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U.S. Congress: Actions and Information

The House and Senate, the legislative branch of our government. Keep up with the latest bills and learn about the men and women who represent us and make our laws.

Just Doing Its Duty, Congress Takes Every August Off
Believe it or not, the month-long summer break the U.S. Congress takes every August is required, not by the Constitution, but by a federal law.

What is ‘Contempt of Congress?’
What is ‘contempt of congress’ and can you go to jail for it?

What is 'Contempt of Congress?'
What is contempt of congress and can you go to jail for it?

About the Farm Bill
What is the U.S. Farm Bill and why does it affect everyone who eats?

Why Americans Once Gave the Bellamy Salute
Bellamy Salute: Why Americans once appeared to be saluting Hitler

What is the Super Congress?
Find out what a Super Congress is. See who was appointed to the panel in 2011. Learn about the duties of lawmakers who served on the elite committee. Read about the controversy that led to a Super Congress in the first place.

Should Congress Raise the Gas Tax?
Find out how much American drivers pay in the gas tax. See how much the gas tax has gone up over the years. Learn about the history of the levy. Read an explanation of why automakers feel the amount should increase.

What are ‘Pro Forma’ Sessions in Congress?
About often controversial pro forma sessions in the US Congress.

Congressional Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips
The roles of the majority and minority leaders and whips in the U.S. Congress.

The Line-Item Veto
Explanation and history of the line-item veto, and why the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional.

Annual Salaries of Top US Government Officials
Current annual salaries of top elected and appointed US government officials, along with the annual salaries for these officials in 2000 or 2001.

ACORN and Your Money
Find out how much taxpayer money went to ACORN. Read about how the grassroots group spent the money. Learn why Congress cut off funding for the organization. See how the controversy surrounding the group played out.

Why the Congressional Reform Act Will Never Pass
Find out what the Congressional Reform Act is. Read the text of a proposed Congressional Reform Act. Discover why the Congressional Reform Act does not have a chance of passing Congress. See what's wrong with the Congressional Reform Act.

Wealthiest Members of Congress - List of the 10 Wealthiest Members of Congress
Wealthiest Members of Congress - List of the 10 Wealthiest Members of Congress

Did Photo Catch Members of Congress Playing Solitaire?
Find out if there really is a picture showing members of Congress playing solitaire. Discover who really was playing solitaire in a photo that some claimed showed congress playing solitaire. Learn about the history of the photo some claimed showed Congress playing solitaire.

Qaddafi's Pen Pals in Congress
Read about Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi's letter to Congress in 2011. Find out who the Qaddafi letter was addressed to. See why Qaddafi wrote to Congress and read what he had to say.

Gabrielle Giffords Bio
Read a biography of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Learn about the shooting attack on Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Explore Gabrielle Giffords' positions on major issues and see why Gabrielle Giffords was being harassed.

History of the US Federal Income Tax
While the federal income tax did not become permanent until 1913, taxes, in some form, have been a part of American history since our earliest days as a nation. Learn about the history of the income tax in America.

House of Representatives Allows Use of iPads, BlackBerrys on Floor
Find out why the House of Representatives began allowing members to use iPads and iPhones on the floor. See when the House of Representatives began allowing members to use BlackBerrys and other electronic devices on the floor. Learn about the history of decorum on the floor of the House of Representatives.

John Boehner Crying - Why is John Boehner Crying
John Boehner Crying - Why is John Boehner Crying

New BLM 'Wild Lands' Policy Disputed
A new policy allowing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to bypass Congress in designating millions of acres of publicly owned lands as “wild lands” with use restrictions similar to those in Congressionally designated “wilderness areas” is being opposed by lawmakers from the western states.

What is a Filibuster in the US Senate?
What is a Filibuster in the US Senate?

The US Statehood Process
The process by which U.S. territories attain full statehood is, at best, an inexact art. While Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution empowers the U.S. Congress to grant statehood, the process for doing so is not specified.

The Budget Reconciliation Process
With the loss of their 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, congressional Democrats have hinted they may use the “budget reconciliation” process to pass some or all of the health care reform measures proposed by President Obama in his bipartisan "Health Care Summit" held on Feb. 25, 2010. What is budget reconciliation and how does it work?

