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The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, the people ought to have permanency and stability. The Constitution stipulates that no constitutional amendment may be created to deprive a state of its equal suffrage in the Senate without that state's consent. The District of Columbia and all other territories are not entitled to representation allowed to vote in either House of the Congress.
The District of Columbia elects two " shadow U. Senators ", but they are officials of the D. City Government and not members of the U. The disparity between the most and least populous states has grown since the Connecticut Compromise , which granted each state two members of the Senate and at least one member of the House of Representatives, for a total minimum of three presidential Electors , regardless of population.
In , Virginia had roughly ten times the population of Rhode Island, whereas today California has roughly 70 times the population of Wyoming, based on the and censuses.
This means some citizens are effectively two orders of magnitude better represented in the Senate than those in other states.
Seats in the House of Representatives are approximately proportionate to the population of each state, reducing the disparity of representation. Before the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in , Senators were elected by the individual state legislatures. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: The age and citizenship qualifications for senators are more stringent than those for representatives.
The Senate not the judiciary is the sole judge of a senator's qualifications. During its early years, however, the Senate did not closely scrutinize the qualifications of its members. As a result, three senators who failed to meet the age requirement were nevertheless admitted to the Senate: Such an occurrence, however, has not been repeated since. In November , Joe Biden was elected to the Senate at the age of 29, but he reached his 30th birthday before the swearing-in ceremony for incoming senators in January The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution disqualifies from the Senate any federal or state officers who had taken the requisite oath to support the Constitution, but later engaged in rebellion or aided the enemies of the United States.
This provision, which came into force soon after the end of the Civil War, was intended to prevent those who had sided with the Confederacy from serving. That Amendment, however, also provides a method to remove that disqualification: Originally, senators were selected by the state legislatures , not by popular elections.
By the early years of the 20th century, the legislatures of as many as 29 states had provided for popular election of senators by referendums. Senators serve terms of six years each; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the seats are up for election every two years.
This was achieved by dividing the senators of the 1st Congress into thirds called classes , where the terms of one-third expired after two years, the terms of another third expired after four, and the terms of the last third expired after six years.
This arrangement was also followed after the admission of new states into the union. The staggering of terms has been arranged such that both seats from a given state are not contested in the same general election, except when a mid-term vacancy is being filled. Current senators whose six-year terms are set to expire on January 3, , belong to Class I. There is no constitutional limit to the number of terms a senator may serve.
The Constitution set the date for Congress to convene—Article 1, Section 4, Clause 2 originally set that date for the third day of December. The Twentieth Amendment , however, changed the opening date for sessions to noon on the third day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day. The Twentieth Amendment also states that Congress shall assemble at least once in every year and allows Congress to determine its convening and adjournment dates and other dates and schedules as it desires.
Article 1, Section 3 provides that the President has the power to convene Congress on extraordinary occasions at his discretion. A member who has been elected, but not yet seated, is called a "senator-elect"; a member who has been appointed to a seat, but not yet seated, is called a "senator-designate".
Elections to the Senate are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years, Election Day , and coincide with elections for the House of Representatives. The Elections Clause of the United States Constitution grants each state and Congress, if it so desires to implement a uniform law the power to legislate a method by which senators are elected. Ballot access rules for independent and minor party candidates also vary from state to state.
In 45 states, a primary election is held first for the Republican and Democratic parties and a select few third parties , depending on the state with the general election following a few months later. In most of these states, the nominee may receive only a plurality, while in some states, a runoff is required if no majority was achieved. In the general election, the winner is the candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote. However, in 5 states, different methods are used.
In Georgia , a runoff between the top two candidates occurs if the plurality winner in the general election does not also win a majority. In Washington , California , and Louisiana , a nonpartisan blanket primary also known as a "jungle primary" or "top-two primary" is held in which all candidates participate in a single primary regardless of party affiliation and the top two candidates in terms of votes received at the primary election advance to the general election, where the winner is the candidate with the greater number of votes.
