Out of Many, One: Exhibition Hall
Out of Many, One tells the story of Congress - the branch of government responsible for making the nation's laws. It is a story of famous legislators as well as ordinary citizens, of high ideals and the nation's efforts to achieve them. It is also the story of the Capitol itself - and of the workers, artists, and architects who created a great national landmark.
The Nation's Forum
Congress is the foundation of the three branches of the Federal Government - the only one elected directly by the people. It shares power with the executive branch, led by the president, and the judicial branch, whose highest body is the Supreme Court. As the place where Congress meets, the Capitol is the nation's forum. It is here that the country's many voices are heard through their elected representatives.
A More Perfect Union
For more than two hundred years, the Capitol has been the place where representatives of the American people have debated how best to achieve the nation's ideals. In this part of Exhibition Hall, changing displays of some of our most important documents illustrate the role of Congress in defining and helping to realize national goals and aspirations. Read More
The Constitution and Congress - Three Branches of Government
The founders distributed federal power among three branches of government: Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. Congress makes all laws, raises and appropriates public money, and approves treaties. The President, as head of the executive branch, enforces those laws and conducts negotiations with foreign governments. The Judiciary, with the Supreme Court as the final authority, decides if laws are constitutional. This creates a structure of competing branches, each with its own built-in devices to check and balance the powers of the other two. This distribution contributes to the enduring vitality of the United States Constitution—reconciling the demand for order and stability with the flexibility necessary for change and adaptation.
The Constitution and Congress - Two Legislative Bodies
Congress is the foundation of the constitutional framework. Here, the people speak through their representatives and senators. Article I - the longest article of the Constitution - describes congressional powers. Congress is divided into two institutions: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Tax bills must begin in the House. The Senate approves treaties with foreign governments and reviews presidential appointees to public office. Together, these two bodies share the work of passing laws, levying taxes, providing for the nation's defense, and declaring war. They also share the power to remove federal officers, up to and including the president and the justices of the Supreme Court.
History of Congress
This is the story of one of the world's great experiments in government by the people. For more than two centuries, a new Congress has convened every two years following elections that determine all the seats in the House and one-third of those in the Senate. While the individuals change, the institution has endured - through civil and world wars, waves of immigration and great migrations, and continuous social and technological change. Read More
The House Theater provides a live window onto the floor of the House whenever that chamber is in session. The theater also presents a brief film about the workings and processes of the House of Representatives. At the entrance to the theater visitors learn how this body of Congress operates, and can look up their Representative.
The Senate Theater provides a live window onto the floor of the Senate whenever that chamber is in session. The theater also presents a brief film about the workings and processes of the United States Senate. At the entrance to the theater visitors learn how this body of Congress operates, and can look up their Senators.
The Nation's Stage
The Capitol hosts some of the nation’s most important public events, from solemn memorial ceremonies to exciting July Fourth concerts. In this exhibit, images of some of these memorable occasions show the many ways in which the Capitol acts as the center of civic life in this country.
Paying Our Respects
The prominence of the Capitol rotunda makes it an appropriate location to mourn and honor eminent citizens. Any person who has served the nation with distinction may receive this tribute with the concurrence of the Congress. The honored person’s casket has always rested upon the catafalque, with the exceptions of Henry Clay, Capitol Police officers Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson, and Rosa Parks.
Behind the Scenes
What does it take to keep the Capitol working? A small army of workers - architects, plumbers, and gardeners among them - run the Capitol's bustling complex of over 270 acres and a dozen buildings. Supporting the members of Congress, office staffs prepare legislation, schedule appointments, and keep in touch with constituents. In fact, the Capitol is like a small city. From past and present, here are snapshots of the many people and professions that have kept the Capitol running smoothly.