Health Care Reform Bills: To Provide or Impose?
If you want health insurance but cannot afford it, the two health care reform bills being considered by Congress will 'provide' it to you. But if you simply do not want health insurance, the bills will 'impose' it on you. The two bills differ in how they hope accomplish health insurance for all and those differences are important to you.

US House of Representatives Agenda
Summary of the daily scheduled activities of the U.S. House of Representatives

Senate Agenda
Summary of the daily scheduled activities of the U.S. Senate

What is Earmark Spending
Earmark spending; also called “pork barrel” spending, is funding inserted into the annual federal budget by individual legislators for special projects or purposes of interest to their constituents.

Letters to Congress
Tips for writing effective letters to Congress

About the US Congressional Budget Office
The Congressional Budget Office provides the U.S. Congress with economic projections of the potential costs and revenue of legislation and alternative fiscal, budgetary, and programmatic policy issues, and with information and estimates required for consideration of the annual federal budget process.

Simple Resolutions in the US Congress
Simple Resolutions are one of the four types of legislation considered by the US Congress.

Concurrent Resolutions in the US Congress
Concurrent Resolutions are one of the four types of legislation considered by the US Congress.

Joint Resolutions in the US Congress
Joint Resolutions are one of the four types of legislation considered by the US Congress.

Federal Regulations
Federal regulations and the federal rulemaking process.

Salaries and Benefits of US Congress Members
Salaries and benefits paid to Members of the US Congress

The Legislative Process
How the Congressional Legislative Process Works

Why We Have a House and Senate
Why the US Congress Has Two Chambers, the House and Senate

Bills in the US Congress
Bills are one of the four types of legislation considered by the US Congress.

The Congressional Committee System
About the Congressional Committee System.

Congress at Your Service
They may not always vote the way you think they should, but the members of the U.S. Congress from your state or congressional district –senators and representatives -- can and will do some very useful things for you. From flags flown over the Capitol to nominations to the U.S. military service academies, your members of Congress can help you out.

The Legislative Branch
Every society needs laws. In the United States, the power to make laws is given to Congress, which represents the legislative branch of government.

Who Will Govern if Congress is Killed?
Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington, 3rd), has been asking his fellow lawmakers the same chilling question: How will the U.S. government go on if Congress is killed? Six years after the terrorist attacks, Rep. Baird's question remains unanswered. As an answer of his own, Rep. Baird has re-introduced legislation proposing a constitutional amendment he feels would guarantee the continuity of Congress, thus the continuity of U.S. government, even after a catastrophic event.

The U.S. House of Representatives
The United States is a large, fractured, diverse and yet still unified nation, and few government bodies reflect the paradox that is this country better than the House of Representatives.

The Congressional Committee System
Where do things get done in Congress? Usually in committee. Each chamber of Congress has committees set up to perform specific functions, enabling the legislative bodies to accomplish their often complex work more quickly with smaller groups.

Congressional Powers
So what are all those senators and representatives doing on Capitol Hill, anyway? The Congress has specific powers spelled out in the Constitution, none more important than its duty to make laws.

House Approves $286 Billion Farm Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the Farm Bill Extension Act of 2007, providing continued federal funding for agriculture-related programs through fiscal year 2012.

Congress Tries to Pardon Jailed Border Agents Ramos and Compean
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a measure that would effectively pardon former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, convicted of shooting a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler and attempting to cover up the act. What's that you say? Only the President of the United States has the constitutional power to pardon criminals?

Requirements to be a Representative
The House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Congress, and it currently counts 435 men and women among its members. House members are popularly elected by constituents in their home states; they don't represent the entire state, but rather specific geographic districts within the state. House members serve two-year terms, but what does it take to be a representative in the first place, besides money, legions of loyal constituents, charisma and the stamina to make it through a campaign?

Congressional Sessions
Congress is charged with drafting, debating and sending bills to the president to be signed into law. But how do the nation's 100 senators and 435 representatives from 50 states manage their legislative business?

About the U.S. Senate
The U.S. Senate is the upper legislative chamber in the federal government. Its also the more powerful body, with just 100 members. Each state is granted two senators who represent the entire state; senators serve six-year terms and are popularly elected by their constituents.

Requirements to be a Senator
The Senate is the United States' higher legislative chamber (the House of Representatives being the lower chamber), containing 100 members. If you have dreams of becoming one of the two senators who represent each state for six-year terms, you might want to check the Constitution first. The guiding document for our government specifically spells out the requirements to be a senator.

