The Powers of the Legislative Branch - Reading Comprehension
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The Powers of the Legislative Branch Reading Comprehension
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The Powers of the Legislative Branch
By Phyllis Naegeli
1 When writing the Constitution, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention ran into a problem. The states were in fierce disagreement about how to establish the Congress. The smaller states wanted equal division of representatives. The larger states wanted representatives based on population. In coming to a compromise – called The Great Compromise – the delegates divided the Congress into two houses, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
2 The Senate gives the small states an equal voice in the government. Each state has two senators who serve six-year terms. In order to serve in the Senate, a person must be thirty years old, have been a U.S. citizen for nine years, and be a resident of the state where elected. The Senate is the more distinguished house in Congress. Members are older and usually have more experience in government. Of the one hundred members, one-third of the Senate comes up for election every two years. The rotating elections help to maintain the stability of this house of Congress.
3 The Senate has many important jobs of its own. In addition to working on bills, the Senate is responsible for approving many of the decisions of the president. Treaties and appointments of judges, department heads, ambassadors, and agency leaders receive final approval in the Senate. Treaties are given special consideration and must be approved by a two-thirds vote to become law.
4 The leader of the Senate is the vice president. As leader, the vice president decides who will speak to the Senate and casts a deciding vote when a tie occurs. However, the vice president is not a member of the Senate and does not participate in debates about bills.
5 When the Senate discusses a bill, they do not have a strict set of rules to follow. Standard procedures allow debating and amending a bill to continue indefinitely. However, an agreement called "unanimous consent" can change the standard procedures followed. Under "unanimous consent," all of the senators must agree to modify the procedures. If one individual senator disagrees, that senator has the power to stop the modification. When this happens, a bill becomes the victim of a filibuster. In a filibuster, the senator in disagreement talks on and on about the bill to delay the final vote. In order to end this, sixty senators must call for cloture, which sets a time limit for debate.
6 The House of Representatives is called the lower house of Congress. There are four hundred thirty-five members in the House. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for election. Representatives must be careful to be the voice of the people of their state. The shorter term gives the people the opportunity to choose someone else when a representative does not follow their wishes. To serve as a representative, a person must be twenty-five years old, a U.S. citizen for seven years, and a resident of the state where elected.
7 Population determines the number of representatives allotted to a state. In order to determine allotment, the federal government takes a census every ten years. State leaders form districts in each state based on the census results. Each district gets one representative. Every state receives at least one representative no matter how small their population may be.
8 In addition to working on laws with the Senate, the House of Representatives has other responsibilities. In a presidential election where a candidate does not receive a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives meets to choose the next president.
9 In addition, a bill concerning taxes must start in the House.
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