How the Senate Works
What makes the Senate different from the House?
By: Jeff Charles | March 23, 2021 | 438 Words
Both houses of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – have similar jobs. Representatives and senators both write and vote on laws and sit on committees, and both are elected by the people, but that’s about where the similarities end.
What Is the Senate?
The Senate, which is also known as the “upper chamber” of Congress, is made up of 100 senators – two for each state. Until the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913, state legislatures were responsible for choosing senators. Now, these officials are elected by popular vote in each state.
Unlike U.S. representatives, who are elected to two-year terms, senators are elected for six years. The senators’ terms are set up so that about one-third of the Senate would be up for re-election every two years. To qualify for this position, a candidate must be at least 30 years old and have been a citizen of the U.S. for nine years. They must also reside in the state they wish to represent.
The vice president of the United States serves as the president of the Senate, but only votes when there’s a tie to break.
What Does a Senator Do?
Senators do not represent one district. Instead, they represent their entire state.
Senators spend time speaking with the people in their states about concerns, problems, and policies that might affect them. Like representatives, senators are expected by their constituents to fight for laws that are relevant to them.
On an average day, a senator might take phone calls and answer emails from constituents who wish to share their views and make suggestions about governance. This gives the lawmaker an idea of what type of legislation they should push for in the Senate.
Senators also serve on committees that focus on different fields such as armed services, health, education, national security, and others. Each committee holds meetings and hearings to view presentations from organizations, companies, lobbyists, and others who wish to promote certain types of legislation. Senators are also responsible for introducing and voting on bills.
When the president wishes to appoint a member to his cabinet, senators are tasked with voting to confirm or reject his nomination. The same holds true when the president wishes to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. They also vote to approve or deny treaties with foreign governments.
As part of the legislative branch, senators shape the policies and laws that impact the lives of everyday Americans. For this reason, it is important for voters to understand who their senators are and what they believe about government. Otherwise, they might elect someone who works against their interests.