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All You Need to Know About The Senate

Senate Overview

Senate Background

The U.S. Senate is a legislative body that comprises one portion of the United States Congress. There are 100 Senate seats within the Senate, which are filled by two elected Senators from each State within the United States. The Senate has many responsibilities and obligations to fulfill, and therefore, a number of Committees have been created within the Senate.

Senate House Library

The United States Senate depends upon the Senate House Library to acquire access to a range of valuable information. In addition to containing books, this facility also stores vital Congressional documents in a database that is accessible to Senators who visit the library. The library is located in Washington D.C., and both public and private tours are available.

Senate Vote

When a Senate bill is presented to Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives must agree on the specifications within the bill. In order to determine the Senate's stance on a bill, a Senate vote must occur. During this process, all current Senators will state whether they approve or oppose the bill. In order for the bill to be passed, the majority of the Senate must approve it.

Senate Jobs

Senators play a vital role in the establishment of new legislation in the United States. These individuals also maintain many additional responsibilities. Senate jobs vary in regard to rank, income, and authority, however, many individuals who are employed in Senate jobs earn more than $100,000 annually. Employment as a Senator is difficult to achieve, as an individual must be elected to this position.

Roman Senate vs. U.S. Senate

The Roman Senate functioned as an important government body in Ancient Rome. The U.S. Senate was created based upon the Roman model. There are important similarities and differences that exist between the U.S. Senate and the Roman Senate. In general, the United States Senate holds more direct legislative power than its Roman counterpart.

Senate Elections

The United States Senate is composed of two different Senators from each of the 50 states, resulting in a total of 100 Senators serving in this Government body. The residents of each State are able to vote in the Senate elections in order to select the Senators that will represent their State. These elections occur every two years.

Senate Polls

Senate polls are public opinion polls that details the Senators that are favored by the public. The Senate results are extremely important, as a State's Senators will be responsible for ensuring that the residents of that State have their interests effectively represented. The Senate polls predict the way in which the public will vote during the Senate election.

Senate Debate

Senate votes can be altered or swayed through Senate debate. Senate debate is the process during which Senators openly discuss legislation and additional concerns that are brought before the United States Senate. Senators are able to voice their opinions regarding the issues that are being considered. Throughout history, Senate debates have had major impacts on Senate voting records.

Senate Bills

The term Senate bills is often used to refer to bills that originate in the United States Senate. While some types of bills may originate in the Senate, all bills must be approved by the Senate before they are instated. Examples of some controversial Senate bills include Senate bill 2433 and Senate bill 1738.

Senate Impeachment

In the event that a Senator is suspected of committing a criminal act, Congress has the ability to initiate Senate impeachment and bring criminal charges against the offending Senator. If impeachment occurs, the Senator will be removed from office. Impeachment can occur with any Government official, regardless of his/her office or rank.

Senate Bailout Vote

The Senate bailout vote occurred when the Senate voted on a bill intended to provide financial lending institutions with the funds needed to recover from the failure of mortgage-backed securities. A similar and equally controversial vote surrounded the Senate stimulus bills. In recent years, many controversial bills have passed through the Senate. Insurance and financial bailouts have been the topic of many of these bills.


A filibuster is a procedure that occurs when an individual within a Government body chooses to prevent or delay an impending vote. Filibusters are usually limited to decision-making bodies or legislature. When a proposal is being voted on in the United States Senate, a Senator can elect to stop the vote.

Election and Composition of Senate

The United States Constitution details the election process and the composition of the Upper House of Congress: the United States Senate. The Constitution originally provided for Senators to be elected by the State legislatures. However, this would later be changed to allow for Senators to be elected by popular vote with the implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Senate would be comprised of two representatives from each State. Unlike the House of Representatives, the two Senate seats delegated to the states were contingent upon population numbers or apportionment. Furthermore, Senators serve six year terms, as opposed to the House's imposed two year term for its members. Elections for the Senate are set to also coincide with those of the House of Representatives. They are held on the first Tuesday of November on even-numbered years.

Most states will typically hold primary elections for the Republican and Democratic parties, with general elections to follow afterward. Independent parties and their access to the ballot will be determined by the State and will vary from state to state.

Classification, Qualification, and Filling of Vacancies for Senators

The United States Senate has specific qualification requirements in order to become a member of the Chamber. Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution provides for three general requirements. Each senator must be at least thirty years of age and a citizen of the United States for at least nine years prior to becoming a candidate. The Senate candidate must also be a resident of the State that he/she seeks to represent.

Generally speaking, the House of Representatives has the same kind of qualification requirements, though the Senate does provide for slightly higher qualifications in terms of age and length of citizenship. Once elected, a Senator is to serve a term of six years. However, the terms are staggered for the purpose of having one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. Therefore, a classification system was implemented during the First Congress so that the one-third of the Senate could be replaced.

In general terms, when a Senator is elected into the Chamber, he/she will be placed in Class III, thus being the third class to be replaced in upcoming elections. The Constitution also provides for a process to fill vacancies in the Senate. Through the Seventeenth Amendment, governors are allowed to appoint replacements to vacant seats in the Senate until a special election can take place to declare a permanent replacement. However, a special election may be postponed until the next Election Day, in which case the vacancy will remain until that date.

Vice President's Role as Senate President

The Vice President of the United States is also charged with undertaking the role as the ex officio President of the Senate. In technical terms, the Vice President is the presiding officer of the Senate, but it is the party leaders that actually have the power and authority in the Chamber. The role of the Vice President as the Senate President has been, in more modern applications, a ceremonial appointment.

