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Congress In Action

The Congress of the United States has its roots in the First Continental Congress, a meeting of representatives from twelve of the thirteen British Colonies in North America which two years later declared independence. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, referring to the new nation as the "United States of America".

Under the Articles of Confederation, which came into effect in 1781, the Congress of the Confederation was a unicameral body with equal representation among the states in which each state had a veto over most decisions. With no executive or judicial branch, and minimal authority given to the Congress, this government was weak compared to the states. The Congress of the Confederation had authority over foreign affairs and military matters, but not to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce, or enforce laws. States remained sovereign, and were thus free to ignore any legislation passed by Congress. This system of government led to economic troubles in the states and disputes among the states.