How Congress Ended the Vietnam War
As the Democratically-controlled 110th Congress searches for a way to end the Iraq war authorized by the Republican-controlled 107th Congress, it seems appropriate to recall how the U.S. Congress ended the Vietnam War, and more recently, further U.S. military combat involvement in Somalia. At the end of those dark days, ending the battle came down to ending the money.

Can Congress End the Iraq War?
Congress may pass a non-binding joint resolution condemning President Bush’s recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq. This will not stop the war. The resolution will merely expresses the "sense of congress" that President Bush did the wrong thing. Many past congresses have told many past presidents the same thing with little if any effect on the issue at hand. If Congress could end the Iraq war, would they, and how?

About 'Sense of Congress' Resolutions
When members of the House, Senate or entire Congress want to "send a message," or state an opinion, they try to pass a "sense of" resolution. Since such resolutions do not create law and are not enforceable, what good are they? Read more about "sense of Congress" resolutions.

Text of S.CON.RES 2, Joint Resolution on Iraq
Text of the Senate resolution introduced on January 17, 2007 by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) that "it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq." The resolution expresses the "sense of the Congress" in opposition to President Bush's plan to send 21,000 additional U.S. troops to fight the Iraq War.

The Great Compromise of 1787
Perhaps the greatest debate undertaken by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 centered on how many representatives each state should have in the new government's lawmaking branch, the U.S. Congress. As is often the case in government and politics, resolving a great debate, required a Great Compromise.

What Will the Lame Duck 109th Congress Do?
The 109th U.S. Congress will begin yet an other post-election "lame duck" session on Nov. 15, 2006, with many of its members knowing they will not have jobs in the 110th Congress when it convenes on January 3, 2007. As lame duck sessions go, this one begins under the worst possible scenario, as one of the two major political parties -- Democratic -- will take away majority control of both houses of Congress from the other party -- Republican -- on January 3. What will the lame ducks do?

About the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
The Speaker of the House of Representatives not only stands second in the line of presidential succession, the Speaker of the House is typically responsible for helping bills supported by the majority party win the approval of the House. Learn more about the influential office of Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Lame Duck Sessions of the U.S. Congress
Lame duck sessions of the U.S. Congress happen in even numbered years when Congress has to reconvene following the November general election to take care of unfinished legislation. Some lawmakers who return for this session lost their bids for reelection and will not be in the next Congress. Hence, they are informally called "lame duck" members participating in a "lame duck" session. Learn more about lame duck sessions of Congress.

Can Congress Still Police Itself?
Since its inception, the United States Congress has been solely responsible for creating and enforcing its own code of ethics for the behavior of its members. In light of the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida), amid allegations that he exchanged sexually explicit emails with under-age congressional pages, the question arises, should Congress continue to police itself, or should the task be up to an independent commission?

Who are House Pages?
U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida) resigned his position on Sept. 29, amid allegations that he had exchanged sexually explicit emails with teenage congressional Pages. As the Justice Department prepares to investigate whether or not criminal charges might be warranted in the scandal, let’s take a quick look at the unique and historic House Page...

Did Congress Have Authority to Hold Baseball Steroid Hearings?
Did the House Government Reform Committee have the authority to hold its much-reported hearings into steroid use in Major League Baseball, or was the testimony of several former and present MLB stars little more than a taxpayer-funded photo-op?

Novel Reveals 7 Deadly Sins of Congressmen
To celebrate the release of Brad Meltzer's New York Times bestselling novel "The Zero Game," Warner Books is challenging Capitol Hill staffers to reveal seven of the deadliest "sins" that are happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

Congress Today
Daily schedules and activities of the House and Senate, plus loads of information on the legislative system. From your About.com Guide.

Salaries and Benefits of U.S. Congress
How much do Members of Congress make? Do they pay Social Security? Do they draw retirement? From your About.com Guide.

About the United States Congress
The formation, organization and leadership of the United States Congress -- House of Representatives and Senate -- as described in the U.S. Government Manual.

Congress Votes Itself a Pay Raise
Want a raise? Don't beg to your boss. Just vote yourself one. That's what the United States Congress just did. For the fifth year in a row, lawmakers voted not to reject their automatic "cost of living" raise that will increase the annual salary of members by $3,400 to a total of $158,103 per year.

How Bills Become Laws
From introduction to presidential signature or veto, a simple step-by-step of the legislative process from your About.com Guide.

