within ten days and the Congress is in session, the bill becomes law.

If the president fails to sign a bill within ten days and the Congress is adjourned (not in session), the bill is vetoed. This is known as a "pocket veto."

If the president vetoes a bill, the bill can still become law if both houses of Congress pass the bill by a two-thirds majority. This is known as "overriding a veto." Did you know veto means to reject?

The Supreme Court can undo any law passed by the Congress by declaring it unconstitutional. Congress can then pass another version of the law.

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5. How many members are in the House of Representatives?
435. In 1911, Congress limited the number of seats in the House of Representatives to 435.

The seats of the House of Representatives are based on population, and the larger states have more members in the House of Representatives then smaller states.

Every ten years, the U.S. government takes the national census which counts the number of people living in the country. The census numbers determine how many representatives each state will have. California is the most populated state, and therefore, has the most members. California has fifty-two members. Each state has at least one member. Did you know Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and Vermont only have one member?

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to a two-year term by the constituents in their district. The Constitution of the United States requires a representative to:

be a U.S. citizen for at least seven years

be at least twenty-five years old

live in the state in which he or she serves

There is no requirement the representatives live in the actual district in which they represent.

The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House. In 2002, the Speaker is Denny Hastert, a Republican from Illinois. Hastert was chosen from members of the Republican party and elected by the House. Did you know the Speaker of the House is the second in order (after the vice president) of succession to the President of the United States?

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6. How many senators are in the Senate?
100. Each state has two senators regardless of population. There are fifty states in the Union, and therefore, there are 100 Senators. Since 1913, Senators have been elected by the people who live in each state.

Senators are elected to a six-year term by the constituents in their states. Every two years, one-third of the senate seats are up for re-election. The Constitution of the United States requires a senator to:

be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years

be at least thirty years old

live in the state in which he or she serves

The Senate confirms members of the president's Cabinet and federal judges. For example, when the president nominates a person for the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate must confirm that person by a majority vote. The nominee is referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to be interviewed and investigated. The Judiciary Committee first votes, and then the entire Senate votes on this person. If the Senate votes in favor of this person, he or she becomes a Supreme Court Justice. If the Senate votes against this person, then the president nominates another person. This is an example of "checks and balances."

The Senate also ratifies (or accepts) treaties. Treaties are agreements the president makes with other countries. The Senate must approve treaties by a two-thirds majority. This is another example of "checks and balances."

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Bill: A proposed law

Citizen: Person entitled to full legal rights and privileges

Federal: Nationwide

Majority: The larger group

Minority: The smaller group

Population: The number of people living in an area

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. Which of the following Articles of the U.S. Constitution establishes the United States Congress?
a) Article I
b) Article II
c) Article III
d) Article IV

The Constitution of the United States is made up of seven Articles. The first three Articles describe the three branches of government. Article I describes the legislative branch. It consists of the U.S. Congress which contains both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Article II describes the executive branch. It consists of the President and Vice President. Article III describes the judicial branch. It consists of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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b. Describe how the Congress works.
The Congress is made up of two separate chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each chamber meets separately. Sometimes the Congress comes together for a joint session. This happens when the president delivers the State of the Union or when a foreign leader addresses the Congress.

Congress makes laws for the United States. Its laws tax and spend, regulate trade, and declare war. Congress also decides which states will be admitted to the Union. Did you know Hawaii became the fiftieth state in 1959?

The party with the greatest number of representatives in each chamber is called the majority party and controls that chamber. The other party is called the minority party. For example, in 2002, the Republicans are the majority party in the House of Representatives, and the Democrats are the majority party in the Senate.

Congress has committees which hold congressional hearings to study problems and new ideas. Members of the majority party are chosen as the chairpersons of these committees.

Some committees are permanent, and others are set up to discuss a particular bill. When a bill is introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, it is referred to a committee to hold hearings and have further discussions. For example, a bill regarding health care, may be referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Some of the committees in the House of Representatives include:

Appropriations
Armed Services
Budget
Education and the Workforce
Energy and Commerce
International Relations
Judiciary
Rules
Ways and Means

Some of the committees in the Senate include:

Appropriations
Armed Services
Budget
Commerce
Environment
Finance
Foreign Relations
Judiciary
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

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c. What is the Congressional Record?
It is a report containing everything decided on or discussed by the Congress, except for some secret military information.

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d. Name the two largest political parties in the United States.
The Republican party and the Democratic party.

In 2002, the Republican party controls the House of Representatives, and the Democratic party controls the Senate. Each party chooses its own leaders. The leaders schedule and control the discussion of different bills.

In the House of Representatives, Republican Denny Hastert is the Speaker of the House, Republican Dick Armey is the Majority Leader, and Democrat Richard Gephardt is the Minority Leader.

In the Senate, Democrat Thomas Daschle is the Majority Leader, and Republican Trent Lott is the Minority Leader.

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e. Have you contacted your Representative or Senator?
You can write your Representative or Senator a letter to voice your opinion or to arrange a tour of the Capitol during your next visit to Washington, D.C.

You can address you letters:

Congressman/Congresswoman (name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Senator (name)
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

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f. What is a Congressional Page?
A young person who works in the Congress. Every year, seventy-four high school juniors are chosen to help in the U.S. Congress. They are called pages.

You can also work as an intern for a Representative or Senator.

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g. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
A law starts in Congress as a bill.

I am a citizen of the United States.

The "F" in FBI stands for "Federal."

A majority consists of over 50%.

Sometimes I don't get my way when my opinion is in the minority.

The population of California is larger than the population of Delaware.

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h. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the U.S. Congress:
IMA Hero™ U.S. Government Bookstore
IMA Hero™ U.S. Capitol Photos & Links
IMA Hero™ Constitution of the United States Links
IMA Hero™ U.S. Government & Washington, D.C. Links

Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids (Government Printing Office)
United States Senate
United States House of Representatives
THOMAS: U.S. Congress on the Internet (Library of Congress)
Records of Congress (National Archives)
National Museum of American History (Smithsonian)
Congressional Glossary (C-SPAN)

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