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United States Congress

The members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms representing the people of a single constituency, known as a "district". Congressional districts are apportioned to states by population using the United States Census results, provided that each state has at least one congressional representative. 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.
The term Congress can also refer to a particular meeting of the legislature. A Congress covers two years; the current one, the 116th Congress, began on January 3, 2019, and will end on January 3, 2021. The Congress starts and ends on the third day of January of every odd-numbered year. Members of the Senate are referred to as senators; members of the House of Representatives are referred to as representatives, congresswomen, or congressmen.
These years were marked by growth in the power of political parties. The watershed event was the Civil War which resolved the slavery issue and unified the nation under federal authority, but weakened the power of states rights. The Gilded Age (1877–1901) was marked by Republican dominance of Congress. During this time, lobbying activity became more intense, particularly during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant in which influential lobbies advocated for railroad subsidies and tariffs on wool. Immigration and high birth rates swelled the ranks of citizens and the nation grew at a rapid pace. The Progressive Era was characterized by strong party leadership in both houses of Congress as well as calls for reform; sometimes reformers would attack lobbyists as corrupting politics. The position of Speaker of the House became extremely powerful under leaders such as Thomas Reed in 1890 and Joseph Gurney Cannon. The Senate was effectively controlled by a half dozen men.
Congress has authority over financial and budgetary policy through the enumerated power to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States". There is vast authority over budgets, although analyst Eric Patashnik suggested that much of Congress's power to manage the budget has been lost when the welfare state expanded since "entitlements were institutionally detached from Congress's ordinary legislative routine and rhythm". Another factor leading to less control over the budget was a Keynesian belief that balanced budgets were unnecessary.
Congress also has implied powers deriving from the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause which permit Congress to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof". Broad interpretations of this clause and of the Commerce Clause, the enumerated power to regulate commerce, in rulings such as McCulloch v Maryland, have effectively widened the scope of Congress's legislative authority far beyond that prescribed in Section 8.
The Senate has an important check on the executive power by confirming Cabinet officials, judges, and other high officers "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate". It confirms most presidential nominees but rejections are not uncommon. Furthermore, treaties negotiated by the President must be ratified by a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to take effect. As a result, presidential arm-twisting of senators can happen before a key vote; for example, President Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, urged her former senate colleagues to approve a nuclear arms treaty with Russia in 2010. The House of Representatives has no formal role in either the ratification of treaties or the appointment of federal officials, other than in filling a vacancy in the office of the vice president; in such a case, a majority vote in each House is required to confirm a president's nomination of a vice president.