Lesson 3:  Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution

     Article I of the Constitution sets up the Congress.  Congress is divided into two parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives, as a result of the Great Compromise.  Article I describes the powers given or delegated to Congress. The main responsibility of Congress is to make laws for the United States, but Congress has other duties.  Article I also limits the powers of Congress and names certain things that Congress cannot do, such as make ex post facto laws.  According to Article I, Congress must meet at least once each year.   Both houses of Congress meet in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The West Front of the United States Capitol Building

Powers delegated to Congress

 money             collect taxes
                        decide how to print money
                        print and coin money
                        borrow money

 war                 decide how to spend money
                        declare war

 justice             set up federal courts
                        impeach president or other federal officials

 regulations      create and run post office
                        set up standards of weights and measures
                        build and maintain highways
                        pass copyright and patent laws
                        admit new states and territories to the U.S.
                        pass laws about immigration and naturalization

 foreign            approve or disapprove treaties with other countries 

 changes to        propose amendments to the Constitution
 the Constitution

 commerce         control business between states
                          control trade between the U.S. and other countries


Powers forbidden to Congress
Article I  prohibits or forbids Congress from doing the following:
cannot pass ex post facto law
ex post facto means "after the fact"
An ex post facto law  makes an act illegal after it has been done.  For example, a person gambles on a riverboat on Monday and it's legal then, but then on Tuesday a law is passed saying anyone who  gambled on Monday has committed a crime.  
cannot pass bill of attainder
a bill of attainder is a law that punishes a person without a trial
cannot suspend writ of habeas corpus
A writ of habeas corpus protects people from illegal imprisonment. A person cannot be put in jail or prison until he or she has appeared before a judge. The reason for arrest has to be explained to the person and the judge. Article I says this right cannot be suspended or taken away.  
cannot grant title of nobility
Congress cannot make anyone a king or queen, duke or duchess, prince or princess.  No royal titles can be given by the United States

The United States Senate

     Congress is divided into two houses, the Senate and the House of  Representatives. According to the Constitution, each state elects 2 senators.  Now there are 100 senators because there are 50 states.  The number of senators has changed over the years as the number of states in the U.S. increased. 

 The U.S. Senate Chamber

Information about Senators

    How many

100 - 2 from each of the 50 states


must be 30 years old
must be a U.S. citizen for 9 years

    Term of office

6 years

    Presiding officer

the vice president of the U.S.
or the president pro tempore of the Senate when the vice president is absent

    Special duties

approves or disapproves treaties with other countries
approves or disapproves presidential appointments 

The House of Representatives

     There are 435 members of the House.  Every state has at least one representative in the House, but states have different amounts of representatives depending on how many people live in the state.  The larger a state's population, the more representatives it has.   

 The U.S. House of Representatives Chamber 
     Members of the House meet in the room pictured above.  Members of the House sit on benches. The House first moved into this room on December 16, 1857. The House Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol Building, so it is also used when the the House and Senate meet in joint sessions or when the President addresses Congress.

Information about Representatives

    How many

435 always
The number of representatives depends on how many people live in each state.  States with a larger total population have more members than states with smaller populations.  Each state has at least one representative. 


must be 25 years old
must be a U.S. citizen for 7 years

    Term of office

2 years

    Presiding officer

Speaker of the House

    Special duties

Impeach, or bring charges against, the president or federal official
Choose  a president if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes

Resources on the web