There are 540 rooms and 850 doorways in the main Capitol building!

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STANDARDS

Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.3, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.5, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.9, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.3, RI.6-8.5, RI.6-8.7, RI.6-8.10, SL.6-8.1, SL.6-8.2

NCSS: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Power, Authority, and Governance • Civic Ideals and Practices

JS EXPLAINS

A Day in the Life of . . .

A Member of Congress

Ever wished that you were in charge and could make our country’s rules? Trust us: It’s not as easy as you might think! Just ask a member of Congress, which writes the nation’s laws. Read on to find out what a day as a United States lawmaker might be like.

8:00 A.M.

Welcome to Work! 

You’re a representative from Pennsylvania. Like all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, you work in Washington, D.C. Congress has two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives (which you belong to). Both meet in the U.S. Capitol. Together, they form the legislative branch of the government.

8:30 A.M.

Prepare for Debate

Your key responsibility: to write, debate, and pass proposals for new laws, called bills. Earlier this year, you wrote a climate change bill inspired by a middle school class from your district who asked you to take action to help save the planet. After months of meetings and revisions, your bill is ready to be voted on by the House. But first, representatives will be debating your bill, so you prepare your arguments. 

9:00 A.M.

Coffee With a Bill Supporter

To get psyched for the debate, you meet with a fellow representative from Pennsylvania. Believe it or not, there are 18 of you! That’s because states with large populations, like yours, get more reps in the 435-member House. Each state gets two senators, for a total of 100. Overall, this ensures both large and small states are fairly represented.

10:00 A.M.

Debate!

It’s finally time for the House to hear and debate your bill. A majority of representatives agree with your proposal, and before you know it, it’s time to vote.

10:45 A.M.

House Vote

For a bill to pass, a majority of members in both chambers of Congress must approve it. You vote yea (yes) for this one, obviously. A large majority of other House members do too. Your climate change bill passes in the House!

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The House uses an electronic voting system (above), but the Senate takes an old-school approach. Each senator actually says “yea” or “nay.”

11:00 A.M.

Text a Senator

Your bill’s next step is a Senate vote. But that could be months away. You text a friend in the Senate to say it’s headed her way. If a majority of senators approve the bill, it’ll go to the president to approve or veto (reject). Only if a bill is passed by Congress and approved by the president does it become law. This system was set up in the Constitution to balance power among the three branches of government—the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.

12:00 P.M.

Lunchtime!

You’ve got to eat, but you also have work to do too—so you wolf down a sandwich at the James Madison Memorial Building. It’s home to the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. You head there next to do some research on NASA, the U.S. space agency, for your next meeting.

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The Capitol campus is like a little city, with its own post office and banks. It even has a private subway system.

1:00 P.M.

Committee Meeting

The House has 20 different committees that consider bills and oversee programs and agencies, such as the FBI and NASA. You’re on the Appropriations Committee, which helps determine what the government should spend money on. Today, you discuss how much to put toward sending astronauts to the moon. 

3:00 P.M.

Reelection Prep

You and your campaign manager brainstorm a new campaign hashtag for your reelection. House members are elected to two-year terms, so your next election is always right around the corner. (Senators serve six-year terms.) Holding frequent elections is a way to encourage members of Congress to listen to the people they represent.

5:00 P.M.

Meet With Students

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You invited the students who inspired your climate change bill to travel to D.C. for the vote—and now is your chance to meet them. You’re thrilled to tell them the bill passed in the House! This is why you always wanted to work in Congress: to serve as the voice of Americans, teens included.

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