United States Congress

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States consisting of two houses: the lower house known as the House of Representatives and the upper house known as the Senate. The Congress was created by the Constitution of the United States and first met in 1789, replacing in its legislative function the Congress of the Confederation.

Congress meets in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both representatives and senators are chosen through direct election. Congress has a total of 535 voting members: 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 members in the Senate.

Congress is split into two chambers—House and Senate—and manages the task of writing national legislation by dividing work into separate committees which specialize in different areas. Some members of Congress are elected by their peers to be officers of these committees. Further, Congress has ancillary organizations such as the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress to help provide it with information, and members of Congress have staff and offices to assist them as well. In addition, a vast industry of lobbyists helps members write legislation on behalf of diverse corporate and labor interests.

The members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms representing the people of a single constituency, known as a “district”. Each state, regardless of population or size, has two senators. Currently, there are 100 senators representing the 50 states. Each senator is elected at-large in their state for a six-year term, with terms staggered, so every two years approximately one-third of the Senate is up for election.