In the United States, the legislative branch works for the American people, serving the constituents that have voted them into office. This is a representative form of government in which members who are elected to Congress have the duty to provide representation for those people who live in their district. This essay will explore the functions of the legislative branch of the US government, exploring the process by which they establish laws, and the impact this branch has on the people of the US.
The Legislative Branch is made up of the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, which combine to form the Congress of the United States. The sole authority to pass legislation and declare war is held by the Congress, as well as the right to confirm or reject many presidential appointments and to possess significant powers to investigate (Legislative Branch, 2017.) The functions of the legislative branch are designed to serve the American people, by passing laws that impact every area of life in the nation including the financial, political, and social aspects of the society. Every US citizen has representatives and senators that are elected to the two chambers, and these are the elected officials that play a significant role in the lives of these citizens.
Laws are created by the legislative branch when bills are formally introduced into Congress, which are accompanied by cosponsors of the legislation who support the intent of the bill. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced by Congress, and the laws that have many cosponsors are more likely to survive to reach the next phase of the process (The Legislative Process and How a Bill Becomes a Law, 2017.)
Once a bill is introduced it is sent to an appropriate committee for consideration. This is an initial point in the life of a bill, because the committee members may either decide to “kill it” by opposing it or simply not bringing it up for consideration. The factors that are involved which influence lawmakers to decide whether or not to support bills often involve public support as well as the consideration of other sectors such as businesses and corporate interests. There are political considerations in deciding whether or not a bill should be acted on. For example, if if a it bill involves a controversial subject such as funding for Planned Parenthood, a legislator may opt to support the bill or oppose it, depending on the amount of and nature of the calls that he or she receives from constituents. Lobbyists also influence lawmakers about how and whether to support certain bills that reinforce their own particular interests. Another example occurs when laws are introduced regarding oil and gas pipelines, and legislators frequently receive large numbers of contacts from constituents and corporations taking strong stands one way or another regarding the legislation. Legislators expressing their opinions about certain bills in committee are significant steps in the process. Once the committee debates on and marks up a bill, it is voted on, possibly with amendments, and the committee may stop action or “table it” if they feel it is unwise or unnecessary (How a Bill Becomes a Law, 2017.)
If the bill is not tabled, it is sent on to a subcommittee and scheduled to be studied. Hearings may be conducted to examine the opinions of experts as well as opponents and supporters. The subcommittee then decides whether or not the bill is appropriate to proceed, and if so they may make changes before doing so. These changes are voted on by members of the subcommittee, and if the changes are accepted, the bill is returned to the full committee to be approved or rejected. Ultimately, the bill is sent to the floor of the House of Representatives to be considered.
The process in Congress legislative is quite extensive, since the House has 19 standing committees and in addition, the bill must be approved by the Senate, which contains 16 committees. Each of these committees have jurisdiction over a wide range of areas regarding public policy such as education, agriculture and international relations (How a Bill Becomes a Law, 2017.) At each stage of the process, the bill is discussed, marked up with changes, and voted on before sending it back to the full committee to vote, and then sending it to the other chamber to either approve or reject. Ultimately, if the bill passes in both houses of Congress, it is submitted to the president of the United States, who will either sign the bill into law or veto it. A presidential veto must then be returned to the House of Representatives and the Senate who have the power to override the veto if two thirds of their member vote to override it. If that happens, the bill then returns to the President to be signed.
The legislative branch has an enormous impact on a wide range of aspects of American society. In the economic sphere, Congress has the power to pass laws regarding taxes, provide extremely favorable or negative conditions on exports between the states, and approves revenue bills that involve services that are available certain or all US citizens (The US Department Of State.) The legislative branch also has the power to pass laws that define crimes, sentences, and otherwise establish and enforce the parameters that constitute legal behaviors and the punishments that are applied when these behaviors occur and are illegal. This power also includes the ability to conduct investigations that are far reaching; for example, in the current situation in the United States, the legislative branch is investigating the President of the United States for possible collusion with foreign governments. Generally, this is one of the most illustrative examples of the tremendous power associated with the Legislative Branch, as it can completely change the direction of the nation, which would affect the lives of each and every citizen.
- How a Bill Becomes a Law. (2017). Retrieved from Lucas.House.gov: https://lucas.house.gov/legislative-work/how-bill-becomes-law
- Legislative Branch. (2017). Retrieved from Whitehouse.gov: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/legislative-branch
- The Legislative Process and How a Bill Becomes a Low. (2017). Retrieved from Results.org: https://lucas.house.gov/legislative-work/how-bill-becomes-law
- The US Department of State. (n.d.). The legislative branch: the reach of Congress. Retrieved from The US Department Of State: http://countrystudies.us/united-states/government-12.htm