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Nevada, which had only 110,247 inhabitants by the last official count in 1940, has as many votes in the Senate as the State of New York, where a population of 13,479,142 was counted for the 1940 census. The 48 States, therefore, have a right to be represented by 96 Senators.

In the House of Representatives, the number of Members is determined by the Congress. This number is then divided among the States according to their populations. A provision was included in the Constitution for the periodic enumeration of the people, so that the number of Representatives from each State could be changed as the population changed. In this way the share of each person

in the Government is kept on as nearly equal a basis as possible, and the people of one State have no more voice in the affairs of government than do those of any other.

Although the population of the United States has increased at a very rapid rate, the number of Representatives has increased much more slowly. If there were now allotted a Representative for the same number of persons as in 1790, there would be over 4,000 Representatives in the Congress.

There were 65 Representatives in the First Congress. The number from each State was determined by the Constitutional Convention. After the First Census the number of Representatives was increased to 106 and redistributed among the States. There has been a reapportionment, or redistribution, of Representatives every 10 years since then, except after the census of 1920. Although our population is more than 33 times greater than it was in 1790, the House of Representatives has consisted of 435 Members since 1910.

According to our present laws, the President must report to the Congress the populations of the States as determined by the census and the number of Representatives which should be assigned to each State for the same size of House. These assignments are computed by two different mathematical methods. The Congress then has 60 days within which to decide whether they wish to change the size of the House or to adopt a different method of assigning the Representatives. If no action is taken within the 60-day limit, then a reapportionment of the same total number of Representatives by the method last used is automatically ordered by the Clerk of the House.

No matter what the size of the House is, or what method is used, the Constitution guarantees at least one Representative to every State.

After it has been determined how many Representatives are to be sent to the Congress by each State, the State legislatures then decide how these Representatives are to be chosen. As a rule, the State is divided into districts as nearly equal in population as possible. There is a separate district for each Representative, and no part of the State is omitted from some district. The people of each district then elect a Representative, who speaks for them in Congress. (See Figure 46.)

However, there is no law at present which forces the States to divide into districts. In some States, therefore, no change has been made for many years. In other States there are fewer districts than there are Representatives. In such States the additional Representatives are then chosen by all of the people of the State and are called Representatives at Large."

The Term of Office of United States Senators Is 6 Years

Senators are chosen at the national election held in November of each even-numbered year, but only one-third of them are elected at any one election. In this way the Senate can never be made up entirely of new Senators, but will always have at least a two-thirds majority of experienced members.

The Term of Office of Representatives Is 2 Years

Representatives also are elected in November of evennumbered years. However, in the case of the House of Representatives, the term of every Member comes to an end on the same day and each has to seek reelection (if he wants it) at each national election. Many Members are well enough liked in their districts to be reelected over and over again, so that even in the House of Representatives there is never an entirely new membership at any one time.


The Voters of each State send their Representatives to Washington to help make the Laws

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Other States are represented

in similar manner

Figure 46

The Voters Send Representatives to Washington

*Under 1941 reapportionment based on the 1940 Census, Massachusetts is to have but 14 Representatives.

When and Where Does the Congress Meet? Since Members of the House of Representatives are chosen every 2 years, the life of a Congress is considered to be 2 years. The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution provides that the Congress shall meet in regular session at noon on January 3 of each year unless it shall pass a law to fix a different date. It meets in the Capitol at Washington, D.C. (See Figure 47.) It remains in session until its Members vote to adjourn. The President may

call a special session whenever he thinks it is necessary.


Both Houses Have Equal Power in Some Things

1. Each House has power to start the consideration of any proposed law (except laws for raising revenue, which are discussed later in this chapter).

2. Each House has power to vote for or against any proposed law which is sent to it for approval after being passed by the other House.

The Two Houses Do Not Have Equal Power in Other Things

Under the Constitution the Senate has the following powers which the House of Representatives does not have:

1. The Senate has the power, by refusing its consent, to block the President's choice of officials to fill many important offices.

2. The Senate must give its consent (by a favorable vote of two-thirds of the Senators present) to any treaty of the United States before such treaty can go into effect.

3. The Senate has “sole power to try all impeachments." The House of Representatives, however, has the sole right to impeach (that is, to bring charges of misconduct serious enough to justify dismissal against any civil officer of the United States—who shall then be tried before the Senate).


Our National Capitol

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