The Constitution

img121
Article I

Legislative Branch

Signed in convention September 17, 1787. Ratified June 21, 1788. A portion of Article I, Section 2, was changed by the 14th Amendment; a portion of Section 9 was changed by the 16th Amendment; a portion of Section 3 was changed by the 17th Amendment; and a portion of Section 4 was changed by the 20th Amendment.

SECTION. 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

SECTION. 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers;and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

SECTION. 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year;and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

SECTION. 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

SECTION. 5. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

SECTION. 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

SECTION. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

SECTION. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings;-And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

SECTION. 9. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

SECTION. 10. No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Interpretation

Annenberg Classroom

AnnenbergClassroom.org

Article I, Section 1 – What It Means

The framers of the Constitution separated the powers of government into three branches, granting legislative power (the power to pass laws) to Congress, executive power (the power to administer the laws) to the president, and judicial power (the power to interpret and enforce the laws) to the courts. The unique and limited powers of Congress are contained in Article I.

The framers believed that this separation of powers would ensure that no one person or group of persons would be able to create, administer and enforce the laws, and that each branch would be a check on the power of the other two branches. Under this scheme, Congress cannot give its lawmaking powers to the executive or judicial branch. The courts are charged with ensuring that the three branches act independently and do not overreach their delegated powers. But in some instances, two branches of government are required to work together. For example, the Senate must approve the president’s appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the president has the power to veto acts of Congress or to pardon convicted criminals.

Another important principle is contained in Article I, Section 1: The federal government’s power is limited to what is written in the Constitution. These are known as "enumerated powers." If the Constitution does not specifically give a power to the federal government, the power is left to the states.

Article I, Section 1 also requires that Congress be bicameral, that is, it should be divided into two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. At the time the Constitution was adopted, several states and the Continental Congress had only one lawmaking body. The creation of two legislative bodies reflected a compromise between the power of the states and the power of the people. The number of seats in the House of Representatives is based on population. The larger and more urban states have more representatives than the more rural, less-populated states. But the Senate gives power to the states equally, with two senators from each state. To become law, any proposed legislation must be passed by both the House and the Senate and be approved (or at least not vetoed) by the president.

Article I, Section 2 – What It Means

Article I, Section 2, specifies that the House of Representatives be composed of members who are chosen every two years by the people of the states. There are only three qualifications: a representative must be at least 25 years old, have been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and must live in the state from which he or she is chosen. Efforts in Congress and the states to add requirements for office, such as durational residency rules or loyalty oaths, have been rejected by Congress and the courts.

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court used the language, "chosen ... by the people of the several States" in Article I, Section 2, to recognize a federal right to vote in congressional elections. That right, along with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, was later used by the U.S. Supreme Court to require that each congressional district contain roughly the same number of people, ensuring that one person's vote in a congressional election would be worth as much as another's.

Article I, Section 2, also creates the way in which congressional districts are to be divided among the states. A difficult and critical sticking point at the Constitutional Convention was how to count a state's population. Particularly controversial was how to count slaves for the purposes of representation and taxation. If slaves were considered property, they would not be counted at all. If they were considered people, they would be counted fully —just as women, children and other non-voters were counted. Southern slave-owners viewed slaves as property, but they wanted them to be fully counted in order to increase their political power in Congress. After extended debate, the framers agreed to the three-fifths compromise — each slave would equal three-fifths of a person in a state's population count. (Note: The framers did not use the word slave in the document.) After the Civil War, the formula was changed with the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which repealed the three-fifths rule.

This section also establishes that every 10 years, every adult in the country must answer a survey — a monumental task when people move as often as they do and when some people have no homes at all. Based on the surveys, Congress must determine how many representatives (at least one required) are to come from each state and how federal resources are to be distributed among the states. The Constitution set the number of House members from each of the original 13 states that was used until the first census was completed.

In 1929 Congress limited the House of Representatives to 435 members and established a formula to determine how many districts would be in each state. For example, after the 2000 census, Southern and Western states, including Texas, Florida and California, gained population and thus added representatives while Northern states, such as Pennsylvania, lost several members.

Congress left it to state legislatures to draw district lines. As a result, at the time of a census, the political party in power in a state legislature is able to define new districts that favor its candidates, affecting who can win elections for the House of Representatives in the following decade. This process — redrawing district lines to favor a particular party — is often referred to as gerrymandering.

Article I, Section 2, also specifies other operating rules for the House of Representatives. When a House member dies or resigns during the term, the governor of that state may call for a special election to fill the vacancy. The House of Representatives chooses its own speaker, who is in line to become president, if neither the president nor the vice president is able to serve.

Lastly, this section specifies that only the House of Representatives holds the power of impeachment. House members may charge a president, vice president or any civil officer of the United States with "Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."(See Article II, Section 4.) A trial on the charges is then held in the Senate.

