In the United
States of America’s constitution, our founding fathers laid out how our
government would operate. In Article I, our Congress is defined and their six
functions are laid out. The six functions of congress are as follows. The first
function of congress is lawmaking. The second function of congress is
representation. The third function of congress is to serve their constituents.
The fourth function of congress is overseeing the executive branch. The fifth
function of congress is public education or agenda setting. The sixth, and
final, function of congress is conflict resolution. I would like to focus on
lawmaking, representation, and congress’ oversight of the executive branch.
function of congress is their ability (and duty) to write and pass laws. For a
law to pass it must be introduced in either the Senate or House of
Representatives (however all apportionment bills must start in the House). Then
the bill is referred to committee(s). After the bill passes its committee(s)
the bill is sent to the floor. If passed the bill is sent to the other
congressional body (we have a bicameral legislative branch in the United States
of America), where this process repeats itself. If the bill passes both bodies
of congress, the bill is sent to the President. If he signs the bill it becomes
law. However, if he vetoes it, the bill is sent back to congress and requires
that 2/3 of both bodies must approve of the bill for it to become law. The
presidential veto is a check on congress.
important function of congress is their function of representing their
constituents. There are two methods of representation in the United States. The
first method is known as The Trustee View.
This view states that the elected representative considers what is best for society
as a whole not just a specific aspect or what the majority of that elected
representative constituents want. The second method of representation is known
as The Instructed Delegate View. This
view states that an elected official is bound to vote in accordance with the
majority wishes of that representative’s constituents.
Perhaps the most
important function of congress is their oversight of the executive branch.
Congress is able to do this through apportionment of funds, congressional
hearings/investigations, and interviewing and voting on (Presidential
nominated) potential heads of governmental agencies. All of the fore mentioned,
is congress’ ability to give “consent” to the executive branch. If congress
disagrees with the executive branch the United States of America’s constitution
allows for them (congress) to “advise” the executive branch. This oversight of
the executive branch is a good example of checks and balances.
Due to our
founding fathers, we have a system of government known as federalism.
Federalism establishes jurisdiction of laws and which laws take precedence (as
our constitution states, this would be the federal laws). Our constitution also
establishes a high court (commonly referred to as the Supreme Court of the
United States), but left the establishment of the lower courts to congress.
Congress set up our federal court systems.
There are many methods
to determine jurisdiction. The simplest method to determine jurisdiction is to
look at the geographical boundaries. The Supreme Court of California does not
have jurisdiction in Oregon. The most commonly used method is to determine
whether or not the lawsuit relates to state law or federal law. For example, if
John Doe, who is visiting California from Texas, crashes his car into Jane
Doe’s car (who lives and works in California), the lawsuit would be filed in a
California state court, as that is where the incident occurred. Another example
of where a case would be filed in a state court is when a worker is injured on
the job. However, if John Smith is deaf, and would like to see a movie, but the
movie theater does not provide captions, then John Smith would file in a
federal court. John Smith would file in a federal court because the movie
theater violated ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) that states that all
organizations must provide accommodations to those with disabilities (thus
preventing discrimination). Another example of where one filed in a federal
court is in the infamous Supreme Court of the United States case: Miranda v. Arizona. In this case the
high court ruled that Mr. Ernesto Miranda conviction of kidnapping and rape was
not constitutional because the officers who arrested Mr. Ernesto Miranda did
not inform him (Miranda) of his constitutional rights: the right to remain
silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial. As these were
violated (a forced confession was given), Mr. Ernesto Miranda was free to walk.
The Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Miranda v. Arizona led to officers across the nation notifying all
arrested suspects of their rights, now known as the Miranda rights.