Orientation and Getting Started
Early Development of the Legislative Branch and the Problem of Representation
Enumerated Powers of Congress
Implied, Expansive, and Limited Powers
The Two Congresses: Representation and Lawmaking
Separation of Powers and Interaction between the Branches
Institutional Development and Change
Congress and the American People

Bicameralism Today

The Seventeenth Amendment significantly altered the agency of Senators, shifting their responsibility as representatives from state legislatures to the people of the states and, therefore, undermining federalism (Rossum 2001). But institutional differences between the House and Senate, many of which stem from the original Constitution, continue to affect the lawmaking capacity of Congress. The Senate is smaller, its members serve longer terms, and they are not all elected at the same time. Rules designed to fit the two organizations have reinforced those differences. The majority rules in the House, and it remains the “people’s House,” since its members typically have fewer constituents and are elected more often. Individuals play a much more prominent role in the Senate, which gives individual members the chance to represent their states and build a profile on national and international issues. 

In order for lawmaking to work, both chambers need to agree to the same legislative language and earn the president’s signature. The ability of one chamber to check the priorities of the other, a fundamental principle of the framers’ goal of protecting liberty, remains a key feature of the Congress.