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CD: Texts available on CD version.Texts available in multiple languages.


U.S. House of Representatives Homepage
U.S. Senate Homepage

The Annual Budget Process CD
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, 1774 to Present
· Capitol Spotlight (C-Span)
· Congress of the United States (Columbia Encyclopedia)
· Congress of the United States (Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)
· Congressional Pay Rates (Dirksen Congressional Center)
· Enactment of a Law CD
· Congress - Today's Coverage (Fednet)
· Glossary of Congressional and Legislative Terms
· The Hill - Newspaper
· History of the U.S. Capitol (GPO)
· How Our Laws Are Made (Library of Congress)
· The Legislative Process (U.S. House of Representatives)
· Outline of U.S. Government: The Legislative Branch: The Reach of Congress CD
Questions and Answers in Legislative and Regulatory Research CD
· Roll Call Online - The Newspaper of Capitol Hill
· Senate Legislative Process (U.S. Senate)
· The U.S. Capitol (Architect of the Capitol)

Congressional Research Center Reports
· Congressional Oversight (CRS Report) CD
· Federal Statutes: What They Are and How to Find Them (CRS Report) CD

· Die Legislative: Ausschusssystem und Aufsichtsfunktion des Kongresses Deutsch CD
· Die Legislative: Die Kompetenzen des Kongresses Deutsch CD

Original Documents
· Congressional Committee Materials Online via GPO Access
· Congressional Record (GPO)
· United States Code (Office of the Law Revision Counsel)
· Historical Records of Congress (NARA)
· LoC Legislative Information on the Internet (Library of Congress)


The legislative branch - the Congress - is made up of elected representatives from each of the 50 states.  The Constitution sets up a bi-cameral body known as the U.S. Congress to raise and to spend national revenue and to draft laws.  It is commonly said that Congress influences American policy by exercising the "power of the purse strings." It is the only branch of U.S. government that can make federal laws, declare war and put foreign treaties into effect. 

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to two year terms.  Each member represents a district in his or her home state.  The number of districts is determined by the census, which is conducted every 10 years.  Senators are elected to six year terms, staggered so that one third of the Senate stands for election every two years.  The Constitution provides that the vice-president shall be President of the Senate. He or she has no vote, except in the case of a tie. The current Vice President is Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

The Senate chooses a president pro tempore to preside when the vice-president is absent. The House of  Representatives chooses its own presiding officer -- the speaker of the House. The speaker (Nancy Pelosi, D-CA) and the president pro tempore (Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-WV) are members of the political party with the largest representation in each house. 

To become a law, a bill must pass both the House and the Senate.  After the bill is introduced in either body, it is studied by one or more committees, amended, voted out of committee, and discussed in the chamber of the House or Senate.  If passed by one body, it goes to the other for consideration.  Once both bodies have passed the the same version of a bill, it goes to the president for approval. 

Currently, in the House of Representatives, there are 260 Democrats (including five Delegates and the Resident Commissioner) and 178 Republicans. The Senate has 56 Democrats; two Independents, who caucus with the Democrats; and 41 Republicans. There are three House vacancies and one Senate vacancy.

· U.S. Capitol Virtual Tour (U.S. Senate)

Exhibits - Digital Images
· A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875 (Library of Congress)
· The Library of Congress - Tour the Jefferson Building
· Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation (Library of Congress)
· Treasures of Congress (NARA)

· 110th Congressional Profile (Office of the Clerk)
· Composition of Congress by Political Party, 1855–2008 (InfoPlease)
· Fast Facts for Congress (U.S. Census Bureau)

For High School Students
· Legislative Branch (Ben's Guide to U.S. Government)
· Congress for Kids (Dirksen Congressional Center)
· Kids in the House (The Office of the Clerk)
· Learn about the Congress (Center of Congress at Indiana University)
· What Every Student Should Know About Congress
(Dirksen Congressional Center)

Teacher Resources
Congresslink Lessons Plans
Congressional Committees and the Legislative Process (Edsitement)
· How Does a Bill Become a Law? (Educator's Reference Desk)
· In Congress Assembled: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States (Library of Congress Learning Page)
· The Logic of American Politics: Congress (CQ Press)
· The NYT U.S. Congress - Crossword Puzzle

Link Lists
· CongressLink (Dirksen Congressional Center)
· Tracking the United States Congress (
· How Congress Works (Committee on Rules)
· Legislative Branch Resources (GPO Access)
· Legislative Histories. United States Congress (University of Michigan Documents Center)
· The Library of Congress
· United States Congress - Legislative Branch Internet Resources (Library of Congress)
· U.S. Government > Legislative Branch (Yahoo)

Texts are abridged from U.S. State Department IIP publications and other U.S. government materials.
Any reference obtained from this server to a specific commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the United States Government of the product, process, or service, or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government.
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Updated: February 27, 2009