|Imperial Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States|
|Houses||House of Representatives|
|Emperor||Alexander III |
since 5 May 2017
|Speaker of the House of Representatives||Anna Burke, DLP |
since 9 October 2012
|President of the Senate||Sue Lines, DLP |
since 7 July 2015
|Established||3 July 1793|
|Preceded by||Federation Congress|
|Members||562 (480 MCs, 82 Senators)|
|House of Representatives Political groups||Government (258)|
Christian Democrats (7)
Nick Xenophon Team (6)
|Senate Political groups||Government (46)|
Christian Democrats (1)
|Last election||6 November 2014|
|Next election||6 November 2018|
|Federation Hall, Swanstone|
The Imperial Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States, commonly referred to as Congress or the Cygnian Congress, is the bicameral legislature of the imperial government of Cygnia consisting of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in Federation Hall in Swanstone. Both senators and representatives (also known as Members of Congress, or MCs) are chosen through direct election. Congress has 562 members: 480 MCs and 82 Senators. The Chancellor is traditionally the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives.
The members of the House of Representatives serve four-year terms representing the people of a single constituency, known as an "Electoral District", of which there are some 480. Electoral districts are apportioned to states by population using Imperial Census results, provided that each state has at least one congressional representative. Each state, regardless of population and size, has four senators; territories have two each. Currently, there are 72 senators representing the 18 states, and another 10 representing the 5 territories. Each senator is elected at-large in their state for an eight-year term, with terms staggered, so every four years approximately half of the Senate is up for election.
Article I of the Constitution states, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States, which shall consist of a House of Lords and a House of Representatives." The House of Lords has since been replaced by the Senate. The Senate and the House are equal partners in the legislative process – legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers. However, the Constitution grants each chamber some unique powers. The Senate ratifies treaties, approves cancellarial appointments and serves as a house of review while the House is the originator of legislation. The House initiates impeachment cases, while the Senate decides them. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required before an impeached person can be forcibly removed from office.
The term Congress can also refer to a particular meeting of the legislature. A Congress covers four years; the most recent one, the 57th Congress, began on 23 January 2015. The Congress starts on the twenty-third day of January every four years, and is formally dissolved on the twenty-third day of July three years after it begins. Members of the Senate are referred to as senators; members of the House of Representatives are referred to as MCs or Representatives.
Scholar and Representative Anthony Lark asserted that the "historic mission of Congress has been to maintain freedom" and insisted it was a "driving force in Cygnian government" and a "remarkably resilient institution". Congress is the "heart and soul of our democracy", according to this view, even though legislators rarely achieve the prestige or name recognition of chancellors or Supreme Court justices; one wrote that "legislators remain ghosts in Cygnia's historical imagination". One analyst argues that it is not a solely reactive institution but has played an active role in shaping government policy and is extraordinarily sensitive to public pressure. Several academics described Congress:
|“||Congress reflects us in all our strengths and all our weaknesses. It reflects our regional idiosyncrasies, our ethnic, religious, and racial diversity, our multitude of professions, and our shadings of opinion on everything from the value of war to the war over values. Congress is the government's most representative body ... Congress is essentially charged with reconciling our many points of view on the great public policy issues of the day.||”|
Congress is constantly changing and is constantly in flux. In recent times, the northern islands and east have gained House seats according to demographic changes recorded by the census and has included increasing numbers of minority and female representatives. While power balances among the different parts of government continue to change, the internal structure of Congress is important to understand along with its interactions with so-called intermediary institutions such as political parties, civic associations, interest groups, and the mass media.
The Congress of the Empire serves two distinct purposes that overlap: local representation to the federal government of an electoral district by MCs and a state's or territory's at-large representation to the federal government by senators.
Most incumbents seek re-election, and their historical likelihood of winning subsequent elections exceeds 90 percent.
The historical records of the House of Representatives and the Senate are maintained by the Centre for Legislative Archives, which is part of the National Archives Authority.
