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16 October 2014
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Reference - Federal governmentOverview
Politicians elected to Congress have two levels of responsibility. Their core job is to represent constituents and resolve broad national and foreign affairs issues, but they must also be guided by the distinct interests of their own state or district. If they do not, they are unlikely to be re-elected.

Congress is the branch of government which makes laws in the USA. The primary duty of Congress is to draft, debate and pass laws before they are presented to the President for approval. It is the arena in which the states operate at a national level.

Congress is divided into two parliaments or Houses. These are the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress is, therefore, known as a "bicameral" legislature (literally meaning two rooms or chambers). In the House, states with larger populations have more representatives. In the Senate, each state has two representatives, regardless of population. The intention is that large states do not overwhelm small ones when decisions are being made.

To minimise disruption in the government of the country, members of Congress are elected to the two chambers at different times.

the house of representatives
There are 435 members in the House of Representatives. Every member represents a congressional district, which is an area within a state. The size of population determines how many congressional districts a state will have. This is adjusted every ten years, according to information from the US Census Bureau. With the biggest population, California has 53 Representatives in the House. Some states, with small populations, have only one Representative.

In addition to the 435 Representatives, there are five Delegates who represent the constituencies of Puerto Rico, Guam , American Samoa , the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia . These members of the House cannot vote, but may participate in debates.

To be eligible to stand as a Representative you must be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years and a resident of the state you wish to represent. The House is completely re-elected every two years, when all members must go before the voters and compete for their seat. The intention of frequent elections is that members in the House of Representatives have to stay in touch with local issues to be able to stay in office.

the senate
The Senate has 100 members. Each state has two members, regardless of its population. Each Senator serves a term of six years. Every two years, one third of Senators' seats come up for re-election. This longer period in office and the staggered election system is supposed to mean that the Senate provides a sense of stability and restraint in government.

Senators have greater prestige than Representatives.

Anyone seeking election as a Senator must be 30 years old, a United States citizen for at least nine years and a resident of the state they wish to represent.

Compared to the House, the Senate is a less partisan chamber. Senators are less likely to make decisions based on the wishes of their party. But this greater independence from the party line does not mean they can ignore the opinions of their constituents. If they hope to be financed and voted for at election time, they must pay attention to their state's cultural and ethnic composition and the prevailing social attitudes.


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