Republicans sworn in, taking charge of Congress

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Capitol
Congress meets in the United States Capitol building.

In November, voters hit the polls for the 2014 Midterm Elections, to choose their state’s representatives in Congress. Republicans took control of Congress with 52 seats in the Senate and a whopping 246 seats in the House, winning their largest majority since World War II. They were sworn in on Tuesday this week, promising to work together with Democrats to pass laws.

See, our government is split into three branches that form a system of checks and balances – the lawmaking “legislative branch” headed by Congress, the law evaluating “judicial branch” overseen by the Supreme Court, and the law enforcing “executive branch” led by the President.

Congress is made up of two halves – the Senate, which has two elected representatives from each of the 50 states, and the House of Representatives, which has 435 voting members proportionally chosen based on state populations. That means that the most populated state in the country, California, has 2 representatives in the Senate and a whopping 53 representatives in the House for its approximately 38 million citizens. Meanwhile, a state like Nevada only has 3 representatives in the House for its population of about 2.8 million people.

While our President is elected every 4 years for a 4-year term, elections for Congress are held every 2 years. Elected members of the House of Representatives serve 2-year terms, whereas Senators serve 6-year terms that are staggered, so that one-third of them are always up for election every 2 years.

Midterm elections refer to the ones held two years after a President’s election. The two most powerful political parties in the USA, Republicans and Democrats, battle during these elections for majority control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Whoever wins the most seats strongly influences which laws get passed, so be sure to vote for your local representatives when you reach the legal voting age of 18!

The 2014 midterm elections were historic, because the South elected its first African-American Senator in over a century (South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott), and West Virginia elected America’s youngest lawmaker, 18-year-old college freshman Sara Blair, who campaigned for a Republican seat in the House from her dorm room in West Virginia University. Republican governors also won races in the traditionally Democratic states of Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

Featured image courtesy of Jean-Marie Howard on Flickr. Image of Congress courtesy of US Capitol on Flickr.