The United States Congress

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Joel Fulleda
@joelfulleda
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Index

  • Composition of Congress
  • The institutional functions of the American Congress
  • The seat of Congress: Capitol Hill
  • The Capitol and the beauty of its interiors
  • L’assalto a Capitol Hill

The United States Congress is the expression body of the legislative power of the American federal government and is composed of two main chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is therefore a so-called perfect bicameralism, in which the two chambers enjoy exactly the same institutional powers.



Its headquarters are in Washington DC and more precisely in the Palazzo del Campidoglio, which jumped to the world news following the incredible assault organized by supporters of former President Trump.

Let's try to understand in detail how the Congress is composed, where the institutional building that houses it is located and what happened on January 6, 2021.

Composition of Congress

The United States Congress was officially established way back 1789, at the conclusion of the American War of Independence. To ratify the structure were the Founding fathers, who for a long time discussed the type of representation of the two chambers.

Based on the Connecticut Compromise it was decided to create a bicameral Parliament with one chamber representing the people and the other representing the federal states.

The Congress is made up of the House of Representatives, whose members are elected according to the number of inhabitants of the single State, and from Senate, which provides for an identical number of representatives for each of the states, regardless of the demographic data.  

In particular, the House of Representatives counts well 435 components who are directly elected every 2 years. These elections always coincide with Presidential Election Day and the midterm Midterm Elections.



The Speaker of the Chamber is named Speaker and is in charge of presiding over the sessions of the shareholders' meeting, making proposals for law and appointing commissions.

The last distribution of single-member constituencies it was set in 2010, and California has the highest number, 53 delegates. Only one representative is assigned to Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota, Montana, and North Dakota.

To aspire to the House of Representatives, it is essential to be at least 25 years old, have been a citizen of the United States for 7 years and reside in the state for which you want to apply.

The other branch of Congress, the Senate, provides 100 members in all and precisely 2 for each State. The senators hold office for a term of 6 years, but a third of the seats will be renewed every two years.

To be elected, you must be at least 30 years old, have been in possession of American citizenship for 9 years and be a resident of the state you are applying for. The Senate is chaired by Vice President, who, however, is not an active member and has no right to vote, except in the event of a tie.

Therefore in his absence a President for the time being, chosen from among the senators of the majority party who has held the post for the longest time. In the line of succession to the Presidency of the United States, he is in third position, immediately after Vice President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.


The institutional functions of the American Congress

The main task of the United States Congress is to propose and approve federal laws which will come into effect throughout the United States. According to the American Constitution, the President should have no influence on the legislature of the Houses of Parliament; indirectly, however, it can influence the choices of Congress through the deputies and senators of their own party.


As already mentioned, Congress can move freely in the federal sphere but has limited room for maneuver for the powers of a state nature: in this case it can legislate in matters of defense, taxation, customs duties, postal service and state budget.

Each proposed bill must be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives; for this reason we speak of Perfect bicameralism, that is, a perfect balance of powers between the two chambers.

The American President may disagree on passing a specific law and has the power to refer it back to Congress. If this time a majority of 2/3 is reached, he is forced to enact it.

Formally Chamber and Senate are equal and they work together but there are exceptions: for example, in the field of foreign policy the President only needs the approval of the Senate to appoint ambassadors and diplomatic staff and to sign international treaties; the same choice of Supreme Court judges it is bound by the vote of the senators.

 In financial area bills can only be addressed to the House of Representatives, although the Constitution also requires consideration by the Senate.


The seat of Congress: Capitol Hill

The United States Congress is located in Washington and represents the fulcrum political and administrative of the country. It is located in an immense building that stands in Capitol Hill, the Colle del Campidoglio. It is located exactly on the eastern side of the National Mall, the long monumental avenue that leads to the Lincoln memorial.

The east and west sides of the Capitol represent the facades while the two side sections house the Parliament rooms; in the south wing is the House of Representatives and in the north wing the Senate. The building is characterized by a neoclassical style and is recognizable for the huge dome visible from miles away.


