The New Student's Reference Work/Congress of the United States

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Con′gress of the United States, the legislative or law-making body. There are two houses, the house of representatives and the senate. The senate is made up of two members from each state, chosen by direct vote, (See U. S. p. 1974) for six years. One third of the senate goes out of office every two years. The senators now (1912) number 96. The representatives are chosen directly by the people every two years, the number of members from each state depending upon its population. A new apportionment is made every ten years in accordance with the decennial census. On the basis of the census of 1910 there is one representative to every 211,430 inhabitants. The house at present has 435 members. The vice-president of the United States is president of the senate; the house chooses its own speaker. All money or appropriation bills must originate in the house. The senate has sole power of impeachment and of confirming or rejecting important appointments made by the president. Besides its legislative functions the senate is intrusted with the power of ratifying or rejecting all treaties made by the president with foreign powers, a two thirds majority of senators present being required for ratification. Congress lasts two years, and has two sessions, both commencing the first Monday in December. The first is called the long session, and lasts from seven to nine months, adjourning on a day agreed upon by the two houses; the second, called the short session, lasts until March 4, at 12 noon. Every bill which passes the two houses, is sent to the president for his approval or disapproval. In the latter case he vetoes it, that is, returns it with his reasons to the house where it originated; if it is passed again by a two-thirds majority in both houses, it becomes law. The powers of Congress are limited and separated from those of the state legislature by the federal constitution. By the 5th article of the constitution, Congress has the power to propose alterations in the constitution. The emoluments of a senator and representative in Congress, as fixed in 1907, are $7,500 a year, with traveling-expenses. The speaker receives $12,000. There also is an allowance each year to members for stationery and similar expenses. The representation of the various states in Congress in 1912 is as follows: Alabama 10; Arkansas 7; California 11; Colorado 4; Connecticut 5; Delaware 1; Florida 4; Georgia 12; Idaho 2; Illinois 27; Indiana 13; Iowa 11; Kansas 8; Kentucky 11; Louisiana 8; Maine 4; Maryland 6; Massachusetts 16; Michigan 13; Minnesota 10; Mississippi 8; Missouri 16; Montana 2; Nebraska 6; Nevada 1; New Hampshire 2; New Jersey 12; New York 43; North Carolina 10; North Dakota 3; Ohio 22; Oklahoma 8; Oregon 3; Pennsylvania 36; Rhode Island 3; South Carolina 7; South Dakota 3; Tennessee 10; Texas 18; Utah 2; Vermont 2; Virginia 10; Washington 5; West Virginia 6; Wisconsin 11; Wyorning 1; Arizona 1; New Mexico 1.

The first colonial congress met in New York, Oct. 7, 1765, made up of delegates from nine colonies. A second congress, which met at Philadelphia, July 5, 1774, representing all the colonies but Georgia, set forth the well-known Declaration of Rights. This body became known as the Continental Congress, and on July 4, 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence. The first congress of the United States met in New York in 1789 with 26 senators and 65 representatives. The next year it moved to Philadelphia, and in 1800 to Washington. See Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government; Cooley's Constitutional Limitations; Von Holst's Constitutional Law of the U. S.; and Bryce's American Commonwealth.