The Congress Commentary
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6 The Congress

6.1 Legislative powers

This section 6.1, outlining the legislative powers of the People and the Congress, corresponds to the U.S. I.1. It differs from the U.S. Constitution on the following significant issues:

  • Legislative powers are primarily vested in the People, i.e. in the citizens of the Confederation, and then secon­darily by limited delegat­ion in Congress.

  • Legislative powers vested are confined to those granted the Con­federation by Chapter 3. This is a consequence of the Constitution's distinction between the powers granted to each of the contracting parties and the party established by the compact (i.e. the Confederation), and the institutions exercising those powers, e.g. the Congress (see sections 4.5.1 and 4.5.2).

6.2   The powers of Congress

The powers of Congress follows the U.S. constitution with the following major exceptions (see also "Legislative powers" and "The people") :

  1. Congress may only requisition emergency funds from the states, and then only by a two thirds' majority. Ordinary annual requisitions are handled directly by the people. Congress may lay taxes only on the citizens of those states not complying with the requisitions.

  2. Congress may ap­propriate funds as it pleases, but if the total exceeds confederate revenues or approved budgetary deficits, the President may reduce or eliminate appropria­tions.

  3. Congress may borrow money only by a two thirds majority.

  4. Congress may approve budgetary deficits only by a two thirds majority.

  5. Proposals for constitutional amendments is subject to the veto power of the President.

  6. Overriding the President's veto may in some instances require a 5/6ths majority of each house.

  7. The powers of trying impeachments is moved to the Supreme Court as a more neutral and appropriate body. However, the Senate is given the power of impeachment concurrent with the House.

  8. Congress is given the powers of overriding suspensions caused by the use of the Referendum.

This section is arranged in increasing order of concurrence, i.e. first are listed those powers which each house of Congress possess independently, then those issues requiring concurrence by both houses together, then those requiring two thirds majority, then those requiring reconsideration and a supermajority.

6.3   The Senate

6.3.1 Number of senators

Until there are 25 states the determination of the number of senators (2 from each state) corresponds to U.S. 1.3.1 and the general sense of Switzerland Art. 80.

The rest of the section is intended to accommodate an unspecified number of states.


This section corresponds to U.S. 1.4.1, but instead of giving the ultimate power of regulating elections to the Cong­ress, it grants this power to the states.

The co-sovereignty of the Confederation implies that the Con­federation in principle ought to determine its own election procedures. This principle is counterbalanced by a desire to provide room for innovation and flexibility. The proposed section enables the states to adopt modes of election according to local traditions.

6.4 The House of Representatives

The purpose of section 6.4 is to fix the number of Representatives in the House of Representatives, provide for reapportionment according to changing state populations and fix the maximum term for representatives.

6.4.1 Apportioning representatives among the states

Subsection 6.4.1 fixes the number of Representatives at 250. Representatives are apportioned according to population. The proposed number of representatives makes the House small enough to be a forum of real debate and vigor, and yet large enough to ensure diversity.

Apportionment according to popula­tion also ensures that each citizen vote has equal value. Subsection 6.4.1 corresponds to U.S. 1.2.3. It is similar in principle to the Aus­tralian constitu­tion's sec­tion 24.  The sub­section is not af­fected by population variations (typically increases due to population growth or the admission of new states).

The proposed apportioning of representatives among the states allows a dispersed representation in a European Congress while retaining a relatively small House of Representatives. As Figure European Confederation, Distribution of Representatives shows the Russian group makes up only 42 of 250 representatives.

Redistricting and gerrymandering

The proposed constitution does not touch on the subject of redistricting within the states.

In principle redistricting can be viewed as reap­portioning extended downwards to each individual congres­sional district. In the US, the courts have decided that congressional districts within each state must have very nearly equal pop­ulation. Similarly the introduction of "one vote one value", was recom­mended by the Australian Constitutional Commission 1988. ("One vote, one value" is the Australian way of saying that districts must have the same population so that effectively each vote counts the same.)

The Constitution does provide for "one vote one value" at the state level, but it leaves the states free to decide on their own  methods for internal appor­tioning.  This flexibility may be particularly appropriate for states deciding to pool their pop­ulations for obtaining representa­tion in Congress. Any deviations from one vote one value may also be alleviated through a state constitutional initiative, or by the erection of a new state. State freedom in regulating elections also implies freedom to choose between proportional, first past the post or other election methods.

Revised: 2004-07-02

Copyright © 1991-2003 John F. Knutsen

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