Construction of the building began in 1793 and it was George Washington who laid the first stone. The original project has been modified several times and over time great architects such as Charles Bulfinch, Stephen Hallet, August Schoenborn, Thomas U. Walter and Benjamin Latrobe have alternated.

Shortly after finishing the two wings of the building, Capitol Hill was burned down in 1812 during the war against the British. Severely damaged, the Capitol underwent major renovations that were only completed in 1826.

Other expansion interventions took place in the mid-XNUMXth century, many of which focused on the splendid dome that stands out in the center of the building. 96 meters high and 29 wide, it is inspired by that of the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris and is built as a double dome with a central oculus. In 1863 it was placed a small Statue of Liberty on the top.

Throughout the twentieth century the Capitol saw adding several tunnels, including an underground railway created with the aim of connecting the various offices and institutional offices of the complex; in addition, the interior rooms have been marked with a numeric digit preceded by H (House) for the House of Representatives and S (Senate) for the Senate.

Among the many curiosities related to the importance of Capitol Hill in Washington is the fact that the streets of the city are indicated with the acronym SE, SW, NE and NW, that is, south-east, south-west, north-east and north-west. In fact, each address of the capital shows the geographical position of each street with respect to the Campidoglio roundabout.

The Capitol Hill building, Washington.

The Capitol and the beauty of its interiors

The American Congress building is a classic example of neoclassical art but its beauty also extends inside the building.

Of great interest are the artist's paintings and paintings Constantine Brumidi which has frescoed several corridors and rooms on the first floor. The Italo-Greek painter also worked on the inside of the dome for which he painted the Apotheosis of George Washington.

Inside the rotunda of the dome there are many other paintings depicting the salient moments of American history. One of the best known works is precisely John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence which can also be seen on the back of the 2 dollar bill.

The Capitol in Washington also houses several art collections such as the National Statuary Hall Collection, a collection of sculptures that includes statues from every state in homage to the great figures of the stars and stripes culture.

This collection is located in the wonderful Hall of Statues, known as the Old Hall of the House. It is a huge semicircular room that extends over two floors and has hosted meetings of the House of Representatives for 50 years.

An underground section below the structure's central rotunda is known as crypt, and originally should have contained George Washington's grave; today, however, you can visit a small museum that tells the centuries-old history of the Capitol.

Also in the crypt it is possible to observe the bier that is used for the wake of important personalities as presidents and high-ranking politicians. The last to be watched here was former President George HW Bush, who passed away in 2018.

Finally, every year the Congress building hosts the State of the Union address delivered by the President of the United States in the House of Representatives.

L’assalto a Capitol Hill

As many will know by now, a November 2020 the presidential elections were held which decreed the victory of the Democrat Joe Biden.

Since then the former president Trump it has never stopped fighting against the outcome of the polls, accusing rivals of fraud and manipulation of the vote in several key states, starting with Georgia.

A January 2021 the situation has not changed and the tycoon has continued to obstruct political obstruction in every way. On the morning of 6st January in Washington the Save America March, where thousands of Trump supporters marched to express their dissent.

At the end of the march, several personalities gave a speech, including Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump himself who said he didn't want to acknowledge Biden's victory and rather asked the vice president Mike Pence to overturn the result of the vote.

It was scheduled for the same day in Congress official ratification by the Electoral College that he would formally vote to sanction Biden's election as president. Trump then asked the protesters to march to the Capitol to show their dissent publicly.

The meeting, however, resulted in a verse and proper assault on Congress around 13 and hundreds of people began to press against the security perimeter created by the police; around 14 pm the crowd began to advance towards the gates, managing to breach the blocks and compromising the security of the building.  

Members of Congress gathered in the assembly were made safe as many of the people circulated freely in the building and there have been cases of violence and devastation of the internal rooms.

During the chaos caused by Trump supporters, several gunshots were fired and the victims were 5, including a police officer. It took several hours to escort all the dissidents out and it was only at 4 in the morning that the Electoral College vote was finally over.

The news of the assault on the Capitol soon went around the world and was greeted with amazement by the main world leaders. Also on social media a trail of protests and indignation has started for what many have defined as a real one attack on democracy.  

 

 

 


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