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Responsibilities of Congress, Other Responsibilities

Iran-Contra Affair, sole power, congressional investigations, fortifications, new laws

In addition to its sole power over lawmaking, Congress has the authority to initiate bills to fund federal programs, to set tariffs and taxes, to provide for the national defense (including funding for things such as fortifications and defensive weaponry), to control immigration, to establish post offices, to raise and support a military force, and to declare war. Congress can also impeach and remove federal officials, including the president, from office.

Congress is also responsible for congressional investigations. Congress has the authority to investigate and oversee the executive branch and its agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice. As part of this responsibility, which is known as oversight, Congress can summon senior officials to answer questions, can order audits of agencies, and can hold hearings to air grievances of citizens. Congress can also hold hearings on matters of general public concern. Sometimes members of Congress conduct these hearings to identify problems that create a need for new laws. In other cases Congress holds hearings to raise public awareness about an issue. Some congressional investigations, such as those into Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair, were efforts to limit the growing authority of the executive branch. Despite these high-profile examples, however, most investigations are little-known efforts.

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