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By Lindsay Graham

The United States legislative branch

The United States Legislative Branch is established by Article I of the U.S. Constitution and is composed of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Together they make up the United States Congress.

Body in charge

Since Congress is split into the House and the Senate, there are respectively two individuals in charge of their own side of the branch. However, there is a hierarchy that dictates the succession of power if the President suddenly were not able to hold office.

First we have the Senate. The Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate, and therefore, is second in line for the Presidency if something were to happen to the President.

Then we have the House of Representatives, which is headed by the Speaker of the House. This person is elected by the other Representatives and is third in line for the Presidency.

What is the Senate?

This part of Congress is composed of 100 senators, two people for each state. Starting in 1913, the ratification of the 17th Amendment makes it so that senators are picked by popular vote. Each senator is elected to six-year terms and these terms are staggered, meaning every two years about one-third of the Senate seats are up for re-election.

In order to be a senator, one has to meet certain requirements:

  • 30 years of age or older
  • A United States citizen for at least nine years
  • A resident of the state they are representing

What is the House?

The House of Representatives is composed of 435 members who are elected and are proportionally divided among the 50 states. These representatives are elected to two-year terms.

There are minimum requirements in order to even run for election to the House:

  • At least 25 years of age
  • A United States citizen for at least seven years
  • A resident of the state they are representing, but not necessarily the district

The powers

Congress as a whole is the sole authority to enact legislation, confirm or reject Presidential appointments, declare war and conduct investigations. These powers belong solely to Congress as a whole; however, each side of Congress also has its own particular powers.

Powers of the Senate

The Senate is the side that holds trial for impeachment cases of federal officials that are referred by the House. The Senate also confirms presidential appointments, but the House must approve appointments to the Vice Presidency. Meaning, in order for the Senate to approve or reject a Presidential appointment, the President of the Senate (Vice President of the United States) must be approved by the House. The Senate also has the power to ratify any treaty that involves foreign trade.

Exclusive powers of the House

The House of Representatives has the exclusive power to elect the President in the special case of a tie in the electoral college. The House also has the power to impeach federal officials; impeachments then are taken to the Senate for trial.

Overall Takeaways

  • The Legislative Branch is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which make Congress
  • The head of the Senate is the Vice President of the United States and is called the President of the Senate
  • The head of the House is elected by House members and is called the Speaker of the House
  • Both the Senate and the House have powers that are exclusive to them within this branch
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