I just started learning about government and politics from CrashCourse, and I’m really glad, because I want to be an involved citizen that understands relationships between and within countries. These relationships are very important, because not only is a good understanding of politics and government a must for the story I’m planning on writing, but greater knowledge on these important relations will be extremely useful for me. I feel that I need to know these things to have more power to help make the changes I think are best for the world and its people.
The US Constitution has 7 articles and 28 amendments. The US national government has 3 branches: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. The Legislative branch is Congress, and Congress consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the House, each state is represented by 1 or more representatives. The amount of representatives of a state is determined by that state’s population.
California is the state with the highest population, and thus has 52 representatives in the House.
The Senate has 100 representatives for 50 states because each state has 2 representatives. Ever since the passing of the 17th Amendment, senators have been elected by the people, as opposed to by the state legislature.
The House has the ability to impeach the president and other officials of the federal government—which does not mean it can just remove them. Rather, an impeachment is an accusation of misconduct made toward a public official. The trial following the House’s impeachment takes place in the Senate.
Presidential candidates usually win by the electoral college; the candidate with the majority of electoral votes wins the presidency. However, when no candidate wins the majority of these votes, the House has the power to choose which candidate will be president.
Article 1, Section 7 states that “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” This means that whenever the taxes of the US people are raised, the bill for raising them comes from the House.
As already mentioned, the Senate can “hold impeachment trials;” it can also ratify treaties. To ratify something is to officially approve of something—to give consent (by signing, for example) to some agreement or contract (like a treaty). A treaty is a formal agreement between countries. (Remember the Treaty of Versailles, which took place after WW1? It was an agreement among countries on how to proceed after the war. One of the things Germany had to do to “make up” was pay a certain sum of money to certain nations. When it was not able to provide one such payment (Germany claimed it didn’t have the means), Belgium and France invaded Germany as a form of punishment. This occurred after the formation of the League of Nations, yet the League did not stop France and Belgium because France was one of the League’s strongest nations, and Britain, the other strongest nation in the League, supported France.)
Another major power of the Senate is that it can confirm the appointment of federal officers.
Craig (the one behind these CrashCourse videos—he teaches US Government and Politics on CrashCourse) goes on to explain why there are 2 legislative houses anyway. He says part of the reason is that back when the layout of the government was being formed, there were conflicting wishes on how the legislature should be set up. Delegates from larger states wanted proportional representation, meaning that the amount of representatives from each state would vary depending on the population of each state. States with larger populations would have more representatives in the legislature, and therefore more power in legislature. Smaller states would have less representatives and less power—for obvious reasons, this was a problem for smaller states.
The Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan were proposed, and larger states favored the Virginia Plan (and smaller states favored the New Jersey Plan) because of differences in state population. The Great Compromise was where it was agreed that there would be two legislative houses. One (the Senate) would have equal representation (2 Senators from each state), while the other (the House of Representatives) would use proportional representation (which is why in the House, some states have more representatives than others; amount of representatives of each state is determined by population of each state). But that’s what Craig calls the historical reason—the practical reason for a bicameral legislature (2-house legislature) is that in that way, the legislative branch would not grow too powerful.
Craig goes on to explain that the two houses of the legislature allow for an intrabranch check (in this case, a check of power within the legislative branch).
Of the two houses in Congress (the Senate is called the upper house and the House of Representatives is called the lower house), the House of Rep. was supposed to be closer to the people and it was supposed to be influenced the most by the people, whereas the Senate was supposed to be a more independent body where the senators acted mostly using their judgement on what was best for those they were representing. This explains why senators maintain their positions for longer than House representatives, for one thing.
Thanks for reading.