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Article One of the United States Constitution establishes the legislative branch of the federal government, the United States Congress. The Congress is a bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate.
- 1 Section 1: Legislative power vested in Congress
- 2 Section 2: House of Representatives
- 3 Section 3: Senate
- 4 Section 4: Congressional elections
- 5 Section 5: Procedure
- 6 Section 6: Compensation, privileges, and restrictions on holding civil office
- 7 Section 7: Bills
- 8 Section 8: Powers of Congress
- 9 Section 9: Limits on Congress
- 10 Section 10: Limits on the States
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Section 1: Legislative power vested in Congress
Section 1 is a vesting clause, granting all the federal government's legislative authority to Congress. Similar vesting clauses are found in Articles II and III, which grant "the executive power" to the President and "the judicial power" to the federal judiciary. In legal proceedings, the working definition of "herein" connotes specificity and exclusivity. The Vesting Clauses thus establishes the principle of separation of powers by specifically giving to each branch of the federal government only those powers it can exercise and no others. This means that no branch may exercise powers that properly belong to another (e.g., since the legislative power is only vested in Congress, the executive and judiciary may not enact laws).
The language "herein granted" in Article I's vesting clause has been interpreted to mean that the powers Congress are to exercise are exclusively those specifically provided for in Article I. The clause "herein granted" was further defined and elaborated by the tenth amendment. Thus, this congressional clause is contrasted by the general vesting of the executive and judicial powers in Articles II and III in the branches of government those articles govern, which has been interpreted to mean that those branches enjoy "residual" or "implied" powers beyond those specifically mentioned, as contrasted with the Congress, which is vested with those legislative powers "herein granted;" however, there is substantial contemporary disagreement about the precise extent of the powers conferred by the general vesting clauses.
As a corollary to the fact that Congress, and only Congress, is vested with the legislative power, Congress (in theory) cannot delegate legislative authority to other branches of government (e.g., the Executive Branch), a rule known as the nondelegation doctrine. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress does have latitude to delegate regulatory powers to executive agencies as long as it provides an "intelligible principle" which governs the agency's exercise of the delegated regulatory authority. In practice, the Supreme Court has only invalidated four statutes on non-delegation grounds in its history, three of which were invalidated in the mid-1930s. The fourth, the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, was invalidated in 1998. The nondelegation doctrine is primarily used now as a way of interpreting a congressional delegation of authority narrowly, in that the courts presume Congress intended only to delegate that which it certainly could have, unless it clearly demonstrates it intended to "test the waters" of what the courts would allow it to do.
Although not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, Congress has also long asserted the power to investigate and the power to compel cooperation with an investigation. The Supreme Court has affirmed these powers as an implication of Congress's power to legislate. Since the power to investigate is an aspect of Congress's power to legislate, it is as broad as Congress's powers to legislate. However, it is also limited to inquiries that are "in aid of the legislative function;" Congress may not "expose for the sake of exposure." It is uncontroversial that a proper subject of Congress's investigation power is the operations of the federal government, but Congress's ability to compel the submission of documents or testimony from the President or his subordinates is often-discussed and sometimes controversial (see executive privilege), although not often litigated. As a practical matter, the limitation of Congress's ability to investigate only for a proper purpose ("in aid of" its legislative powers) functions as a limit on Congress's ability to investigate the private affairs of individual citizens; matters that simply demand action by another branch of government, without implicating an issue of public policy necessitating legislation by Congress, must be left to those branches due to the doctrine of separation of powers. The courts are highly deferential to Congress's exercise of its investigation powers, however. Congress has the power to investigate that which it could regulate, and the courts have interpreted Congress's regulatory powers broadly since the Great Depression.
Additionally, the courts will not inquire into whether Congress has an improper motive for an investigation (i.e., using a legitimate legislative purpose as a cover for "expos[ing] for the sake of exposure"), focusing only on whether the matter is within Congress's power to regulate and, thus, investigate. Persons called before a congressional investigatory committee are entitled to the constitutional guarantees of individual rights, such as those in the Bill of Rights. Congress can punish those who do not cooperate with an investigation via holding violators in contempt of Congress.
Section 2: House of Representatives
Clause 1: Composition and election of Members
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
Section Two provides for the election of the House of Representatives every second year. Since Representatives are to be "chosen... by the People," State Governors are not allowed to appoint temporary replacements when vacancies occur in a state's delegation to the House of Representatives; instead, the Governor of the state is required by clause 4 to issue a writ of election calling a special election to fill the vacancy.
At the time of its creation, the Constitution did not explicitly give citizens an inherent right to vote. Rather, it provided that those qualified to vote in elections for the largest chamber of a state's legislature may vote in Congressional (House of Representatives) elections. Since the Civil War, several constitutional amendments have been enacted that have curbed the states' broad powers to set voter qualification standards. Though never enforced, clause 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Nineteenth Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex. The Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of a poll tax. The Twenty-sixth Amendment prohibits the denial of the right of US citizens, eighteen years of age or older, to vote on account of age.
Moreover, since the Supreme Court has recognized voting as a fundamental right, the Equal Protection Clause places very tight limitations (albeit with uncertain limits) on the states' ability to define voter qualifications; it is fair to say that qualifications beyond citizenship, residency, and age are usually questionable.
In the 1960s, the Supreme Court started to view voting as a fundamental right covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a dissenting opinion of a 1964 Supreme Court case involving reapportionment in the Alabama state legislature, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan II included Minor in a list of past decisions about voting and apportionment which were no longer being followed.