In Louisiana, the blanket primary is considered the general election and the winner of the blanket primary can win the overall election if he or she received a majority of the vote, skipping the run-off. This can lead to a potential situation in those three states in which both candidates advancing are affiliated with the same party and the seat is considered "won" by that party even though a winner has not been determined yet overall.
In Maine , following two ballot initiatives in and , respectively, to establish and maintain instant-runoff voting , known in that state as "ranked-choice voting", the state uses RCV to nominate and elect candidates for federal offices, including the Senate.
The Seventeenth Amendment requires that mid-term vacancies in the Senate be filled by special election. Whenever a Senator must be appointed or elected, the Secretary of the Senate mails one of three forms to the state's governor to inform them of the proper wording to certify the appointment of a new senator.
A senator elected in a special election takes office as soon as possible after the election and serves until the original six-year term expires i. The Seventeenth Amendment also allows state legislatures to give their governors the power "to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct".
The temporary appointee may run in the special election in their own right. As of , forty-five states permit their governors to make such appointments. In thirty-seven of these states, the special election to permanently fill the U.
Senate seat is customarily held at the next general election. The other ten states require that seat remain vacant until an election can be held, often a special elections be held outside of the normal two-year election cycle.
In six states, the governor must appoint someone of the same political party as the previous incumbent. In , Alaska enacted legislation and a separate ballot referendum that took effect on the same day, but that conflicted with each other. The effect of the ballot-approved law is to withhold from the governor authority to appoint a senator.
The Constitution requires that senators take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. So help me God. Along with earning salaries, senators receive retirement and health benefits that are identical to other federal employees, and are fully vested after five years of service. As it is for federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants' contributions.
Under FERS, senators contribute 1. The amount of a senator's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest three years of their salary. Senators are regarded as more prominent political figures than members of the House of Representatives because there are fewer of them, and because they serve for longer terms, usually represent larger constituencies the exception being House at-large districts, which similarly cover entire states , sit on more committees, and have more staffers.
Far more senators have been nominees for the presidency than representatives. Furthermore, three senators Warren Harding , John F. Kennedy , and Barack Obama have been elected president while serving in the Senate, while only one Representative James Garfield has been elected president while serving in the House, though Garfield was also a Senator-designate at the time of his election to the Presidency, having been chosen by the Ohio Legislature to fill a Senate vacancy.
According to the convention of Senate seniority, the senator with the longer tenure in each state is known as the "senior senator"; the other is the "junior senator". This convention does not have official significance, though seniority generally is a factor in the selection of physical offices. The most-junior "senior senator" is Bill Cassidy of Louisiana , who was sworn in January 3, , and is currently 79th in seniority, ahead of senator John Neely Kennedy who was sworn in January 3, and is currently 95th in seniority.
The Senate may expel a senator by a two-thirds vote. Fifteen senators have been expelled in the Senate's history: William Blount , for treason, in , and fourteen in and for supporting the Confederate secession. The Senate has also censured and condemned senators; censure requires only a simple majority and does not remove a senator from office. Some senators have opted to withdraw from their re-election races rather than face certain censure or expulsion, such as Robert Torricelli in The "Majority party" is the political party that either has a majority of seats or can form a coalition or caucus with a majority of seats; if two or more parties are tied, the vice president's affiliation determines which party is the majority party.
The next-largest party is known as the minority party. The president pro tempore, committee chairs, and some other officials are generally from the majority party; they have counterparts for instance, the "ranking members" of committees in the minority party. Independents and members of third parties so long as they do not caucus with or support either of the larger parties are not considered in determining which is the majority party.
At one end of the chamber of the Senate is a dais from which the presiding officer presides. The lower tier of the dais is used by clerks and other officials. One hundred desks are arranged in the chamber in a semicircular pattern and are divided by a wide central aisle. The Democratic Party traditionally sits to the presiding officer's right, and the Republican Party traditionally sits to the presiding officer's left, regardless of which party has a majority of seats.
