The legislative branch, also known as Congress, has several special powers that give it the ability to shape and implement the policies of the United States. Some of the most significant special powers of the legislature include
- Enacting Laws: The primary function of the legislative branch is to make laws. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have the power to pass bills, which, if signed into law by the president, become the laws of the land.
- Overriding Presidential Vetoes: If the president vetoes a bill passed by Congress, the legislative branch has the power to override the veto with a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
- Approving Presidential Appointments and Treaties: The Senate has the power of advice and consent on presidential nominations, including supreme court justices and other federal judges, as well as ambassadors and other key government officials. The Senate also has the power to approve or reject treaties signed by the president.
- Holding Hearings and Investigations: Both the House and Senate have the power to hold hearings and investigations into matters of public interest. These investigations can be used to gather information, hold people accountable, and shape public policy.
- Impeaching Officials: The House of Representatives has the power to impeach federal officials, including the president, the vice president, and other key government officials. If a federal official is impeached by the House, the Senate holds a trial to determine whether to remove them from office.
- Setting Federal Spending: The legislative branch has the power to determine the federal budget and set spending levels for the various federal agencies and programs. This is done through the appropriations process, in which the House and Senate pass spending bills that are then signed into law by the president. All bills dealing with budgets or tax revenue must begin in the House of Representatives because its members are elected every two years and are considered closest to the will of the people.
- Declaring War: The Constitution grants the power to declare war exclusively to the legislative branch. This means that the president cannot launch a war without the authorization of Congress.
These are some of the most significant special powers of the legislative branch. By exercising these powers, the legislative branch plays a critical role in shaping the policies and direction of the United States.