The United States Congress is generally the bicameral legislative assembly of the U.S. It consists of both the House of Representatives and the Senate and is responsible for the formulation of legislation affecting the American people. The U.S. Congress usually meets in session once in a year and may reconvene for another session at any time up to 180 days after the date of a general election when the vacancies for the House and Senate are created. At this point, a special session may be called by the President of the United States for the purpose of presenting a report to Congress about what happened in the session which just concluded. The Congress, through either the House or the Senate, is required to consider any bill that has been passed by the States House or Senate and send it to the President for his review before signing it. Bills which have no support in the States House or Senate and there is a possibility that the President will sign it but the time limit may require the consent of both chambers to be fulfilled.
When a bill is presented to the members of Congress for their consideration it is first drafted by a select group of members of Congress known as a committee. Once the committee has completed its investigation, a report is filed with the members of Congress with recommendations as to how best the bill can be carried out. If the bill passes the House or Senate, it is now presented to the full committee in an attempt to receive support for the bill from every member. The committee may not obtain all the required votes for the bill and if it is a very controversial bill then the full committee may be overruled by the Senate and the bill will come to a vote again in the House and again in the Senate before becoming a law.
The presidential office has been involved in every major legislative process since Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1933. Presidents of both parties have had to appoint special Congressional committees to deal with many different pressing issues that crop up each year. In recent years, with the new President Bush, the legislative process has become much more centralized and there are far fewer committees assigned to deal with the many problems that occur each year. One problem facing both houses of Congress is that most of them know nothing about the various aspects of policy and how it affects everyday life, and the process becomes rather confused.
Although both houses of Congress generally agree on what measures should be taken, the president usually interprets the results of such policies through his executive branch. The congressional committees cannot legally change the laws passed by the United States Congress, so if they try, the president has the power to immediately reverse any changes made. He usually does this through signing a series of executive orders. The same executive branch also makes the necessary appointments to the legislative commissions.
A divided government creates a huge bureaucracy and this directly affects the operation of government at all levels. Many citizens believe that having a divided government produces a system with no checks and balances, however this is not true. No one person can single handedly change the direction of Congress or the executive branch. The best that can be done is for the people to elect members of both Houses of Congress to compromise. Electing a few dozen members is not enough for a majority. In fact, in order for either chamber to pass legislation, more than half of them must agree, and a super-vote of five-onia is needed for any legislation to pass.
The ultimate check and balance in our system of checks and balances are at the United States Congress, which is actually part of our system of government. Because the legislative branch rarely acts in a conventional sense, our system of government relies heavily on the Supreme Court to interpret its meaning and to declare laws constitutional or not. If the Congress refuses to act according to what the Supreme Court decides, the executive branch has the power to institute court orders to enforce its decisions. This is exactly what happened when the Congress refused to act on President Bush’s tax cuts. The court found that Congress had not fulfilled its constitutional duty and ordered the Bush administration to cease and desist its implementation of these cuts.