Under the Constitution the two Houses of Congress have in most respects an equal voice in legislation, the only important exception being the requirement that all revenue bills shall originate in the popular branch of tae legislature. Each House is made the sole judge of its the elee lions, returns, and qualifications of its own mem bers, though the times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and P,epresenta fives are left to the legislatures of the several States.
The ample legislative powers of Congress, which are enumerated in Sec. S of Art. I., and :`4ee. 3 of Art. IV. of the Constitution (q.v.), are limited by the veto power of the President. Every bill intended to have the force of law must be submitted to him, after passing the two Houses separately, and, if vetoed by him, will fail to take Wed, unless passed a second time and by a two-thirds vote of each House. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days after it shall ha yo been presented to him, it shall become a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless its re turn be prevented by the adjournment of Con gress. The Constitution provides for an an nual meeting of Congress on the first Monday in December unless a different date is duly ap pointed by law. The President is empowered by the Constitution to call an extra session of Congress or of either House.
In addition. to their legislative powers, each of the two Houses of Congress is endowed by the Constitution with important functions in the government. The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaehment, and the Senate the exclusive authority to try impeachments. In addition to this, the Senate exercises, in con junction with the President, important execu tive powers in the ratification of treaties and in the confirmation of his appointments to all im portant offices of the Government. including the members of his Cabinet, the of the Supreme • and other Federal courts, and even officers of the army and navy.
In the century of national life which has just closed, the balance of governmental power has insensibly shifted from the Executive to the Congress, and in Congress from the Senate to the house of Representatives. The free exercise by the Senate of its power of refusing assent to the President's nominations to office. and the extreme development of the party system in national polities, have operated in a great pleas ure to deprive the executive of the actual power of making appointments to office; while the popu lar character of the House, the absolute control exercised over its busine$s by the Speaker and other leaders of the dominant political party, and the consequent unanimity and weight of its action, have given it a marked predominance in legislation. It is both more active and more influential than the Senate. notwithstanding, the
fact that its great size and the enormous volume of its business have deprived it of the character of a popular deliberative assembly.
Many acute observers see in these facts a curious reproduction in our Iii“ory of recent British experience in the great art of self-gov ernment. They argue that the place of Parlia ment in the British system is being taken by Con gress in ours, while the House of Representatives seems destined to assume the supremacy over the other organs of government which has been at tained by the House of Commons in England. It is a well-known fact that the Cabinet in Great Britain, which is the virtual executive, is in fact a self-constituted committee, made up of party leaders, of the House of Commons; and it is generally assumed that our executive is placed by the Constitution in an impregnable position of in dependence. But the leaders of the Ilouse of Rep resentatives have, to a considerable degree. as sumed the same control over the legislation which is exercised in England by the Cabinet, and it is plausibly argued that it will require no great extension of Congressional power to reduce the constitutional executive in this country to the same position of nominal author ity but real impotence as that which it holds in the British system. It is accordingly asserted that the oh garchy of party leaders who determine the mem be•ship of the standing committees of the House and control their action are already the masters of the several executive departments, deter mining t heir very organization a ad policy through the power over appropriations which the present organization of the House lodges in the hands of its leaders; that the business of the Government is carried on more and more through conferences, as yet informal, between the Presi dent and this Congressional •abinet., while the great heads of departments tend to become ad visers of the real masters of the situation, the Congressional leaders, rather than of their nomi nal chief, the President. It is not denied that a strong and popular executive may stay the rising tide of Congressional supremacy for a time, but it is claimed that the appeal to the people, by which he accomplishes this, is itself a confession of the real weakness of his position. To such observers, it seems highly probable that within the lifetime of many now living the vital differences still remaining between the British and American Systems will have disappeared, and that the Government of the United States will have become to all intents and purposes a government of the parliamentary or congression al type, and that this will be accomplished with out formal amendment of the Constitution. by the insidious and persistent process of Congres sional usurpation.