• America is a representative democracy.

  • Congress is the legislative branch of National Government.

  • They translate the public will into public policy into the form of law.

  • Madison called Congress, “the first branch” of the government.

Bicameral Congress:

  • Constitution establishes a bicameral legislature.

  • Reasons:

    1. Historical: British Parliament has two houses since 1300s. Framers knew the bicameralism works quite well. Since 1787, most States had bicameral legislature.

    2. Practical: The Framers created a two chambered body as part of the Great Compromise. Bicameralism is a kind of reflection of federalism.

    3. Theoretical: Framers liked the idea of a bicameral Congress in which one house might act as a check to others. Framers saw bicameralism as a way to diffuse the abilities that Congress had.

Terms and Sessions

  • Congress has two year terms.

  • Date for start of a new term was changed in the 20th Amendment (1933). Start of each new term is “noon of the 3rd Day of January of every odd numbered year.


  • Session of Congress: Period of time during which Congress assembles and conducts business.

  • Two sessions in each term and Congress (one session per year).

  • Adjourn: Suspends until next session.

  • Both houses do recess for several short periods during a session.