Who Represents You, Part 2: US Legislators
This is the second in a 2-part series on state and U.S. legislators.
Last time, we looked at who makes Georgia’s state laws — the state representatives and senators who make up the Georgia General Assembly. If you want your voice heard in state government, these are the people you can talk to.
So what about the federal government? How can we impact U.S. laws?
All legislators in the federal government meet at the United States Capitol building to debate and determine the laws that guide our country. As a whole, they are called the U.S. Congress.
Off the bat, we recognize Congress as the body that makes our nation’s laws. But they can actually do much more. Beyond making laws, Congress can:
- Declare war
- Determine the federal budget
- Impeach federal officers
- Approve presidential appointments
- Approve treaties
- Oversee and investigate the executive branch
Read the full text of Congress’s powers in Article I of the US Constitution.
Members of Congress meet throughout the year, but the House and the Senate set their own schedules.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate take part in writing laws. In fact, the US law-making process is very similar to the state process.
Even still, there are clear differences between the two institutions.
Like on the state level, the U.S. House of Representatives is larger than the Senate. It includes 435 total members, plus nonvoting members from Washington DC and the U.S. territories. The size of a state’s population decides how many representatives it has; Georgia has 14 U.S. representatives. And remember, it’s up to the Georgia General Assembly to assess and redraw the lines for our congressional districts every 10 years.
The Speaker of the House, currently Nancy Pelosi, leads the House. She presides over the House, appoints chairmen for the Committee of the Whole, appoints special or select committees, and appoints conference committees, among other duties. The Speaker can vote on bills, but typically does not.
In addition to its part in the legislative process, the House has a few unique powers, including:
- Impeaching federal officials (acting as prosecutor)
- Electing a president if Electoral College results are indecisive
- Introducing revenue and spending bills (which the Senate can later amend)
U.S. representatives serve the congressional district that elected them in 2-year terms. U.S. representatives must be at least 25-years-old, a U.S. citizen for at least 7 years, and they must live in the state they represent.
Contact Georgia’s Representatives
Does your issue need to make it to Congress? Consider contacting your representative.
You can find your representative by zip code on the US House website. If your 5-digit zip code crosses district lines, you’ll further narrow down the results with your exact street address. Not sure what congressional district you live in? This is also a great way to find your district number — which comes in handy around election time.
The info blurb about your representative links to their website and contact page. When you contact your representative, you can refer to him or her with the title “Representative” or “The Honorable.”
To counter the population-based balance set up in the House, the U.S. Senate has 2 senators from each state. This way, all states have an equal voice in the Senate.
The Vice President of the United States, currently Michael Pence, leads as the president of the Senate. Every 4 years, the Vice President receives the electoral votes for President and Vice President, and reads the results in front of Congress. Over time, the role of the Vice President has transitioned into one primarily concerned with the president’s administration. Vice Presidents in recent years tend to preside over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions and for tie-breaking votes.
In addition to sharing in the legislative process, the Senate has a few unique powers, including:
- Trying impeachments (acting as jury and judge)
- Approving or rejecting presidential nominations to executive and judicial offices
- Approving or rejecting treaties from the executive branch
U.S. senators serve in 6-year terms. To maintain stability, the Senate is divided into 3 “classes.” Every 2 years, members of 1 of these 3 classes face election or reelection. The current terms of service are:
- Class I: 2013-2019
- Class II: 2015-2021
- Class III: 2017-2023
Senators must be at least 30-years-old, a US citizen for at least 9 years, and an inhabitant of the state they represent.
Contact Georgia’s Senators
U.S. Senators represent their entire state, rather than a specific region of the state. For that reason, you can contact either of Georgia’s senators: Johnny Isakson (Class III) or David Perdue (Class II).
Whether you prefer to use postal mail, email, or phone, you can find contact information for both Georgia senators online. You can also address postal mail as follows:
The Honorable (Name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Use the same format to contact a Senate committee, replacing the first line with the name of the committee. If you contact either Georgia senator or a committee with postal mail, just be sure to include a return address.
You Can Take Part in US Legislation
Elected directly by American citizens, Congress is your voice in the federal government.
Reach out to Georgia’s U.S. legislators with questions or comments related to public policy issues, legislation, or requests for personal assistance. A few topics you might want to talk to them about include:
- Budget and Economy
- Social Security
Georgia’s representatives and senators want to understand your needs, frustrations, and opinions. That’s how they will best serve you.