What Are the Duties of Congress?

Amber Eberle

The United States Congress consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution specifies the responsibilities and duties of Congress. Congress is the legislative branch of the government, and its many duties include declaring war, creating and changing laws and establishing an annual budget for the federal government.

Overriding a presidential veto requires both houses of Congress to approve the bill by a two-thirds majority, according to the US Constitution.
Overriding a presidential veto requires both houses of Congress to approve the bill by a two-thirds majority, according to the US Constitution.

The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members, and the U.S. Senate has 100 members. Although Congress is a collective unit, the House of Representatives and the Senate each have several exclusive duties. The Senate is responsible for ratifying treaties and confirming people who have been appointed by the President, and the House of Representatives has the duty of impeaching federal officials, introducing revenue bills and electing a President in the event of an electoral college tie.

The House of Representatives has the power to impeach federal officials, including the President.
The House of Representatives has the power to impeach federal officials, including the President.

Together, the two houses of Congress work to make and pass federal laws. Bills are introduced into Congress, where they are reviewed by committees and might be amended. If a bill makes it through the committee, it is brought to the floor of Congress and voted on. A bill must pass a vote in both houses before it can be sent to the President so that it can be signed into law.

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The US Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.
The US Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.

Other duties of Congress include establishing the annual government budget. This is done by passing and collecting taxes from U.S. citizens. The funds raised through taxation are then budgeted by allocating money for essential government agencies and services. In the event that there is a shortfall between the money brought in by taxes and the amount of money needed to run the government, one of the duties of Congress includes authorizing the federal government to borrow money.

As one of three branches of the federal government, the duties of Congress also include providing governmental oversight to ensure that no one branch of the government abuses power. This is achieved by means such as overriding a presidential veto of a bill with a passing vote from two-thirds of the members of each house. Congress also has the duty of declaring war after a vote, preventing the President from having the sole power to do so. The duties of Congress were planned by the forefathers of America to help ensure that all three branches of the U.S. government are balanced and equal.

The power to approve treaties and high executive officers rests with the U.S. Senate.
The power to approve treaties and high executive officers rests with the U.S. Senate.

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