Article I, Section 3 – What It Means

The Senate, which now has 100 members, has two senators from each state. Until 1913, senators were elected by their state legislatures. But since the adoption of Amendment XVII, senators have been elected directly by the voters of their states. To be a senator, a person must be more than 30 years old, must have been an American citizen for at least nine years, and must live in the state he or she represents. Senators may serve for an unlimited number of six-year terms.

Senatorial elections are held on a staggered basis so that one-third of the Senate is elected every two years. If a senator leaves office before the end of his or her term, Amendment XVII provides that the governor of his or her state sets the time for an election to replace that person. The state legislature may authorize the governor to temporarily fill the vacant seat.

The vice president of the United States is also the president of the Senate. He or she normally has no vote, but may vote in a tiebreaker if the Senate is divided on a proposed bill or nomination. The Senate also chooses officers to lead them through their work. One is the president pro tempore (president for a time), who presides over the Senate when the vice president is not available and, as is the Speaker of the House, is in the line of succession should the president or the vice president be unable to serve.

Although the House of Representatives brings charges of impeachment to remove a president, vice president or other civil officer, such as a federal judge, it is the Senate that is responsible for conducting the trial and deciding whether the individual is to be removed from office. The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides over the impeachment trial of a president. The senators act as the jury and two-thirds of those present must vote for removal from office. Once an official is removed, he or she may still be prosecuted criminally or sued, just like any other citizen.

Article I, Section 4 – What It Means

Article I, Section 4, gives state legislatures the task of determining how congressional elections are to be held. For example, the state legislature determines scheduling of an election, how voters may register and where they may cast their ballots.

Congress has the right to change state rules and provide national protection for the right to vote. The first federal elections law, which included prohibitions on false registration, bribery and reporting false election returns, was passed after the Civil War to enforce the ban on racial discrimination in voting established by Amendment XV. With the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress extended protection of the right to vote in federal, state and local elections.

As a general rule, Congress determines how frequently it will meet. The Constitution provides only that it meet at least once a year. Amendment XX, Section 2, now provides that the first meeting of Congress begin at noon on Jan. 3 of each year, unless the members specify differently.

Article I, Section 5 – What It Means

The House of Representatives and the Senate are each in charge of deciding whether an election of one of their members is legitimate. They may call witnesses to help them decide. Similarly, the House and Senate may establish their own rules, punish members for disorderly behavior and, if two-thirds agree, expel a member.

To do business, each chamber needs a quorum, which is a majority of members present. A full majority need not vote, but must be present and capable of voting.
Both bodies must keep and publish a journal of their proceedings, including how members voted. Congress may decide that some discussions and votes are to be kept secret, but if one-fifth of the members demand that a vote be recorded, it must be. Neither the House nor the Senate may close down or move proceedings from their usual location for more than three days without the other chamber's consent.

Article I, Section 6 – What It Means

Members of Congress are to be paid for their work from the U.S. Treasury. Amendment XXVII prohibits members from raising their salaries in the current session, so congressional votes on pay increases do not take effect until the next session of Congress.

Article I, Section 6, also protects legislators from arrests in civil lawsuits while they are in session, but they may be arrested in criminal matters. To prevent prosecutors and others from using the courts to intimidate a legislator because they do not like his or her views, legislators are granted immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits for the things they say and the work they do as legislators.

To ensure the separation of powers among the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government, Article I, Section 6, prohibits a senator or representative from holding any other federal office during his or her service in Congress.

Article I, Section 7 – What It Means

The House of Representatives must begin the process when it comes to raising and spending money. It is the chamber where all taxing and spending bills start. The Senate can offer changes and must ultimately approve the bills before they go to the president, but only the House may introduce a bill that involves taxes.

When proposed laws are approved by both the House and Senate, they go to the president. If the president signs the bill, it becomes law at the time of the signature, unless the bill provides for a different start date. If the president does nothing for 10 days, not including Sundays, the bill automatically becomes law, except in the last 10 days of the legislative term. In that time, the president can use a "pocket veto"; by doing nothing, the legislation is automatically vetoed.

If the president does not like the legislation, he or she can veto the bill, list objections, and send it back for reconsideration by the chamber where it originated. If the president vetoes a bill, the bill must be passed again with the votes of two-thirds of the House and the Senate for it to become law.

Congress also may change the bill to make it more acceptable to the president. Although, for political reasons, presidents are cautious about vetoing legislation, the threat of a veto will often press members of Congress to work out a compromise. Similarly, if Congress has the ability to override a veto, it is likely the president will make every effort to compromise on the issue.

Article I, Section 8 – What It Means

Article I, Section 8, specifies the powers of Congress in great detail. These powers are limited to those listed and those that are "necessary and proper" to carry them out. All other lawmaking powers are left to the states. The First Congress, concerned that the limited nature of the federal government was not clear enough in the original Constitution, later adopted Amendment X, which reserves to the states or to the people all the powers not specifically granted to the federal government.

