Civics

What is Congress?

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Have you ever wondered about how the U.S. government works? The government is made up of three parts or "branches": the executive branch, which is made up of the President and Vice President who enforce the laws; the judicial branch, which is made up of judges and lawyers who interpret laws; and the legislative branch, which makes laws.

Congress is the common name for the legislative branch of the U.S. government. It also has two parts: the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Each of the 50 United States has two senators and a few representatives. The number of representatives is based on how many people live in the state. The entire Congress lives and works in Washington, DC, which is America's national Capitol.

People who are interested in being in Congress have campaigns, or events to inform the other people living in their state about why they want to make laws for the U.S. At the end of a campaign, the American people vote for who they want their senators and representatives to be.

Anyone in Congress can make a law. However, they must first introduce a bill, which is a document that explains what the law would be, how it would affect the American people as well as other countries or visitors that the U.S. has relationships with. If both the Senate and the House agree on the bill, then it goes to special committees, or groups of experts, that review the law. Once the committees approve the bill, the President of the United States then looks it over to decide if it should become law.