US Congress and Legislatures Law and Legal Definition

The U.S. Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government, created in 1789 by Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States , which defines its membership and its powers. Dividing Congress into two chambers, with the positive vote of both required to approve legislation, is based upon the founding father's concept of employing "checks and balances" to prevent tyranny. Congress is composed of two houses—the Senate and the House of Representatives.

A senator must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen of not less than nine years standing, and a resident of the state in which he or she is elected. The Senate is presided over by the vice president of the United States, who has no part in its deliberations and may vote only in case of a tie; in his absence his duties are assumed by a president pro tempore, elected by the Senate.

Members of the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states according to their populations in the federal census. Representatives are chosen for two-year terms, and the entire body comes up for reelection every two years. A representative must be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen of at least seven years standing, and a resident of the state in which he or she is elected.

States also have their own legislatures, which are a representative assembly empowered to enact statute law. Generally the representatives who compose a legislature are constitutionally elected by a broad spectrum of the population.