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Congress has wide-ranging powers including control over federal taxing and spending and the right to coin money or declare war on other countries. Its primary duty is to write, debate and pass bills before they are sent to the president. Money bills can only originate in the House, but both houses need to approve a bill before it can be passed.

Another key task is overseeing the executive branch of government. Congressional committees are tasked with ensuring the government is being run competently and without corruption. To assist in this they can summon senior officials for questioning and demand audits of executive agencies. Congress can also hold hearings on matters of general public concern.

How the president can check the legislature:

  • Can veto a bill Congress has passed
  • Can call special sessions and force an adjournment when both Houses cannot agree on adjournment
  • Can temporarily appoint senior officials without Senate approval when it is in recess
  • Congress cannot reduce the president's salary while he or she is in office.

How the judiciary can check the legislature:

  • Has the power to declare laws unconstitutional
  • Congress cannot reduce a judge's salary while he or she is in office
  • Chief justice presides over impeachment trials.

US Congress joint session
A joint session of the US Congress


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