United States Senate

United States Senate
116th United States Congress
Coat of arms or logo
Flag of the United States Senate
Flag of the U.S. Senate
Type
Type
Term limits
None
History
New session started
January 3, 2019 (2019-01-03)
Leadership
Chuck Grassley (R)
since January 3, 2019
Patrick Leahy (D)
since January 3, 2015
Mitch McConnell (R)
since January 3, 2015
Chuck Schumer (D)
since January 3, 2017
John Thune (R)
since January 3, 2019
Dick Durbin (D)
since January 3, 2015
Structure
Seats100
51 (or 50 plus the Vice President) for a majority
60 for a 3/5 majority
67 for a 2/3 majority
United States Senate 2018 Updated.svg
Political groups
Majority (53)

Minority (47)

Length of term
6 years
Elections
Last election
November 6, 2018 (35 seats)
Next election
November 3, 2020 (34 seats)
Meeting place
Senatefloor.jpg
Senate Chamber
United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.
senate.gov
Constitution
United States Constitution

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

The composition and powers of the Senate are established by Article One of the United States Constitution.[1] The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a single state in its entirety. Each state, regardless of its population size, is equally represented by two senators who serve staggered terms of six years. There being at present 50 states in the Union, there are presently 100 senators. From 1789 until 1913, senators were appointed by legislatures of the states they represented; they are now elected by popular vote, following the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

As the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate has several powers of advice and consent which are unique to it. These include the approval of treaties, and the confirmation of Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, federal judges, flag officers, regulatory officials, ambassadors, other federal executive officials and other federal uniformed officers. In addition to these, in cases wherein no candidate receives a majority of electors for Vice President, the duty falls to the Senate to elect one of the top two recipients of electors for that office. Furthermore, the Senate has the responsibility of conducting the trials of those impeached by the House.

The Senate is widely considered both a more deliberative[2] and more prestigious[3][4][5] body than the House of Representatives due to its longer terms, smaller size, and statewide constituencies, which historically led to a more collegial and less partisan atmosphere.[6] The presiding officer of the Senate is the Vice President of the United States, who is President of the Senate. In the Vice President's absence, the President Pro Tempore, who is customarily the senior member of the party holding a majority of seats, presides over the Senate. In the early 20th century, the practice of majority and minority parties electing their floor leaders began, although they are not constitutional officers.

History

The drafters of the Constitution created a bicameral Congress primarily as a compromise between those who felt that each state, since it was sovereign, should be equally represented, and those who felt the legislature must directly represent the people, as the House of Commons did in Great Britain. This idea of having one chamber represent people equally, while the other gives equal representation to states regardless of population, was known as the Connecticut Compromise. There was also a desire to have two Houses that could act as an internal check on each other. One was intended to be a "People's House" directly elected by the people, and with short terms obliging the representatives to remain close to their constituents. The other was intended to represent the states to such extent as they retained their sovereignty except for the powers expressly delegated to the national government. The Senate was thus not designed to serve the people of the United States equally. The Constitution provides that the approval of both chambers is necessary for the passage of legislation.[7]

First convened in 1789, the Senate of the United States was formed on the example of the ancient Roman Senate. The name is derived from the senatus, Latin for council of elders (from senex meaning old man in Latin).[8]

James Madison made the following comment about the Senate:

In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, the people ought to have permanency and stability.[9]

— Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787

Article Five of 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.S. Senators", but they are officials of the D.C. City Government and not members of the U.S. Senate.[10] The United States has had 50 states since 1959,[11] thus the Senate has had 100 senators since 1959.[7]

Graph showing historical party control of the U.S. Senate, House and Presidency[12]

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 1787, Virginia had roughly ten times the population of Rhode Island, whereas today California has roughly 70 times the population of Wyoming, based on the 1790 and 2000 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 1913, senators were elected by the individual state legislatures.[13] Problems with repeated vacant seats due to the inability of a legislature to elect senators, intrastate political struggles, and even bribery and intimidation had gradually led to a growing movement to amend the Constitution to allow for the direct election of senators.[14]

Other Languages
беларуская: Сенат ЗША
български: Сенат на САЩ
Ελληνικά: Γερουσία (ΗΠΑ)
Esperanto: Usona Senato
føroyskt: Senatið í USA
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Mî-koet Chhâm-ngi-yèn
한국어: 미국 상원
Bahasa Indonesia: Senat Amerika Serikat
latviešu: ASV Senāts
მარგალური: ააშ-იშ სენატი
Bahasa Melayu: Senat Amerika Syarikat
norsk: USAs senat
norsk nynorsk: Senatet i USA
Plattdüütsch: Senat (USA)
русский: Сенат США
Simple English: United States Senate
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Senat SAD
svenska: USA:s senat
татарча/tatarça: AQŞ Senatı
українська: Сенат США
ייִדיש: סענאט