The most important of the specific powers that the Constitution enumerates is the power to set taxes, tariffs and other means of raising federal revenue, and to authorize the expenditure of all federal funds. In addition to the tax powers in Article I, Amendment XVI authorized Congress to establish a national income tax. The power to appropriate federal funds is known as the "power of the purse." It gives Congress great authority over the executive branch, which must appeal to Congress for all of its funding. The federal government borrows money by issuing bonds. This creates a national debt, which the United States is obligated to repay.

Since the turn of the 20th century, federal legislation has dealt with many matters that had previously been managed by the states. In passing these laws, Congress often relies on power granted by the commerce clause, which allows Congress to regulate business activities "among the states."

The commerce clause gives Congress broad power to regulate many aspects of our economy and to pass environmental or consumer protections because so much of business today, either in manufacturing or distribution, crosses state lines. But the commerce clause powers are not unlimited.

In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed greater concern for states’ rights. It has issued a series of rulings that limit the power of Congress to pass legislation under the commerce clause or other powers contained in Article I, Section 8. For example, these rulings have found unconstitutional federal laws aimed at protecting battered women or protecting schools from gun violence on the grounds that these types of police matters are properly managed by the states.

In addition, Congress has the power to coin money, create the postal service, army, navy and lower federal courts, and to declare war. Congress also has the responsibility of determining naturalization, how immigrants become citizens. Such laws must apply uniformly and cannot be modified by the states.

Article I, Section 9 – What It Means

Article I, Section 9 specifically prohibits Congress from legislating in certain areas. In the first clause, the Constitution bars Congress from banning the importation of slaves before 1808.

In the second and third clauses, the Constitution specifically guarantees rights to those accused of crimes. It provides that the privilege of a writ of habeas corpus, which allows a prisoner to challenge his or her imprisonment in court, cannot be suspended except in extreme circumstances such as rebellion or invasion, where the public is in danger. Suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has occurred only a few times in history. For example, President Lincoln suspended the writ during the Civil War. In 1871, it was suspended in nine counties in South Carolina to combat the Ku Klux Klan.

Similarly, the Constitution specifically prohibits bills of attainder — laws that are directed against a specific person or group of persons, making them automatically guilty of serious crimes, such as treason, without a normal court proceeding. The ban is intended to prevent Congress from bypassing the courts and denying criminal defendants the protections guaranteed by other parts of the Constitution.

In addition, the Constitution prohibits “ex post facto” laws — criminal laws that make an action illegal after someone has already taken it. This protection guarantees that individuals are warned ahead of time that their actions are illegal.

The provision in the fourth clause prohibiting states from imposing direct taxes was changed by Amendment XVI, which gives Congress the power to impose a federal income tax. To ensure equality among the states, the Constitution prohibits states from imposing taxes on goods coming into their state from another state and from favoring the ports of one state over the ports of others.

Article I, Section 9, also requires that Congress produce a regular accounting of the monies the federal government spends. Rejecting the monarchy of England, the Constitution also specifically prohibits Congress from granting a title of nobility to any person and prohibits public officials from accepting a title of nobility, office, or gift from any foreign country or monarch without congressional approval.

Article I, Section 10 – What It Means

Article I, Section 10, limits the power of the states. States may not enter into a treaty with a foreign nation; that power is given to the president, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate present. States cannot make their own money, nor can they grant any title of nobility.

As is Congress, states are prohibited from passing laws that assign guilt to a specific person or group without court proceedings (bills of attainder), that make something illegal retroactively(ex post facto laws) or that interfere with legal contracts.

No state, without approval from Congress, may collect taxes on imports or exports, build an army or keep warships in times of peace, nor otherwise engage in war unless invaded or in imminent danger.

Read More Read Less
Interpretation

Linda Monk

"The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution" (2003)

The duty of the legislative branch is to make the laws. Congress is the only branch of the U.S. government that existed prior to the Constitution, although it took a different form. The framers of the Constitution expected that Congress would overshadow the newly created executive and judicial branches, and they spelled out its powers in considerable detail. They also placed explicit limits on the powers of Congress, to balance its weight against the other branches. Thus, Article I is the longest part of the Constitution—longer than Articles II and III combined, which cover both the executive and the judiciary.

Article I contains the laundry list of federal powers—among them to collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, establish post offices, and declare war. It also allows Congress to make all laws “necessary and proper” for carrying out the powers specifically granted, a broad source of authority in the modern regulatory state. Article I holds two compromises that were essential to the formation of the Union: equal representation of the states in the Senate, and the valuation of a slave as three-fifths of a person.

View more commentary from "The Words We Live By"

Read More Read Less