How does the United States government work? Congress meets once a year in Washington, D.C. and the term is odd-numbered years. The United States Congress has two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and is composed of members who belong to one of the two major parties. There are also third parties and independents in the Congress, though they are rare. Independents, however, can still participate in congressional caucuses. Members of Congress may switch parties at any time.
The popularity of Congress is declining along with public confidence in government. It is easy to dislike the legislative process and representatives who make compromises with powerful interests. Additionally, members of Congress often appear self-serving and represent controversial interests. Further, scandals involving a particular member of Congress can add to the public’s frustration. In fact, it is not unusual for a single member to receive a low rating in an opinion poll. But how do the majority of Americans view Congress?
The House of Representatives is the body that makes laws. Members are elected by the people. The House of Representatives consists of 435 elected members, divided among the 50 states by population. There are also six non-voting members, from the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and four U.S. territories. Representatives elect the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is third in line of succession. This body has the power of the purse. They have the power to tax and spend the nation’s money.