In the last article in this series, “The Voice of We the People”, we began a discussion about Congress. We said Congress is designed to be the most powerful branch of our government, and is designed to be the branch where the voice of “We the People” is the loudest and most powerful. Congress is also characterized by an amazing compromise designed by our founders that balances the interests of the larger states with the interests of the smaller ones. The foresight and wisdom of our founders is amazing! Let’s look a little closer at their creation of this “bicameral” (2 house) Congress, how it was designed to work, and most importantly, find out who represents YOU in Congress, how those people voted on legislation that is important to you, and how you can contact their offices so you can hold them accountable!
As we said, the Congress is made up of two “houses”. There is the Senate, sometimes called the “Upper House”, and the House of Representatives, sometimes called the “Lower House”. The term, “Congressman”, or “Congresswoman”, could technically refer to a member of either house, but in practice, a “Congressman” refers to a member of the House of Representatives. A member of the Senate is almost always referred to as “Senator”. Let’s take a look at each house:
The Senate was created to be the representation for the states in the federal government. Each state has two Senators. In the original design of the founders, the Constitution stated the State Legislatures appointed the Senators to go to Washington DC to represent the state. With the passage of the 17th Amendment, however, we changed the Constitution to allow for each state to choose their Senators via popular election by the people. The term of office for Senators was defined as 6 years – one of the longest terms of any office as defined in the Constitution. This was because these people were the voice of the state, and this house of Congress was not designed to be directly elected by the people. So, under the Constitution as amended, there are two Senators who represent you, based upon which state you live in. When important legislation comes up, it is important to contact the offices of both of your Senators to let them know the way you want them to vote. I live in Texas, so my two Senators are currently (in December 2022) John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
House of Representatives
The House of Representatives was designed to be the primary voice of the people in our government. In our article, A Farmer’s Lesson on Holding Elected Officials Accountable, we saw how one farmer held Representative Davy Crockett accountable to be his voice in Congress. Representation in the House of Representatives was designed to key off of population, so states with higher population have more representatives, and therefore more votes, in the House. Each state is divided up into Congressional Districts, and each Congressional District has one Representative in Congress. Since the House is the primary voice of the people, the Representatives are required to face re-election every two years. Therefore, when Americans have questions or concerns about our government, our Representative in Congress is a great first stop. If we don’t like the way they represent us, the next election is never far away. So, depending upon which Congressional District you live in, there is one Representative who represents you in the House of Representatives. I live in the 6th Congressional District of Texas, so my Representative in Congress is currently (in December 2022) Jake Ellzey.
Hold Them Accountable!
My wife made a great video to show you first hand how to go into the website of Heritage Action (an organization we trust for keeping an eye on things at the federal level). You can put in your zip code and it will tell you who your Representative is and who your two Senators are. It will also show you lots of info so you can see how these people have been voting on important legislation, and even gives a percentage of the times they have voted consistent with the way Heritage Action would have them to vote. It also has contact information for all of the members of Congress so you will know how to contact them. Please don’t hesitate to call their offices! Don’t let that intimidate you! I promise you that your Representative or Senator will not answer the phone. You will get either a voicemail box, or perhaps a college intern who will record your call at least as “for” or “against” whatever you called about. Heritage Action even has proposed scripts you can use if you are unsure about what to say. Please watch RaShell’s video to see all of this first hand. It is very important to keep our eyes on what our people are doing in Congress, and this is a great way to do that.
“Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.… If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”– President James Garfield
President Garfield reminds us that as “We the People”, we determine the character of those who represent us in Congress. That is a duty that each of us must take seriously and never let slip! So, take a minute to follow along with RaShell’s video. Find out who represents you in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Let us know in the comments the score Heritage Action gives them for their voting record. Call their offices and let them know how you want them to vote for upcoming proposed legislation. May we all hold these people accountable to the Constitution!