Generally speaking, Congress is the legislative branch of the U.S. government in which carries out three main functions: making the laws needed to have the country function properly, approves all funds spent by the government, and shapes foreign policy. Congress is basically the center of the nation's government in that decisions made by Congress directly affect the citizens. Therefore, when voting for Congressional leadership, one must be careful to choose a person whom can and will effectively make moral and ethical decisions. In order to make educated decisions, it is pertinent to explore the three functions of Congress in relation to governing.
Congress has three basic functions:
- Establishing Laws
- Controlling the Finances of the United States Government
- Establishing Foreign Policy
America was founded on a variety of principles by our forefathers, including liberty, which is being free from control, however, it is in the best interest of a nation the size of the U.S. to have an organization that represents the people and works for the people to establish laws that will allow society to engage in a healthy manner. Established laws as well as new laws are made in order to cultivate a respect for the nature of law itself as well as to reflect the nature of a democratic society (US Code, Title 36, Section 164). Members of Congress seem to be particular in the laws that they pass in that of the 10,000 proposed bills, only a small fraction of them pass due to fighting within political parties, debates that spill over into newspapers and television, as well as impassioned pleas and outrageous demands on the House and Senate floor. The framers of the Constitution wanted Congress to prize the careful consideration of issues over the quick passage of laws; thus, the frustrating nature of congressional deliberations is actually one of Congress's most important attributes.
Congress is in control of the financial realm of the United States in that is makes the ultimate decision as to how money is spent. This responsibility is labeled Congress's "power of the purse" since they set the spending and taxing policies of the nation, thus, not one dime can be spent from the federal Treasury without the approval of Congress. The power of the purse is the most important power of Congress. James Madison in the Federalist papers called it "the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people". It checks the power of the President and gives Congress vast influence over American society, because federal spending reaches into the life of every citizen. Therefore, it is fair to say that Congress has tremendous power over the functioning of the United States.
Because of the sensitive nature of foreign policy Congress as well as the President share in the making; however, both have opportunities to initiate and change foreign policy, and the interaction between them continues indefinitely throughout the life of a policy. It should be noted that the making of foreign policy is an extremely prolonged process that involves many people and compromises dozens of individual policies toward different countries, regions, and functional problems. Therefore, citizens of the United States need to be well informed as to the happenings in the world to ensure that the government is making the correct choices. If there is an issue that a citizen does not agree with, it is advisable to write a letter to their Congressman so that their voice can be heard and hopefully change can take place.
The role of Congress in governing is complicated to put into laymens terms, but, by breaking down the basic powers of Congress into three aspects, a general view of Congress is able to be achieved. Congress is a powerful body within the United States government in that they directly influence the lives of citizens on a daily basis through their established decisions. Because of the effects of Congress, citizens should take their responsibility of voting very seriously in order to achieve positive results with Congress as a governing body.