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Explaining Politics: United States Legislature  - the House and the Senate

Explaining Politics: United States Legislature - the House and the Senate

The lawmakers of the US are split at the national level into two different groups - the House of Representatives and the Senate

The House of Representatives

The first group is the House of Representatives, which is made up of 435 members from ever one of the 50 states. Each House member is elected to serve a two year term, and after that two years, every member of the House has to run for reelection. This number has changed over the years as more states have been added, though since 1911, the total number of House representatives has remained relatively stagnant. Each state has a minimum of one House members, with bigger states getting bigger a larger share of representatives in the House. So a state like Wyoming, the state with the smallest population of 579,000 gets one House representative, while California, with over 39 million people, gets 53 representatives in the House. Based on the current population trends, each member of the House represents around 720,000 people, and the people that the House members represent changes every 10 years based off of new date from the census.

This process of redistricting attempts to fairly proportion who voters elect to the House and what district those elected representatives represent. However, in many states, this process is complicated by what is known as gerrymandering, wherein districts can be created in such a way as to give one political party more seats in the House than they would have if it was just randomly proportioned. Many cases of gerrymandering have occurred over the years, though more recently states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and Ohio have tried to address these issues.

The Senate

Besides the House, there is also the United States Senate has 100 members, two from each state, and unlike the House, the number of representatives from each state is the same regardless of the states population. Also unlike the House, Senate members are elected by the entirety of the state, so there is no need to worry about different districts, as the two Senate members represent the entirety of each state. Members of the Senate serve for six years terms and as such when election comes around, not all members of the Senate have to care about reelection campaigns. 

How Laws Are Created In The United States

In order for a law to be created in the US, it must be proposed in either the US House or Senate, acquire a majority of each chambers members to approve it, then be signed by the president. While this process can seems simple, there are many rules and regulations that complicate the process. While most bills can be introduced in either the House or the Senate, there is a clause in the US constitution that stipulates that any bills dealing with raising revenue has to start in the House. Further, while bills only need a majority for a bill to be approved, 51 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House, in the Senate if there are objections by any Senator to a bill being proposed, then a Senator may begin a filibuster, wherein they are able to delay voting on a bill for as long as they keep speaking. In order to stop a filibuster, 60 Senators must agree to do so, which in essence means that any controversial bill that the Senate attempts to pass requires 60 votes to pass instead of the normal 51, as those in the minority can threaten to filibuster for as long as necessary.