Duties & Powers of the Legislative Branch

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Duties & Powers of the Legislative Branch
The legislative branch is represented through the actions of the congress. (capitol image by Andrew Breeden from Fotolia.com)

Article 1 of the United States Constitution established the legislative branch of the federal government. Comprised of the 435 member of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the United States Senate, the legislative branch is manifested through the assembly of Congress. Serving as the lawmaking body for the United States government, the legislative branch is responsible for many of the operations conducted at the federal level.

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Creation of Law

The legislative branch is responsible for the creation of bills and the subsequent passing of them into national law, making it the only branch of the government capable of making new laws and changing existing ones. Bills originate in congress and proceed to the President upon passage. In the event that the President vetoes a bill, congress can still enact the bill to law with a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives and Senate.

Federal Spending

The legislative branch is responsible for the control of federal finances. Congress creates a federal budget each financial year, outlining the allocation of funds and the management of government spending. Taxation and tariffs are regulated by congress as well as the authority to borrow funding when necessary. Congress also holds the power to designate funds for specific legislatively-directed projects outside of government agencies, a practice known as "earmarking."

Military Maintenance

The legislative branch of the Federal Government is responsible for the creation and maintenance of a military for the United States. Whereas the President holds the position as commander-in-chief of the military, congress retains the sole power to declare war. This power over the military aids in the checks and balances system of the United States government, preventing one branch from holding too much military control.

Federal Investigation

The legislative branch's power of investigation allows congress to hold hearings and committee investigations when deemed necessary in order to determine the necessity of new laws or raise awareness on certain issues. These hearings and committees are headed by members of congress and have the power to compel testimony and evidence however deemed necessary.

Oversight of Executive Branch

The legislative branch plays an important role in maintaining a balance in the Federal Government. A primary function of congress is the oversight of the President's powers in the executive branch of government. Through the use of congressional hearings and the Government Accountability Office, the legislative branch makes determinations as to when government operations need to be reformed, determines whether executive power is being enacted properly, and monitors federal spending.

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