The Federation Congress was first convened by King Alexander II of the United Kingdom following his flight to the Cygnian colonies and the Proclamation of Federation in 1783. It was a gathering of representatives from the six British colonies in Australasia.
The choice of title — Congress — was not considered to be a departure from the traditional Parliament. Rather, the term Congress was used to describe the new legislature as a homage to the Congress of 1781, a meeting of British Australasia's governors and their aides, which resulted in the drafting of an early version of the Proclamation.
On 3 April 1785, the Federation Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, referring to the new nation as the "Kingdom of Cygnia". The Federation Congress became a permanent, bicameral body with an House of Lords – composed of Lords Temporal, nobles appointed by the King, and Lords Spiritual, representatives of the established Church of Cygnia; and a House of Representatives, whose members were appointed by the state governments. The King became the head of state, and the legislature served as a collective executive body.
The new Constitution of 1793 created the position of Chancellor, who became the senior executive authority while at the same time leading the legislature.
To protect against abuse of power, each branch of government – executive, legislative and judicial – had a separate sphere of authority and could check other branches according to the principle of the separation of powers. Furthermore, there were checks and balances within the legislature since there were two separate chambers. The new government became active following the conclusion of the War of Independence in 1792.
The early years of the Congress were characterised by a power struggle between those who favoured the power of the six states, and those who preferred a strong central government. These groups eventually formed the Federalist and Unitarian parties. With the passage of the Constitution and the Declaration of Rights, the Unitarian movement was exhausted, and the Federalist Party effectively dominated Cygnian politics for the first 20 years of the Empire. Many Lords favoured the Federalist movement, as it offered them more personal freedoms.
However, the election of the Unitarians under George Canning to government marked a peaceful transition of power between the parties in 1812. Keith Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, empowered the courts by establishing the principle of judicial review in law in the landmark case Worthington v Allison in 1803, effectively giving the Supreme Court a power to nullify congressional legislation.
1855 marked the beginning of what was known as the Democratisation Period, during which the citizenry became much more integrated into the political process, whereas before government had very much been the realm of the upper class and the nobility. While all adult male citizens could vote in House of Representatives elections, the House of Lords was populated by nobles appointed by the Emperor. The Fifth Amendment enacted in September 1855 introduced compulsory voting; pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, the enfranchised population was granted the final say on the adoption of constitutional amendments. The Speaker of the House became extremely powerful under leaders such as Thomas Redwood in 1890 and Jonathan Carr.
A system of seniority developed in the late 19th century – in which long-time Members of Congress gained more and more power – and encouraged politicians of both parties to serve for long terms. Committee chairmen remained influential in both houses until the 1932 coup d'etat. Supreme Court decisions based on the Constitution's commerce clause expanded congressional power to regulate the economy.
Following the coup d'etat of 1932, the Empire Party seized control of all branches of government, including the Congress. In the 1932 federal election, the Empire Party through significant voter intimidation and electoral fraud won a landslide in the House of Representatives, and the Empire Party's leader and founder, Franklin J. Heller, had become Regent-General. The House of Lords was repopulated with Hellerist supporters and members of the military, and the Lords Spiritual were expelled from the House altogether. Following these changes, the Congress effectively served as a powerless rubber-stamp body for decisions already made by the party. However, some attempts were made to increase the influence of the legislature during the Hellerist years by the Chancellors, most of which ended in failure.
During World War III, Federation Hall was destroyed by Australien bombing raids, and from that point onwards the Congress rarely met; the Chancellor instead became an adjutant of the Regent-General.
Following the Cygnian Revolution and the end of the war, free elections were held in 1946 to the House of Representatives, which became the sole House of Congress, as the House of Lords had been abolished by the Tenth Amendment. However, by 1950 a new upper house became necessary, and so a fully elected Senate was established in 1950, just in time for the 1950 elections.
More to come