Sunday, July 29, 2007

Acts of Congress

Act of Congress

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An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Government which legally must be specifically empowered by the United States Constitution. An Act of Congress does not create power, but merely legislates how the existing power of the Constitution is to be used. An act is passed by reaching a majority of congressman present in both houses of Congress, so over 50% of present senators need to support it, as well as over 50% of present members of the House of Representatives.



[edit] Procedure

It is legislation that has passed both Houses of Congress and has been either approved by the President, or passed over his veto, thus becoming law. In other words, a statute or resolution adopted by both houses of the United States Congress to which one of the following events has happened:

  1. Acceptance by the President of the United States,
  2. Inaction by the President after ten days from reception (excluding Sundays) while the Congress is in session, or
  3. Reconsideration by the Congress after a Presidential veto during its session.

The President promulgates acts[1] of Congress made by the first two methods. If an act is made by the third method, the presiding officer of the house that last reconsidered the act promulgates it. (See 1 U.S.C. § 106a, "Promulgation of laws.")

Under the United States Constitution, if the President does not return a bill or resolution to Congress with objections before the time limit expires, then the bill automatically becomes an act; however, if the Congress is adjourned at the end of this period, then the bill dies and cannot be reconsidered (see pocket veto). In addition, if the President rejects a bill or resolution while the Congress is in session, a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Congress is needed for reconsideration to be successful.

Acts of Congress that become law are published in the United States Statutes at Large. Nearly all acts are drafted as amendments to the United States Code (published by private companies for the benefit of practicing lawyers), so the United States Code will change to reflect the addition, modification, or removal of text by a particular act.

The powers of Congress are fairly broad, but no act of Congress may violate the Constitution, nor otherwise exceed the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution. Otherwise, the United States Supreme Court can declare the act to be unconstitutional.

Notably, the judicial declaration of an act's unconstitutionality does not automatically excise it from the United States Code. It merely implies that any further attempt to enforce the act in the courts would be futile. The modified statutes in the versions of the United States Code will be annotated with warnings indicating that the statute is no longer good law. But the statute will continue to be present in the Statutes at Large, and it will not disappear from the United States Code unless and until another act of Congress explicitly removes it.

[edit] Other uses

  • Also used technically for a bill that has been passed by one House of Congress.
  • An act of Congress can also refer to acts by legislative bodies called Congress elsewhere around the world like in the Philippines.

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[edit] References

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