Senators are members of the upper house of Congress. They form part of the legislative body that makes up the bicameral system of the legislature.
A bicameral legislature implies that the legislative body has two houses. In the case of the United States, these houses are the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Senate is made up of 100 members. Each state has two senators in the upper house.
Members of their representative states elect them.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected by their congressional districts. The house has a total of 435 members, elected in proportion to the population of their districts.
When do senators take office?
Senators are elected once every six tears. They take office on the 3rd of January at noon, where they are sworn in. The term dates are set in a staggered pattern. It means that the six-year term for senators expires on different dates. Senatorial elections are held for an even number of years. They are held on the first Tuesday, after the first Monday of November.
The Composition Of The United States Senate
The United States senate has different types and classes of members. The majority of the members are elected officials from each state. However, other members work in the Senate in different capacities.
The members are as follows:
1. Elected Senators
These are the officially elected lawmakers. They serve in staggered terms, with different term maturity dates.
According to the duration left in their term, the senator’s terms are classified as either class 1, class 2, or class 3. At no point will the Senate lack members due to the staggered nature of the terms.
2. The vice president
The Constitution stipulates that the vice president is the official leader of the Senate. The participation of the vice president is relatively limited.
They preside over joint sessions, on occasions where new senators are being sworn in, and tie-breaking votes.
3. The Senate majority leader
The Senate majority leader is the party’s leader with the highest proportion of members in the Senate.
They have many delegated duties and responsibilities. In most cases, they are elected to be the president pro-tempore.
The president pro-tempore is the successor to the vice president, should they become incapacitated.
The senate majority leader can change every two years, as the proportions are not always constant. Here are other ways that the majority leader may revoke the position:
- Expulsion from Senate.
- Resignation from Senate.
- Replacement by conference.
- Failing to retain office.
4. The secretary of the Senate
The secretary of the Senate has many duties designated to them. They organize minutes, disburse salaries, stationery, among other duties.
5. Assistant secretary
The assistant secretary aids the secretary in fulfilling the duties of the secretary’s office.
6. Sergeant at arms
The sergeant at arms maintains law and order in the premises of the Senate.
7. The minority leader
The minority leader is the political head of the house, with the lower proportion of members in the upper house. They represent the party’s political interests and mobilize members for call votes.
How Can A Senator Lose Office?
A senatorial term lasts six years. It is the most extended legislative term in the United States. Since senators don’t have term service restrictions, they can run for elections as many times as they want.
The longest-serving senator in the history of the United States was Robert C. Byrd. His term lasted 51 years! In contrast, the shortest-serving senator was Rebecca Latimer Felton, whose term lasted one day.
Unlike other members of the United States government, senators cannot go through an impeachment process. How then does a senator lose office? A senator loses office through:
If the majority leader chooses to leave, their position will be vacant. A sitting senator would have to formally resign by writing to the governor of the state they represent.
2. Expulsion by special resolution
If a state senator is ousted, they will lose their position. A senator can be dismissed from office under Article I, section 5 if two-thirds of the Senate agrees to it due to wrongdoing.
3. Holding a Separate federal office
If a senator decides to take up a separate office, he will have to relinquish his position in the Senate.
A governor cannot legally hold a separate federal office, as it would interfere with the concept of separation of powers.
The House Of Representatives
The House of Representatives is part of the legislative branch of government. The primary duty of the House of Representatives is to make laws and amend existing legislation.
Members of the House of Representatives have shorter terms than their senate counterparts. The terms last two years.
Critical Differences Between Senate And The House Of Representatives.
The Senate and the House of Representatives together form Congress. Some of the differences between the two bodies are:
The House of Representatives has more members than the Senate. The number of congressional districts is more than the number of states, hence the size difference.
While both houses have legislative functions, each house has unique duties. For example, the Senate cannot formulate money bills, and the lower house can’t vet presidential nominees. The functions are designated in the Constitution.
Senators enjoy much longer terms than members of the House of Representatives. The terms for senators last six years, while it only lasts for two years for lower house members.
Similarities Between The House Of Representatives And Senate
The Senate and the House of Representatives share a lot of similarities. They are:
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have the duty to make and amend laws. The two houses work together to formulate new laws.
There is no limit on the number of times a member of Congress can run for office. They can vie for the same elective seat as many times as they desire.
The Senatorial and House of Representative seat holders are chosen through a democratic process. The process is based on universal suffrage and secret ballot.
The senators and members of the House of Representatives both use the Capitol as their official office complexes. The offices are located within the Capitol.
Both houses enact legislation through committees. These committees are usually set up to tackle specific areas and make legislations particular to the committee they’ve been assigned. Examples of congressional committees are the ethics committee and the budget committee.
Duties And Responsibilities Of The Senate
The Constitution of the United States has put forth the provision for the existence of the Senate in article 1. The Constitution further outlines the roles and responsibilities of the organ.
Some of the duties are:
Ratifying and approving treaties
Before a treaty becomes binding, Senate will have to deliberate on it. Only once the Senate approves can the treaty be binding.
No other authority has the right to enter into treaties on behalf of the United States without the Senate’s approval.
Vetting and approving of ambassadors
Once the president nominates the ambassadors, they have to go through grilling in the Senate. The Senate assesses whether the nominee is competent enough to fulfill the duties of the office. On approval, the ambassadors will be deployed by the country.
As part of the doctrine of checks and balances, the Senate holds impeachment trials. The Constitution has mandated them to impeach the president, federal judges, and public officeholders.
Validating the appointment of federal judges
The Senate is responsible for validating the appointment of federal judges. They vet the judges and either approve or disapprove of the appointment. The Senate can also impeach federal judges.
As a means of keeping the legislature in check, the Senate can approve or reject the appointment of the Chief Justice.
Making and amending federal laws
Part of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated duty is making and amending laws. The process is known as the legislative process. Senators sponsor bills to the upper house floor as part of the process.
If the bill will undergo several stages, and once approved, Senate will take it to the House of Representatives. Should the bill clear both houses, it is signed into law.
Vetting other presidential nominees
Any appointee for a federal office has to be vetted by the Senate.
For senators to take office, they have to be sworn in by the house speaker. Senatorial terms have different maturity dates. These terms are set to expire in an even number of years.
Senators take office on the 3rd of January at noon. There are no limits to the number of terms that a senator can run. A senator’s office falls vacant if a special resolution expels a senator.