Since clause 3 provides that Members of the House of Representatives are apportioned state-by-state and that each state is guaranteed at least one Representative, exact population equality between all districts is not guaranteed and, in fact, is currently impossible, because while the size of the House of Representatives is fixed at 435, several states had less than 1/435 of the national population at the time of the last reapportionment in 2000. However, the Supreme Court has interpreted the provision of Clause One that Representatives shall be elected "by the People" to mean that, in those states with more than one member of the House of Representatives, each congressional election district within the state must have nearly identical populations.
Clause 2: Qualifications of Members
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
The Constitution provides three requirements for Representatives: A Representative must be at least 25 years old, must be an inhabitant of the state in which he or she is elected, and must have been a citizen of the United States for the previous seven years. There is no requirement that a Representative reside within the district in which he or she represents; although this is usually the case, there have been occasional exceptions.
The Supreme Court has interpreted the Qualifications Clause as an exclusive list of qualifications that cannot be supplemented by a house of Congress exercising its Section 5 authority to "judge...the...qualifications of its own members" or by a state in its exercise of its Section 4 authority to prescribe the "times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives." The Supreme Court, as well as other federal courts, have repeatedly barred states from additional restrictions, such as imposing term limits on members of Congress, allowing members of Congress to be subject to recall elections, or requiring that Representatives live in the congressional district in which they represent.
However, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that certain ballot access requirements, such as filing fees and submitting a certain number of valid petition signatures do not constitute additional qualifications and thus few Constitutional restrictions exist as to how harsh ballot access laws can be.
Clause 3: Apportionment of Representatives and taxes
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
After much debate, the framers of the Constitution decided to make population the basis of apportioning the seats in the House of Representatives and the tax liability among the states. To facilitate this, the Constitution mandates that a census be conducted every ten years to determine the population of each state and of the nation as a whole and establishes a rule for who shall be counted or excluded from the count. As the new form of government most certainly become operational prior to the completion of a national census, the Constitution also provides for a temporary apportionment of seats in the mean time.
Originally, the population of each state and of the nation as a whole was ascertained by adding to the whole number of free Persons, three-fifths the number of all other Persons (i.e., slaves , but excluding non-taxed Native Americans. This Constitutional rule, known as the three-fifths compromise, was a compromise between Southern and Northern states in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes and for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and of taxes among the states. It was, according to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (writing in 1833), "a matter of compromise and concession, confessedly unequal in its operation, but a necessary sacrifice to that spirit of conciliation, which was indispensable to the union of states having a great diversity of interests, and physical condition, and political institutions".
Following the completion of each census, Congress is empowered to use the aggregate population in all the states (according to the prevailing Constitutional rule for determining population) to determine the relative population of each state to the population of the whole, and, based on its calculations, to establish the appropriate size of the House and to allocate a particular number of representatives to each state according to its share of the national population.
Since enactment of the Reapportionment Act of 1929, a constant 435 House seats have been apportioned among the states according to each census, and determining the size of the House is not presently part of the apportionment process. With one exception, the apportionment of 1842, the House of Representatives had been enlarged by various degrees from sixty-five members in 1788 to 435 members by 1913. The determination of size was made based on the aggregate national population, so long as the size of the House did not exceed 1 member for every 30,000 of the country's total population nor the size of any state's delegation exceed 1 for every 30,000 of that state's population. With the size of the House still fixed at 435, the current ratio, as of the 2010 Census, is around 1 Representative: 700,000 Citizens.
Although the first sentence in this clause originally concerned apportionment of both House seats and taxes among the several states, the Fourteenth Amendment sentence that replaced it in 1868 mentioned only the apportionment of House seats. Even so, the constraint placed upon Congress' taxation power remained, as the restriction was reiterated in Article 1 Section 9 Clause 4. The amount of direct taxes that could be collected by the federal government from the people in any State would still be tied directly to that state's share of the national population.
Due to this restriction, application of the income tax to income derived from real estate and specifically income in the form of dividends from personal property ownership such as stock shares was found to be unconstitutional because it was not apportioned among the states; that is to say, there was no guarantee that a State with 10% of the country's population paid 10% of those income taxes collected, because Congress had not fixed an amount of money to be raised and apportioned it between the States according to their respective shares of the national population. To permit the levying of such an income tax, Congress proposed and the states ratified the Sixteenth Amendment, which removed the restriction by specifically providing that Congress could levy a tax on income "from whatever source derived" without it being apportioned among the States or otherwise based on a State's share of the national population.
Clause 4: Vacancies
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
Section two, Clause four, provides that when vacancies occur in the House of Representatives, it is not the job of the House of Representatives to arrange for a replacement, but the job of the State whose vacant seat is up for refilling. Moreover, the State Governor may not appoint a temporary replacement, but must instead arrange for a special election to fill the vacancy. The original qualifications and procedures for holding that election are still valid.
Clause 5: Speaker and other officers; Impeachment
The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
Section Two further provides that the House of Representatives may choose its Speaker and its other officers. Though the Constitution does not mandate it, every Speaker has been a member of the House of Representatives. The Speaker rarely presides over routine House sessions, choosing instead to deputize a junior member to accomplish the task.
Finally, Section Two grants to the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment. Although the Supreme Court has not had an occasion to interpret this specific provision, the Court has suggested that the grant to the House of the "sole" power of impeachment makes the House the exclusive interpreter of what constitutes an impeachable offense. Impeachments are tried in the Senate (as discussed below).