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hey this is Kim from Khan Academy and today I'm learning about article 1 of the US Constitution article 1 is jam-packed with information about how our government is supposed to work but principally what it does is create the legislative branch of government which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate which together comprise the Congress of the United States article 1 also tells us how people can get elected to those bodies and what powers Congress has to learn more about article 1 I talked to two constitutional experts Ilya somin is a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University whose research focuses on constitutional law property law and the study of popular political participation professor Heather gurken is the Dean of Yale Law School she's a leading expert on constitutional law and election law and her research focuses on federalism diversity and dissent article 1 gives an enormous amount of power to the legislative branch otherwise known as Congress and it was designed specifically to overcome some of the problems that they'd seen under the Articles of Confederation the legislative power Confederation was pretty weak in part because the Congress under the Confederate Articles didn't have the authority to directly tax the states they also lacked a lot of other powers that were eventually given to Congress under the Constitution these were the things that really mattered if you're building a nation you need to be able to do certain things in order to protect it especially at that time when there were many many other countries that were circling around wanting to grab land and power and so the United States needed to defend itself in those early days ok so we all know today that our legislative branch is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives but it didn't have to be that way so why was it that the framers settled on this to house structure for the legislative branch I think for several reasons one is that it was a compromise between the small states and the large states the large states the ones that have a lot of population wanted representation in Congress in accordance with population obviously then the large states we get more Representatives the small states on the other hand were concerned that they would be dominated by the large states if that happen so in the end the compromise is you have one house the House of Representatives which is largely a portion based on population and one house the Senate which is apportioned based on each state having two votes no matter how small or how large it is a second reason why you end up with the structure is the influence of the British example the British had both the House of Commons in the House of Lords and the House of Commons of course being more subject to popular pressure while the House of Lords were the sea wheat aristocracy and the founders also wanted a combination of popular and elite power and it was thought that the Senate would filled out a wheat role in part because initially the senators were chosen by state legislators rather than by two voters directly so the House of Representatives which is based on districts is supposed to represent you based on where you live and the Senate which is based on States is supposed to allow at that time the state legislature to nominate two luminaries from the state to represent the state so yeah for a long time the the Senators were actually appointed now their elected senators were appointed until the passage of the 17th amendment which amended article 1 and that gave state legislators a fair amount of influence over who went to the national government but it is also true that many states by that time already effective we had popular election of senators really interesting okay so you describe the Senate as being kind of the American version of the House of Lords a little bit more elite a little less subject to popular opinion how does that carry over into the Senate that we have today how are its powers different from the House of Representatives it does have certainly different powers from the house in some respects for example it has the power to ratify treaties and to confirm appointments into the president's cabinet so earlier this year when Neil Gorsuch was appointed to Supreme Court he had to be confirmed by the Senate obviously today the Senators are elected just like members the house are and I think they're every bit as partisan and almost as sensitive to public opinion as members of the House of Representatives so the difference between the Senate and the house in that regard maybe it hasn't completely disappeared but it certainly greatly diminished okay so there are certain powers that are reserved to the Senate are there particular powers that are reserved to the House of Representatives the house is important do you don't underestimate the importance of the house I'll just say the House of Representatives for example is allowed to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president if the house votes in favor of impeachment then the Senate holds a trial to determine whether the official in question gets convicted or not as a general matter though they're roughly co-equal for the big important things like passing legislation you need both of them to work together so together these two houses make up Congress so how is Congress different from the executive branch or the judicial branch what are what are its powers the way that the framers understood it was it each one would have their own job so the judiciary obviously was there to judge disputes between people to run the court system etc the executive was there to carry out the laws and so the executives job is to administer the law once it has been made and of course the legislature is there to legislate so its main job was to make the law and at the time I will just tell you everyone thought that the big gorilla in the room was Congress that it would be by far the most powerful organization the framers simply did not anticipate how powerful both the judiciary and the president would become over time so what happens if for example the Congress and the president don't get along well it happens quite a lot the president could refuse to approach to accept laws passed by Congress he can veto him in that event Congress could