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What is a bicameral legislature?

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Quick Answer

A bicameral legislature is composed of two chambers, both of which must pass legislation before it becomes law. The United States has a bicameral legislature, as Congress is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Bicameralism is intended to ensure that multiple perspectives are involved in the legislative process.

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A bicameral legislature makes it harder for a single faction to dominate the legislative process. By dividing power between two chambers, no single party can control which laws are passed. Compromise becomes essential to the process of government, since a bicameral legislature increases the number of perspectives that are reflected in the process of making laws. Having two chambers also serves as an important check on the powers of the government. As any proposed legislation must pass through both chambers before being signed into law, it is much more difficult for a single party to pass unpopular or controversial bills.

The members of the two chambers represent different groups and are elected differently in many bicameral legislatures. In the United States Congress, the House of Representatives is intended to reflect the views of the populace as a whole, while the Senate is intended to reflect the interests of the states.

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