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 they’re also very different.
What Is the Senate?
There are 100 senators in the Senate – two for each state. Until the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913, state legislatures voted for senators. Now, these officials are elected by popular vote in each state.
Senators are elected for six years. The elections rotate though, 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 live 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 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. 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 topics. 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 wants to make appointments to federal positions, the Senate has to vote on whether to accept or deny the appointment.
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.