only override it if two thirds of both the House and the Senate voted to do so Congress on the other hand can pressure the president in various ways they can hold hearings investigating his conduct of various issues they can defund agencies of the executive branch whose job performance they don't like they can refuse to confirm the president's appointees to various offices and in extreme cases that have happened a couple of times in our history Congress can even impeach the president and if he gets convicted in the Senate then he would be removed from office this is what led to the resignation of Richard Nixon the House of Representatives impeached him and Nixon resigned before he could be tried in the Senate President Andrew Johnson and President Bill Clinton were also both impeached and in both cases at the Senate ultimately acquitted them but it was still a very painful time for both of those presidents so speaking of antagonistic relationships I think one thing that's really come to dominate Congress is partisanship to what extent did the Constitution anticipate this rise of parties and partisanship they actually knew about parties to some degree from the British experience but they were very suspicious of them and they hoped and perhaps expected that they wouldn't emerge in America to anything like the same extent that they had in Britain but in actual fact when a few years have after the adoption of the conscient we already had the first party system the Federalists and a democratic Republicans and partisan alignments had played a big role in Congress ever since then so even back then there were rival interpretations of how the Constitution should be carried out and what kind of power the national government should wield but they somehow thought naively I think that the parties would disappear and that people would have allegiances to their state or to their region but they wouldn't be have allegiance to a party that that broke down completely almost immediately after the Constitution was written that leads to a real problem these days because most modern constitutions recognize that there will be two parties that they will be in competition with one another and the part of the job of the Constitution is to regulate that competition with the founders have done anything differently you know if they had known about parties and expected that they would play such a big role it's hard to know for sure but maybe they would have been less confident than some of them were that Congress would always stand up for its prerogatives against the president when the President and Congress are of the same party I think often Congress is inclined to overlook various presidential abuses if the reverse is true things might be very difficult to do exactly I mean that's the whole point about them needing to act neat meeting one another to act is really a problem if one side isn't agonistic to the other side one other thing we see here in article one is talking about kind of what the federal government does versus what the states do so this is kind of the the idea of federalism then could you tell us a little bit more just about what federalism is and how it's supposed to work so the way that we understand federalism back then was that there was a division of labor the states would regulate things that were inside their territories and accorded to them in terms of responsibilities and the federal government would regulate everything that was accorded to it under the Constitution the problem is as Congress's power became more and more expansive it ended up regulating the same areas that the states regulate so if the federal government and the states have a law on the same topic who wins as long as long as it's passed properly by the federal government the federal government wins so if there is a federal law and the state law isn't consistent with it the state law is displaced is there anything that might surprise the framers about how our Congress operates today when the framers created article 1 drafted it they certainly expected that Congress would have more power under the Constitution that it did under the Articles of Confederation but I don't think very many of them would have believed that Congress would ever be able to do things like for bid the growth of medical marijuana in your backyard or regulate what kind of toilet you're allowed to have in your house or for that matter do something like the war on drugs which forbids the possession of drugs throughout the country and the like originally the power to regulate interstate commerce which is the authority under which most of these things are done it was at the time conceived of as a power for Congress to break down trade barriers between states and perhaps regulate the actual shipment or trade in goods and services across state lines it was not until the 20th century particularly after the New Deal the Congress was able to start using this as a power to regulate nearly every aspect of human life that might in some respect affect the national economy so that I think is a huge change I think what would really surprised the framers is how willing Congress has been to give up its own power so Congress has given the president a lot of power because it's created administrative agencies with vaguely defined mandates that therefore allow the President to use this entire administrative agency apparatus to pursue his goals so we've learned that article 1 of the Constitution establishes the legislative branch of US government which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives these two bodies were created to balance popular power with elite power since members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by the people whereas senators were appointed by state legislatures although one major change is that senators are now elected as well what might really surprised the framers about Congress today is how its power has evolved over time on one hand as Heather gherkin mentioned the powers of the President and the Supreme Court have grown compared to the powers of Congress but on the other hand as Elias Ullman points out the framers might be surprised at just how much of our lives Congress can regulate today to learn more about article 1 visit the National Constitution Center's interactive Constitution and Khan Academy's resources on US government and politics