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Congress at Work

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The United States government has three branches. Congress is the legislative branch. It makes the nation’s laws. Congress works in the U.S. Capitol building. That’s in Washington, D.C.

Congress has two chambers chamber PHOTOGRAPHYPERSPECTIVES—GETTY IMAGES a room or enclosed space; a meeting hall (noun) The congressmen gathered in the chamber. , or parts. One is the Senate. The other is the House of Representatives. The Senate has 100 senators. That’s two for each state. Senators are elected every six years.

This is the Senate chamber. Senators are getting ready to take a vote that will affect all Americans.

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The House has 435 members. They serve two-year terms term MARK WILSON—GETTY IMAGES the length of time that a person serves in office (noun) Barack Obama served two terms as president. . The number of representatives from each state depends on its population. States with more people get more representatives representative JEFF HUTCHENS—GETTY IMAGES a member of the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States (noun) John Lewis was a representative from Georgia. .

This is the House chamber. Members are having a debate. The Speaker of the House is sitting beneath the flag.

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Laws of the Land

To make a law, Congress starts with a bill. Any member of Congress can write one. It’s even possible for your ideas to become a bill. You can send them to your representative or Senator in a letter or email.

Congress has been meeting at the U.S. Capitol building, in Washington, D.C., since 1800.

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After a bill is written, the House and the Senate debate it. The bill must get a majority of votes in both chambers to pass. Then the bill goes to the president. If the president signs the bill, it becomes a law.

Congress also acts as a check on the president’s power. Let’s say the president vetoes, or rejects, a bill. Congress can override override SAMUEL CORUM/ ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES to cancel out (verb) Congress can override a President's veto. the veto if two-thirds of its members vote to do so.

Congress shares power with the executive branch. That branch is led by the president. It also shares power with the judicial branch. The U.S. Supreme Court is that branch’s highest court.

Leading the House

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The House of Representatives is led by one of its members. This person is called the Speaker of the House. The current Speaker is Nancy Pelosi. She’s a representative from California. She’s the first woman to hold this position.

The Speaker is elected by House members every two years. He or she is second in line to take over the president’s job, if necessary. The vice president is first.

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