Legislative Branch Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

The legislative branch is one of three branches in the United States government. Its duties and responsibilities are so important that it has the most members. Learn what the legislative branch consists of, and how the members carry out their duties.

House, Senate, Laws and More!

At home and school, you have rules to follow. And in our country, there are rules, called laws, that everyone must follow. But who decides what these laws are? A part of our government called the legislative branch has this awesome responsibility.

The duties of the legislative branch are carried out by Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although the legislative branch's main responsibility is to make laws, it can also declare war and supervise the executive (run by the President) and judicial (the Supreme Court) branches.

The Capitol Building in Washington D.C. is where Congress meets.
Picture of the Capitol Building

House of Representatives

Each state elects people to represent them in Congress. Currently, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. The number of representatives from each state depends on the number of people in that state - states with more people have more representatives.

The representatives serve two year terms, and the leader of the House of Representatives is called the Speaker of the House. This part of Congress has the unique job of approving a budget for the federal government and making sure the executive branch is spending that money wisely.

This diagram shows how many representatives each state has.
Picture showing the number of representatives each state has

Senate

The Senate consists of 100 members, two from each state, with the Vice President serving as the leader. During a Senator's six year term, they will oversee all branches of government. To keep the executive branch in check, the Senate must approve or reject any official appointed by the President. These include members of the President's cabinet, who are his or her advisors, and the Supreme Court justices.

The Senate can also offer advice and approve or change treaties, or agreements, with other countries, and investigate wrongdoing by any government or civil official. They can even vote to remove a President from office!

This is the Senate in session when they were deciding whether or not to remove President Bill Clinton from office.
Picture of the Senate in session

Making a Law

Before something can become a law, it must be voted on by Congress and approved by the President. Anybody can write a law, but only members of Congress can put it up for a vote. A law starts off as a bill, which is just the idea of the law. Let's see how the process works.

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