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What does a Congressman do?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A congressman, also known by the gender-equal term congressperson, is an elected government official. There are congressmen on the state and federal level in the United States, and they are primarily considered part of the legislative branch of government. Their main focus is creating and passing legislation that benefits the citizens of their district or state, as well as citizens of the country as a whole.

As outlined by the US Constitution, the federal legislative branch is divided into two sections: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congressman is a generic term for elected officials in either section, though they may also be referred to as a representative or senator. Per the Constitution, each state gets two senators, while number of representatives is determined by state population. Representatives serve a two-year term and must be 24 years old or over, live in the state they are elected in, and must have been a US citizen for seven years or more. Senators serve six year terms, must be at least 30, a citizen for nine years, and also must live in the state of their election.

Most state constitutions mimic the federal one in terms of bicameral composition and division of powers. In California, for example, the legislative branch consists of a divided group with 80 state assemblymen and 40 state senators. State governments tend to focus primarily on improving the condition of the state, while a federal congressman must consider his or her state in the context of the whole country.

This legislator works on creating, promoting and passing laws and regulations to benefit his or her state and country. Most have several primary issues that interest them, and they may focus a considerable amount of time on legislation regarding those interests. When a bill is brought before the US Congress, members listen to testimony from supporters, detractors, and outside experts before voting on it. Because of the US system of checks and balances, Congress can pass a law, but it must be signed by the US president in order to legalize it. If the president chooses to veto the law, Congress can override the veto with a high majority vote: 2/3 of the members at the federal level.

In addition to writing and voting on legislature, a congressman can also serve on exploratory committees. These small groups of legislators study an issue or impending bill in depth, recommending changes, reporting findings, and even stopping unsatisfactory bills from coming to a vote. Committees tend to be formed around specializations, such as health care, agriculture, or energy. Most bills and potential legislation falling under a committee's jurisdiction will undergo an in-depth review by members before a vote is scheduled.

In addition to his or her work with the rest of the governing body, a US congressman must keep a close eye on the needs and issues facing his or her own state. By staying in close contact with local governments and ordinary citizens, he or she remains responsible to those that chose to elect him or her. A legislator who focuses all his or her time on Washington and not enough at home may find re-election difficult or impossible to accomplish.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Practical Adult Insights. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon299825 — On Oct 26, 2012

So for say, California, you have two congressmen and 53 representatives, well, what do they do?

By anon131452 — On Dec 02, 2010

Are Congressmen required to work a certain number of days?

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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