Article 1 of the United States Constitution


United States Government

Government Home
Constitution Home
Framers of the Constitution
U.S. Presidents
Vice Presidents
Constitutional Convention
Printable Activities
Online Activities
Supreme Court Cases

Legislative Branch

House of Representatives

Article 1 (Section 1) – Congress


What Does it Say?


All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.


What Does it Mean?


Article one of the United States Constitution declares that Congress has the right to make laws. Congress refers to the Senate and House of Representatives, a system originally devised as a compromise so that states with small populations and states with large populations received equal and proportional representation. In the Senate, each state is represented by two senators. In the House of Representatives, a state is granted representatives proportional to its population. In other words, the larger a state’s population is, the more representatives it will have.


Article 1 (Section 2) – Senate


What Does it Say?


1.) The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

2.) No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

3.) Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

4.) When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

5.) The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.


What Does it Mean?


1.) Article one, Section two of the U.S. Constitution declares that members of the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms and that voters who are eligible to vote for the “most numerous” branch of his or her state legislature (the house that has the most members), are eligible to vote for members of Congress.

2.) All state representatives in Congress must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and an inhabitant (resident) of the state he or she is representing.

3.) Section 2 also declares that the number of representatives and “direct taxes” (property and poll taxes) for each state is based on population. For example, since California is America’s most populous state, it has the most representatives. As part of the 16th Amendment, however, taxes are no longer based on the population of a state an individual lives in, but rather, on the size of their personal income. Section 2 also states that a census, or population count, must be conducted every ten years. In addition, each state must have at least one representative. The requirement that there shall be no more than one representative for every 30,000 people is outdated. Today, there is about one representative for every 500,000 American citizens.

4.) Section 2 also declares that vacancies in the House of Representatives should be filled by a special state election administered by the state governor. If the next scheduled election is soon, however, the governor can elect for the vacancy to remain empty .

5.) Finally, Section 2 declares that the House of Representatives can choose an officer known as the speaker to lead proceedings. The House also has the power to impeach officials, although impeachment proceedings are held in the Senate.


Article 1 (Section 3) – House of Representatives


What Does it Say?


1.) The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

2.) Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year; and if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.

3.) No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.

4.) The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

5.) The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.

6.) The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

7.) Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.


What Does it Mean?


1.) Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution concerns the Senate. Originally, this section declared that two senators from each state would be elected by the state legislature. The 17th Amendment, however, allowed for the voters of each state to vote for their senators.

2.) Senators are elected to six-year terms. Every two years, one-third of the senators are newly elected and the remaining senators are holdovers. This arrangement ensures that most of the Senators have experience.

3.) Senators must be thirty years old and must have be Ameican citizens for at least nine years. A senator must also be a resident of the state which he or she represents.

4 – 5.) The Vice-President is the president of the Senate, although he does not vote as part of the Senate unless there is a tie. The Senate elects an officer called the president pro tempore, who leads meetings when the Vice-President is absent.

6.) When the President is on trial, the Chief-Justice presides over the Senate rather than the Vice-President. This provision was made because a presidential conviction would result in the Vice-President becoming President.

7.) If an impeached individual is found guilty, he or she can be removed from office and forbidden from holding a federal position again. The Senate, however, cannot impose and further sanctions against the individual.


Article 1 (Section 4) – Organization of Congress


What Does it Say?


The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.


What Does it Mean?

Article 1, Section 4 of the United States Constitution allows states to manage their elections of senators and representatives, but allows Congress to make changes to this regulation (except for the place in which elections are held). Section 4 also mandates the Congress assemble at least once per year.

Article 1 (Section 5) – Organization of Congress


What Does it Say?


Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.


What Does it Mean?


Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution allows both the Senate and the House of Representatives to judge whether its members are qualified and have been elected fairly, however, only age, citizenship, and residence requirements as outlined in the Constitution can be used to form judgments. In expulsion deliberations, however, other matters that may prevent the individual from performing duties may be considered.

Section 5 also allows the Senate and House of Representatives to expel a member with a two-thirds vote for expulsion.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives must keep a journal that lists all bills and resolutions considered during the session as well as every vote. Messages from the President to Congress must be included in the journal.

Finally, neither the Senate or the House of Representatives can adjourn from a session for more than three days, or to a different location than the other, without the consent of the other.


Article 1 (Section 6) – Organization of Congress


What Does it Say?


The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.


What Does it Mean?


Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution declares that Senators and Representatives will be paid a salary, prescribed by law, for their services. It also states that such officials shall receive immunity (protection from arrest) while going to and coming from Congressional business. This declaration is irrelevent today, as Senators and Representatives are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. Nevertheless, Senators and Representatives continue to enjoy immunity from the normal consequences of libel and slander. As a result, Congressional officials can write or say anything, regardless of its merit, during meetings of Congress, debates, or while voting without fear of being sued.

Section 6 also declares that members of Congress cannot create jobs for themselves, outside of Congress, in which they can be appointed to after their term. Furthermore, they cannot help to raise salaries of certain jobs that they hope to hold in the future.


Article 1 (Section 7) – Organization of Congress


What Does it Say?


All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.


What Does it Mean?


Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution declares that all tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives. This was originally included because the Representatives were more likely to reflect the wishes of the people because they were elected. Today, however, it is irrelevent because Representatives and Senators are elected. Furthermore, the Senate can amend tax bills to the extent that they must be re-written.

Section 7 also declares that a bill that has passed the Senate and the House of Representatives must be presented to the President. The President can approve or disapprove a bill. If the President disapproves a bill, or vetoes it, it must be returned to Congress with a statement of objections within ten days. A presidential veto, however, can be overriden by a wo-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. If a bill is passed by Congress with ten or less days remaining in a Congressional session, it cannot become law unless it is signed by the president. In this case, if a president disapproves of a bill, he can simply hold the bill unsigned. This is known as a pocket veto.


Article 1 (Section 8) – Congressional Powers


What Does it Say?


1.) The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

2.) To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

3.) To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

4.) To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

5.) To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

6.) To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

7.) To establish post offices and post roads;

8.) To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

9.) To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

10.) To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

11.) To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

12.) To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

13.) To provide and maintain a navy;

14.) To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

15.) To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

16.) To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

17.) To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And

18.) To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.


What Does it Mean?


Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress.
1.) To levy and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises (duties are taxes on imports, excises are taxes on sales, and imposts is a general tax term including duties and excises). Congress also has the authority to pay national debts and provide for the defense and welfare of the country.

2.) Congress has the authority to borrow money on the credit of the United States.

3.) Called the Commerce Clause, this section gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign countries, states (business that occurs between states, or business that affects more than one state), and Indian tribes. Congress has broad power over interstate commerce and can pass a variety of laws or delegate funds that encourage, promote, prohibit, restrain, or protect commerce, or commerce related activites in or between states.

4.) This clause gives Congress the power to determine laws regarding naturalization (citizenship) and bankruptcies (inability to pay debts).

5.) Clause 5 gives Congress the power to charter banks and to establish the Federal Reserve System (The central bank of the United States which incorporates 12 Federal Reserve branch banks and all national banks and state charted commercial banks and some trust companies). It also gives Congress authority in producing money.

6.) Clause 6 allows Congress to set punishments for the counterfeit of coins, currency, and securities (government bonds).

7.) Clause 7 allows Congress to establish post offices and post office roads.

8.) Clause 8 secures intellectual property rights (exclusive rights and entitlements) for the works of inventors, innovators, writers, scientists and artists.

9.) Clause 9 entitles Congress to set up minor courts such as U.S. district courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals.

10.) Clause 10 declares that crimes committed as sea (such as piracy) are to be handled by Congress rather than the states.

11.) Clause 11 gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war, although the President has occasionally bypassed the Congressional War declaration (such as in the Vietnam and Korean Wars).

12 – 15.) These clauses authorize Congress to maintain, regulate, and use military forces.

16.) This clause authorizes congress to help the states maintain a National Guard (state milita) . The 1916 National Defense Act provided federal funding for the National Guard and allowed Congress to draft them into national service under certain cirucmstances.

17.) This clause makes Congress the governing body over the District of columbia and all government property on forts, bases, arsenals, and other federal buildings.

18.) Clause 18 allows Congress to preside over matters not mentioned in the Constitution. This clause has allowed Congress to pass new laws with relatively few new amendments to the Constitution.


Article 1 (Section 9) – Powers Forbidden to Congress


What Does it Say?


1.) The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

2.) The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

3.) No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

4.) No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

5.) No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

6.) No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.

7.) No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

8.) No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.


What Does it Mean?


1.) Clause 1 refers to the slave trade. Congress did not retain the right to ban anyone from importing slaves into the country prior to 1808. In 1808, the importation of slaves was banned.

2.) Clause 2 prohibits Congress from suspending the writ of habeas corpus during normal circumstances. The writ of habeas corpus is a legal order that requires the detainers of prisoners to bring them to court and to declare why they are in custody. This order can be suspended during times of war or rebellion.

3.) Clause 3 prohibits Congress from punishing a person without a trial (bill of attainer) or from applying laws ex post facto (punishing a person for an action that is currently illegal, but was not illegal when it was committed).

4 – 5.) These clauses prohibits Congress was passing illegal taxes or from imposing taxes on items exported from one state to another or from one state to another country.

6.) This clause prohibits Congress from making trade laws that favor one state over another. In addition, ships going from one state to another do not pay taxes.

7.) Clause 7 declares that money from the government cannot be spent without Congressional approval, and that all expenditures must be documented.

8.) Clause 8 prohibits Congress from issuing titles of nobility (such as duke or king) and prohibits congressional officials from receiving gifts, appointments, or payments from a foreign country without consent from Congress.


Article 1 (Section 10) – Powers Forbidden to the States


What Does it Say?


1.) No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

2.) No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

3.) No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.


What Does it Mean?


Clause 1 prohibits any states from exercising many powers reserved for the federal government (e.g., entering into treaties or alliances, and coining money).

Clause 2 prohibits a state from taxing items entering or leaving that state (except for an inspection fee in which profits must be given to the Federal Government).

Clause 3 declares the exclusive power of Congress to enter treaties and to declare war. It also prevents states from accumulating troops or soldiers during times of peace (though states can maintain their own armed National Guards).