Each senator chooses a desk based on seniority within the party. By custom, the leader of each party sits in the front row along the center aisle. Forty-eight of the desks date back to , when the Senate chamber was reconstructed after the original contents were destroyed in the Burning of Washington. Further desks of similar design were added as new states entered the Union. Except for the President of the Senate, the Senate elects its own officers,  who maintain order and decorum, manage and schedule the legislative and executive business of the Senate, and interpret the Senate's rules, practices and precedents.
Many non-member officers are also hired to run various day-to-day functions of the Senate. He or she may vote in the Senate ex officio , for he or she is not an elected member of the Senate in the case of a tie, but is not required to.
Since the s, Vice Presidents have presided over few Senate debates. Instead, they have usually presided only on ceremonial occasions, such as swearing in new senators, joint sessions, or at times to announce the result of significant legislation or nomination, or when a tie vote on an important issue is anticipated. The Constitution authorizes the Senate to elect a president pro tempore Latin for "president for a time" who presides over the chamber in the vice president's absence, and is, by custom, the senator of the majority party with the longest record of continuous service.
Frequently, freshmen senators newly elected members are asked to preside so that they may become accustomed to the rules and procedures of the body. The presiding officer sits in a chair in the front of the Senate chamber. The powers of the presiding officer of the Senate are far less extensive than those of the Speaker of the House. The presiding officer calls on senators to speak by the rules of the Senate, the first senator who rises is recognized ; ruling on points of order objections by senators that a rule has been breached, subject to appeal to the whole chamber ; and announcing the results of votes.
Each party elects Senate party leaders. Floor leaders act as the party chief spokesmen. The Senate Majority Leader is responsible for controlling the agenda of the chamber by scheduling debates and votes. Each party elects an assistant leader whip who works to ensure that his party's senators vote as the party leadership desires. In addition to the Vice President, the Senate has several officers who are not members. The Senate's chief administrative officer is the Secretary of the Senate , who maintains public records, disburses salaries, monitors the acquisition of stationery and supplies, and oversees clerks.
The Assistant Secretary of the Senate aids the secretary's work. Another official is the Sergeant at Arms who, as the Senate's chief law enforcement officer, maintains order and security on the Senate premises. The Capitol Police handle routine police work, with the sergeant at arms primarily responsible for general oversight. Other employees include the Chaplain , who is elected by the Senate, and Pages , who are appointed. The Senate uses Standing Rules for operation. Sessions of the Senate are opened with a special prayer or invocation and typically convene on weekdays.
Senate procedure depends not only on the rules, but also on a variety of customs and traditions. The Senate commonly waives some of its stricter rules by unanimous consent. Unanimous consent agreements are typically negotiated beforehand by party leaders. A senator may block such an agreement, but in practice, objections are rare. The presiding officer enforces the rules of the Senate, and may warn members who deviate from them. The presiding officer sometimes uses the gavel of the Senate to maintain order.
A " hold " is placed when the leader's office is notified that a senator intends to object to a request for unanimous consent from the Senate to consider or pass a measure.
A hold may be placed for any reason and can be lifted by a senator at any time. A senator may place a hold simply to review a bill, to negotiate changes to the bill, or to kill the bill.
A bill can be held for as long as the senator who objects to the bill wishes to block its consideration. Holds can be overcome, but require time-consuming procedures such as filing cloture. Holds are considered private communications between a senator and the Leader, and are sometimes referred to as "secret holds".
A senator may disclose that he or she has placed a hold. The Constitution provides that a majority of the Senate constitutes a quorum to do business. Under the rules and customs of the Senate, a quorum is always assumed present unless a quorum call explicitly demonstrates otherwise. A senator may request a quorum call by "suggesting the absence of a quorum"; a clerk then calls the roll of the Senate and notes which members are present.
In practice, senators rarely request quorum calls to establish the presence of a quorum. Instead, quorum calls are generally used to temporarily delay proceedings; usually such delays are used while waiting for a senator to reach the floor to speak or to give leaders time to negotiate. Once the need for a delay has ended, a senator may request unanimous consent to rescind the quorum call. Debate, like most other matters governing the internal functioning of the Senate, is governed by internal rules adopted by the Senate.
