US Congress in the 2016 Elections

By: Marta A

As we all know by now Trump won the 2016 elections, but what about the US congress and what powers do they even have? The United States of America’s constitution Article 1 Section 1 says: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” First of all, what are legislative powers? They are the ability to make laws.

House of Representatives

To be a member of the House of Representatives you need to be a minimum of 25 years old, you need to have 7 years of citizenship, and be a legal resident of the state you represent. Representation is based on population where 6 states (Montana, Alaska, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming) have just 1 and California being the most populated state having 52 representatives. Currently there are 435 members in the house. The people elect both senators and representatives. In the senate, terms last two years meaning that every presidential elections and mid-term elections Americans vote for all the 435 seats in the house. Articles of impeachment are formulated in the House. Furthermore, all quoting the constitution Article 1 Section 7: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”

Senate

For the US Senate instead, you need to be a minimum of 30 years old, a citizen for 9 years and a legal resident of the state you represent. The senate has equal representation, each state having 2 senators. The length of term is 6 years, but majority can change every two years as Americans vote for some senators every two years. The vice-president of the country chairs the senate and in the case of a tie, he can vote in order to break the tie. Impeachment trials also happen in the senate. They also confirm presidential appointments such as federal judges, ambassadors to other countries, and cabinet members. Another power the senate has is to ratify treaties.

Overall, we can see how the senate makes more long term decisions, which explains why the requirement age is higher as older people are considered wiser as well as why the term is longer as the representatives are supposed to think in the countries best interest and not necessarily what the people currently want or for their own personal benefits. On the other hand, the House of Representatives is responsible for more short term things, and listening more to the people which explains why their terms are much shorter.

Elections of 2016

       In the 2016 elections Americans did not only vote for the next president, but also all the 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives as well as 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate. In the table below we can see the results of the 2016 elections:

U.S. Senate U.S. House
Party Before 2016 elections After 2016 elections Before 2016 elections After 2016 elections
Democratic 44 46 186 194
Republican 54 52 246 241
Independent 2 2 0 0
Vacant 0 0 3 0
Total 100 100 435 435

Looking at the table, we need to keep in mind that independent members in the U.S Senate caucus with the democrats, but in any case we can see they did not manage to win the majority after the 2016 elections. As for the U.S House we see that, also there the Republicans managed to hold their majority. This means that for at least the next 2 years the republicans will have all the executive power, as the president will be republican and all the legislative power, as they control congress as well.

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