Job Description of a Congressman
Congressmen are publicly
elected officials of the United States government. They hail from each
state and are responsible for making the laws
that affect the lives of every citizen. Congressmen help decide many
issues, including the federal tax rates, the minimum wage that employers
must pay their workers, and how to spend the government’s money.
Congress is divided into two houses–the House of Representatives and the Senate–and there are different qualifications for serving in each.
Representatives–the gender-neutral term for congressmen and
congresswomen–must be at least 25 years old, citizens of the United
States for at least seven years and residents of the state they
Senators must be at least 30 years old, United States citizens for at
least nine years and residents of the state they represent.
Election and terms
Congressmen are elected by the
residents of the state they represent. Members of the House serve for
two years, and members of the Senate serve for six.
In the event that a congressman cannot complete a term, the process
of replacing that person varies from state to state. Some states hold
special elections, whereas others allow their governors to appoint a
Each state elects two senators and a varying number of
representatives, based proportionally on the state’s population. The
Senate has 100 members and the House of Representatives has 435.
Responsibilities and duties
The U.S. Constitution clearly
enumerates the responsibilities of Congress. They include regulating
domestic and international trade, declaring war and maintaining and
supporting the military.
Congressmen’s duties vary according to their stature and party affiliation. Both of the two major political parties
have a leader in each House (called either the majority leader or the
minority leader, depending on which party has more members in the
House). Party leaders are responsible for maintaining diplomatic
relations with one another and with other branches of the government.
Each house also has many committees that focus on a particular
responsibility. Some examples include energy, veterans’ affairs, housing
and foreign relations. Some committees have broad responsibilities,
such as the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
One of the most common duties of a congressman is act as a conduit
between the federal government and the local authorities and residents
of the areas they represent. A local police force, for example, might
ask a congressman for help receiving money or other services from the
Department of Justice. A local unit of a veterans’ organization, such
as the American Legion, might likewise ask a congressman for support in
obtaining something from the Veterans Administration.
Members of Congress receive
annual salaries. They pay is not set specifically in the Constitution.
It changes according to the cost of living and other economic
conditions. The base pay for a congressman exceeds $150,000.
Checks and balances
The three branches of government
— legislative, executive and judicial — were given certain powers so
that no one branch would have too much power. Congress, for example,
approves laws and sends them to the president. The president can reject,
or veto, those laws, but Congress can in turn override that decision.
Congress also has the sole authority of removing the president from office.
The vice president is the
president of the Senate but votes only in the event of a tie. The House
is led by the Speaker, who stands third in the line of succession for
the presidency. Because naturalized citizens are not eligible to serve
as president, the Senate must elect a Speaker who is a natural-born
citizen of the United States.
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