The Senate President does not have any real power, except in the case of a tie in a voting decision, in which he may cast the tie-breaking vote. The Senate President used to preside over the Senate's debates, but very few have undertaken that duty since the 1950s. The Senate also allows for a president pro tempore to be elected and act as the presiding officer in the case that the Vice President is absent. By comparison, the Speaker of the House has far more power as presiding officer of the House of Representatives than the Senate President does as presiding officer of the Senate.

Other Officers

The United States Senate employs the use of other officers that are not members to the Senate to provide for specific duties and responsibilities. Because the Senate has various and extensive legislative responsibilities, other officers are established in order to help with the overall functioning of the Chamber. The Secretary of the Senate is the chief administrative officer and maintains the records for the Senate as well as disburses salaries.

An Assistant Secretary of the Senate is appointed to help the Secretary with administrative duties. Another non-member officer is the Sergeant of Arms, who is responsible for the Senate's law enforcement. Even though these non-member officers of the Senate are not granted powers or authority over legislative duties such as Senators, they still play a crucial role in the Senate's daily proceedings and help the Senate function according to its purpose.


The United States Congress is given the exclusive power of impeachment by the United States Government. Being a bicameral legislature, it is not surprising that the impeachment process is two-fold and each is delegated to both chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House has the sole power of impeaching Federal officials. However, the responsibility of bringing those accused Government officials to trial is granted to the Senate.

An impeachment trial proceeding occurs in the similar fashion that all criminal trial proceedings occur. Both involved parties have the right to cross-examination of witnesses and evidence, as well as the right to call witnesses to the stand to support their case. In order for a conviction by the Senate for impeachment charges to be implemented, the Chamber must cast a vote with a two-thirds majority. If the Senate finds the accused official guilty, he is immediately removed from office and may face further criminal charges as allowed by law.

Minority Leader

The United States Senate is comprised mostly of the Republican and Democratic parties. However, one party will always hold the majority of members or seats in the Chamber. Both the majority and minority parties will elect a leader of the party for the Senate. The political party that holds the minority in the Senate will elect a Minority Leader. The Minority Leader acts as the chief spokesperson for its respective party and is responsible for managing and scheduling the legislative business of their party. Furthermore, the Minority Leader also sets the agenda for his/her respective party and is in charge of collaborating with the Majority Leader to make his/her agenda known. In comparison to the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader's position in terms of authority and power is very much superseded by Majority Leader, for that position tends to be the most powerful in the Senate.

Majority Leader

Even though there is a presiding officer in the Senate with the Vice President acting as Senate President, it is often recognized that the Majority Leader has the most power and authority in the Senate. Because the position of Senate President has become more of a ceremonial appointment, it is in practice that the Majority Leader actually manages the Senate.

The Majority Leader is elected by the Majority Party in the Senate and acts as the chief representative for his/her party. In situations where the Majority Party in the Senate is not the same as in the House of Representatives, the Majority Leader can act as the main representative of his/her party for all of Congress. The Majority Leader tends to be the second-most senior member of his/her respective party in the case that the floor leader becomes the presiding officer. Otherwise, the Majority Leader will become the floor leader of the Senate.

Salary and Benefits

The salary of all Congress members is actually devised by Congress itself. However, the Seventeenth Amendment provides for the restriction of salary changes being limited to every time a new Congress is to meet. Therefore, this prevents new members of Congress from raising their own salaries upon entering the position. However, the salary for Senate members, as well as those in the House of Representatives, is the same. The only discrepancy occurs in positions such as Majority and Minority Leaders and the Speaker of the House in the House of Representatives.

Originally, the Founding Fathers debated whether or not those undertaking positions of service to the Government should be compensated for their positions. It would be debated, but elected Government officials would be granted a salary. Much has changed in terms of salary numbers for members of Congress, and they make a fair living from their positions. Furthermore, they are also granted Federal employee health and pension benefits allowing Senators to have a comfortable living.


In the United States Senate, there is a system of seniority in place that allows for certain benefits and perks for members who have served for a long period of time in their Congressional offices. The practice of seniority is not one that is granted in the Constitution, but it also does not entail any particular extension of authority or power to more senior members.

Generally speaking, seniority acts as a basis for recognition for those that have served the Senate for an extended period of time. Senior Senators will typically be given priority when committee appointments are to be made, giving them the choice of where they would like to be. The Seniority system in the Senate is based upon several factors that help determine where Senators rank. Time served being the highest factor and most considered, other factors may take precedence when Senators have served the same amount of time in their positions, thus providing for the appropriate rank.


The United States Senate implements what are known as the Standing Rules of the Senate for all its procedures. These rules are constructed and drafted by the Senate itself and create a regimented process that rules procedures such as the daily occurrences in the Senate to the passing of legislation and bills.

The procedures of the Senate are not all based on the Standing Rules, but also on rules of precedent and tradition. Sometimes, the Senate will choose to waive some of the implemented rules before convening. This may only occur if the Senate can reach a unanimous consent on the waiving of a rule or set of rules.

The Procedures and rules prove to be important in the conducting of the debates on the Senate floor, which are structured around a general sentiment of respect and civility. This provides for a smoother operation of the Senate procedures without having members getting out of hand in the case of disputes or disagreements over certain matters.

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