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U.S. Federal Documents

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Congressional Information

Guide to Government Publications Series

Congress and Its Structure

Article I, Section I of the US Constitution states that all legislative powers are granted to a congress of the United States consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives

A congress lasts two years and begins in January of the odd numbered year (first session) and ends in the even numbered year (second session).
The Constitution requires that it assemble once a year but may be called into special session by the president.

The 1st Congress met in 1789, and the 109th Congress opened in January 2005 and will close in 2006. Sessions and dates are available from the Clerk of the House and the Senate’s Years of Congress 1789 through 2006

The present congress (109th) is composed of 100 Senate members (two from each state) elected for a term of 6 years each and 435 House members (number from each state based on the state population) elected for 2 years each
The vice president serves as the presiding officer of the Senate, and the House elects its speaker from its membership. A list of past speakers is available from the Clerk of the House
The chief administrative officers are non-members elected by the two bodies. The most important are the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House.
There are also majority and minorities leaders in the House and Senate.
The work of the congress is conducted by boards, commissions and committees. The Senate web and the House web include the current information on congress.
The Official congressional directory (1870 to date) includes information on members, committees, and committee memberships and is issued for each session in print and electronic formats


Last modified: June 17, 2008

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