During debate, senators may only speak if called upon by the presiding officer, but the presiding officer is required to recognize the first senator who rises to speak.
Thus, the presiding officer has little control over the course of debate. Customarily, the Majority Leader and Minority Leader are accorded priority during debates even if another senator rises first. All speeches must be addressed to the presiding officer, who is addressed as "Mr. President" or "Madam President", and not to another member; other Members must be referred to in the third person. In most cases, senators do not refer to each other by name, but by state or position, using forms such as "the senior senator from Virginia", "the gentleman from California", or "my distinguished friend the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee".
Senators address the Senate standing next to their desk. Apart from rules governing civility, there are few restrictions on the content of speeches; there is no requirement that speeches pertain to the matter before the Senate. The rules of the Senate provide that no senator may make more than two speeches on a motion or bill on the same legislative day. A legislative day begins when the Senate convenes and ends with adjournment; hence, it does not necessarily coincide with the calendar day.
The length of these speeches is not limited by the rules; thus, in most cases, senators may speak for as long as they please. Often, the Senate adopts unanimous consent agreements imposing time limits.
In other cases for example, for the budget process , limits are imposed by statute. However, the right to unlimited debate is generally preserved. Within the United States, the Senate is sometimes referred to as "world's greatest deliberative body". The filibuster is a tactic used to defeat bills and motions by prolonging debate indefinitely.
A filibuster may entail long speeches, dilatory motions, and an extensive series of proposed amendments. The Senate may end a filibuster by invoking cloture. In current practice, the threat of filibuster is more important than its use; almost any motion that does not have the support of three-fifths of the Senate effectively fails.
This means that 41 senators can make a filibuster happen. Historically, cloture has rarely been invoked because bipartisan support is usually necessary to obtain the required supermajority , so a bill that already has bipartisan support is rarely subject to threats of filibuster. However, motions for cloture have increased significantly in recent years. If the Senate invokes cloture, debate does not end immediately; instead, it is limited to 2 additional hours unless increased by another three-fifths vote.
The longest filibuster speech in the Senate's history was delivered by Strom Thurmond , who spoke for over 24 hours in an unsuccessful attempt to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of Under certain circumstances, the Congressional Budget Act of provides for a process called " reconciliation " by which Congress can pass bills related to the budget without those bills being subject to a filibuster.
This is accomplished by limiting all Senate floor debate to 20 hours. When debate concludes, the motion in question is put to a vote. The Senate often votes by voice vote. The presiding officer then announces the result of the voice vote. A senator, however, may challenge the presiding officer's assessment and request a recorded vote. The request may be granted only if it is seconded by one-fifth of the senators present.
In practice, however, senators second requests for recorded votes as a matter of courtesy. When a recorded vote is held, the clerk calls the roll of the Senate in alphabetical order; senators respond when their name is called. Senators who were not in the chamber when their name was called may still cast a vote so long as the voting remains open.
The vote is closed at the discretion of the presiding officer, but must remain open for a minimum of 15 minutes. A majority of those voting determines whether the motion carries. If the vice president is not present, the motion fails. Filibustered bills require a three-fifths majority to overcome the cloture vote which usually means 60 votes and get to the normal vote where a simple majority usually 51 votes approves the bill.
This has caused some news media to confuse the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster with the 51 votes needed to approve a bill, with for example USA Today erroneously stating " The vote was in favor of the provision establishing concealed carry permit reciprocity in the 48 states that have concealed weapons laws.
That fell two votes short of the 60 needed to approve the measure ". On occasion, the Senate may go into what is called a secret or closed session. During a closed session, the chamber doors are closed, cameras are turned off, and the galleries are completely cleared of anyone not sworn to secrecy, not instructed in the rules of the closed session, or not essential to the session.
