[US Institutions] the House of RepresentativesPosted: November 1, 2010
Here comes the first installment of the US institutions series with the House of Representatives.
Member of the House :
The House of Representative is one of the two chambers of the US Congress. The 435 seating members of the House are elected by the citizens on a one, simple majority, vote,. The representative serve a two year term, with no limits on the number of term. In the House, the number of representatives for a state is proportional to the population of this state. In practice, States are divided in districts, each district electing one representative. The geography of the districts are decided by each states.
Internal Organization of the House :
We have to remind ourselves that the US political spectrum is dominated by two parties (Republicans and Democrats) – there are no independents in the House at the moment. The House is therefore working according to this two sides. In particular, each party elects a Leader who gets, depending on his side, the title of Majority or Minority Leader.
All the representative elect the Speaker of the House – logically from the majority side. The Speaker is second in line for the Presidency behind the vice president (i.e. if the President and Vice president were to be unable to assume their function, the Speaker will take the charge of the presidency). Furthermore, the Speaker has an important control over the House agenda and shapes the legislation to his party’s agenda.
The powers of the House :
The House is the only one of the two chambers that has the power to introduce bills that would create taxes, spending of federal money must also originates in the House (however the senate can amend such bills). Every bill must be approved both by the Senate and the House to become law, in case the two chambers accept different versions of the same bill a committee composed of member of both is set to resolve the differences.
In order to avoid a veto of the President on a bill, its has to be passed by both the House and the Senate with a two-third majority (at least 290 votes in the House).
The House can also impeach government officials in case of treason and bribery. In case of an electoral tie in the President election, the House elects the President.
Comparison with European Union :
In the European Union, the closest institution would be the European Parliament (EP). In particular the fact that MEPs are elected within member states, with a number proportional to the state population. The mode of elections of MEPs however can vary much more from one country to another.
The internal organization of the European Parliament is quite similar than for the US House, however, slight differences arise, mostly because of the multi-parties system in Europe. The EP president is elected among the MEPs and each political group has a leader. The European Parliament is electing the Commission president and vote on the college on Commissioners.
The biggest differences are in the matter of the EP competences – mostly because the US federal government has more competence than the EU. In particular, the Parliament only has a shared control over the Budget.
Nota: Americans vote on Nov 2 to renew the House and the polls indicate a probable come back of the republicans.