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The Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the United States government, commonly referred to as Congress, consists of representatives from every state. A session of Congress begins each January. There is usually a recess in August, after which the session resumes until Thanksgiving. The United States Constitution divides the representatives to Congress into two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The U.S. Constitution grants all legislative powers and the following other main powers to Congress:

  • to lay and collect taxes
  • to pay the debts of the federal government
  • to borrow money on the credit of the United States
  • to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states
  • to establish a uniform rule of naturalization and uniform laws on bankruptcies
  • to coin money, regulate its value, and fix the standard of weights and measures
  • to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting
  • to establish post offices and post roads
  • to secure copyright and patent right protections to authors and inventors
  • to constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court
  • to declare war, raise and support an army, provide and maintain a navy, and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces
  • to provide for a militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions
  • to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over the nation’s Capitol

Legislative Resources
Your elected officials
Search Legislation
U.S. Senate Web site
U.S. House of Representatives Web site