Closed sessions are rare and usually held only when the Senate is discussing sensitive subject matter such as information critical to national security, private communications from the president, or deliberations during impeachment trials. A senator may call for and force a closed session if the motion is seconded by at least one other member, but an agreement usually occurs beforehand. The proceedings remain sealed indefinitely until the Senate votes to remove the injunction of secrecy.
The latter identifies executive resolutions, treaties, and nominations reported out by Senate committee s and awaiting Senate floor action. Both are updated each day the Senate is in session.
The Senate uses committees and their subcommittees for a variety of purposes, including the review of bills and the oversight of the executive branch. Formally, the whole Senate appoints committee members. In practice, however, the choice of members is made by the political parties. Generally, each party honors the preferences of individual senators, giving priority based on seniority. Each party is allocated seats on committees in proportion to its overall strength.
Most committee work is performed by 16 standing committees, each of which has jurisdiction over a field such as finance or foreign relations. Each standing committee may consider, amend, and report bills that fall under its jurisdiction.
Furthermore, each standing committee considers presidential nominations to offices related to its jurisdiction. For instance, the Judiciary Committee considers nominees for judgeships, and the Foreign Relations Committee considers nominees for positions in the Department of State.
Committees may block nominees and impede bills from reaching the floor of the Senate. Standing committees also oversee the departments and agencies of the executive branch. In discharging their duties, standing committees have the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses and evidence. The Senate also has several committees that are not considered standing committees. Such bodies are generally known as select or special committees ; examples include the Select Committee on Ethics and the Special Committee on Aging.
Legislation is referred to some of these committees, although the bulk of legislative work is performed by the standing committees. Committees may be established on an ad hoc basis for specific purposes; for instance, the Senate Watergate Committee was a special committee created to investigate the Watergate scandal. Such temporary committees cease to exist after fulfilling their tasks. The Congress includes joint committees, which include members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Some joint committees oversee independent government bodies; for instance, the Joint Committee on the Library oversees the Library of Congress. Other joint committees serve to make advisory reports; for example, there exists a Joint Committee on Taxation. Bills and nominees are not referred to joint committees. Hence, the power of joint committees is considerably lower than those of standing committees. Each Senate committee and subcommittee is led by a chair usually a member of the majority party.
Formerly, committee chairs were determined purely by seniority; as a result, several elderly senators continued to serve as chair despite severe physical infirmity or even senility. The chairs hold extensive powers: This last role was particularly important in mid-century, when floor amendments were thought not to be collegial. They also have considerable influence: The Senate rules and customs were reformed in the twentieth century, largely in the s.
Committee chairmen have less power and are generally more moderate and collegial in exercising it, than they were before reform. Recent criticisms of the Senate's operations object to what the critics argue is obsolescence as a result of partisan paralysis and a preponderance of arcane rules. Bills may be introduced in either chamber of Congress.
However, the Constitution's Origination Clause provides that "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives". Furthermore, the House of Representatives holds that the Senate does not have the power to originate appropriation bills , or bills authorizing the expenditure of federal funds.
The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a single state in its entirety, with each state being equally represented by two senators, regardless of its population, serving staggered terms of six years; with 50 states currently in the Union, there are U.S. Senators.
The US Constitution, Article I, Sections 2 and 3, sets the term lengths and qualifications for US Senators and Congressmen. Article I sets the term of office for members of th e US House of Representatives at two years (Section .
The length of terms in state senates in the 50 American state senates is either two years or four years. Senators in 31 states have a four-year term. Senators in 12 states have a two-year term. Senators in seven states (Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas) have. Current Senate leaders and officers as well as links to historical essays, lists, and artwork depicting former leaders. Former Senators Links to historical lists and statistics, art work, images, and research collections of former senators.
A senator has a term of six years. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms. Re-election is possible and increases the number of years a congressman or senator serves. Two senators are elected from each state, but the number of House members varies per state. There are United States senators serve 6-year terms, although they may seek reelection after each term, and there is no formal or official limit to the number of years or terms a .