Letters to Congress
Tips for writing effective letters to elected officials. From your about.com Guide.

Replacement Congress?
What if, on Sept. 11, 2001, United flight 93 had crashed into its probable target, the U.S. Capitol Building, killing or disabling hundreds of Senators and Representatives? How quickly could Congress have recovered, if at all?

Longest Filibusters - 5 Longest Filibusters
The longest filibusters in American political history can be measured in hours, not minutes. They were conducted on the floor of the U.S. Senate during charged debates on civil rights, public debt and the military. In a filibuster, a senator may continue to speak indefinitely to prevent a final vote on the bill. Some read the phone book, cite recipes for fried oysters, or read the Declaration of Independence. So who conducted the longest filibusters? How long did the longest filibusters last? Which important debates were put on hold because of the longest filibusters?

How to Order a Flag Flown Over the Capitol
U.S. Flags flown over the Capitol Building can be ordered from any U.S. Senator or Representative. Here's how.

Senator Attacks Water Sucking Weed
A US Senator has declared legislative war against a fast-spreading, non-native plant he says threatens to dry up water supplies from Colorado to California.

Why We have a House and Senate
Why do we have two chambers in Congress, the House and Senate? Since members of both are elected by, and represent the people, wouldn't the lawmaking process be more efficient if bills were considered by only one body? From your About Guide.

Constitution of the United States
In just four pages, the Founding Fathers layout an owner's manual for America that has been changed only 27 times in over 200 years.

Code of Ethics for US Government Service
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” write Hamilton and Madison in Federalist 51. While people are not angels, those who work for or serve in the U.S. government are expected to adhere to these ten ethical and moral standards.

In Modern Times, Congress is Reluctant to Punish its Own
Refer to this history of ethics violations to learn more about how Congress punishes its members. Find out who were the most serious ethics violators in the history of the House and Senate. See which member of Congress was punished for ethics violations and which were not.

Federal Regulations: Laws Behind the Acts
The main functional laws behind the sweeping Acts of Congress are found in 134,723 pages of ‘federal regulations’ created not by Congress, but by the government agencies. Read about the process and control of federal rulemaking. From your About Guide.

Even in Recession, Congress Pay Grew
Find out how much Congress Pay increased during the recession. Learn about how Congress pay compared to per capita income in the United States. See how much more Congress pay was than per capita income. Read a history of Congress pay to find out how much it has increased over the years.

Government Ethics and Conduct: 'If men were angels...'
In Federalist 51, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton warn the American people that since their leaders are mere humans, mistakes would be made. "If men were angels no government would be necessary."

Congressional Allowances
Along with salaries and benefits, members of the US Congress get certain allowances in support of their duties.

What Law is John Edwards Accused of Breaking?
Read about the John Edwards indictment. Find out what law the former presidential candidate is alleged to have broken. See how Edwards responded to the allegations. Explore the legal arguments in the case.

CongressLink
A classroom-friendly service for teachers and students of history, politics, civics, and related subjects in upper elementary schools through college who want to pursue the study of Congress.

Biographical Directory of Congress -- 1774 to Present
A Congressional search engine listing biographical information on every person who has ever served in the United States Senate, House of Representatives, President, or Vice President.

Center for Responsive Politics
A non-partisan, non-profit group in D.C. that studies the effect of money on Congressional actions. Campaign contributions and Congressional travel are just 2 of their databases.

Congressional Budget Office
Since 1974, the CBO has been providing Congress with objective, timely, nonpartisan analyses needed for economic and budget decisions. A very good idea, indeed.

Congressional Research Service Reports
Go here for research on the legislative session, the Federal Budget process, Presidential actions, and much more. Offers great reports by government authorities.

Mojo 400 Biggest Congressional Contributors
Can you really buy Congress? Mother Jones News has compiled this list of 400 corporations and individuals who give the most money. You can also search the list.

Rules of the US House of Representatives
From the Library of Congress, the rules by which legislation is introduced and debated in the House.

Standing Rules of the Senate
Full text of the rules by which the Senate operates. Look here to find out how the Senate ratifies treaties and considers nominations by the President.

Thomas Legislative Information Center
From the Library of Congress. Information on the law-making process, current bills under consideration, complete schedules of Congressional committees.

U.S. House of Representatives
Current activities of the House along with email addresses of members and links to subcommittees.

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