Like U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate is a key element of the legislative branch of the federal government. Senators, like representatives, are responsible for making laws that govern the 50 states in the Union.
There are several similarities between the duties that senators and representatives carry out, but there are key differences in the role they serve in the nation’s legislature.
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 and, in the event of a tied vote on a particular piece of legislation, would cast the deciding vote.
What Does a Senator Do?
Senators do not represent one district. Instead, they represent their entire state.
Senators spend time speaking with their constituents about concerns, problems, and policies that might impact them. Like representatives, senators are expected by their constituents to fight for laws that are relevant to their state.
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 are also responsible for introducing and voting on bills. A lawmaker might bring a new proposal to the Senate for debate, and they must use their influence to get attention for specific measures. They also interact with their fellow senators to gain support for their proposal.
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 have a tremendous level of power and influence. They 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.