THE SENATE OF THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Two senators from each State elected by popular vote
i.e. 100 senators.
The President of the Senate is the Vice-President of the United States, but he or she may vote only in case of a tie vote. In practice, the Vice-President does not often preside over sessions of the Senate.
Presiding Officers : The Senate elects a President pro tempore who, by tradition, is the Senator of the majority party who has served continuously in the Senate for the longest period of time. When the President pro tempore is not presiding over the Senate, other Senators of the majority party serve as the Presiding Officer.
II.- ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Method of voting:
Senators are elected in State-wide elections. In 48 states, Senators are elected by plurality vote : the candidate receiving the most votes is elected, even if that candidate receives less than a majority of the votes cast. In two States, Georgia and Louisiana, the winning candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast. If there are three or more candidates and none of them receives a majority vote, there is a second election between the two candidates who received the most votes. The candidate who receives a majority of votes cast at the second election is elected.
Term of office:
The term of office for a Senator is six years. The terms of Senators are staggered so that the terms of approximately one-third of Senators expire every two years. Elections to fill those Senate seats coincide every two years with elections for all members of the House of Representatives and, every four years, with the election of the President. The terms of office for Senators are fixed. Neither house can be dissolved, and the dates for congressional elections are established by law.
More recent elections : 5 November 2002.
Criteria for eligibility:
30 years of age citizen of the United States for at least nine years; resident of the State from which he or she was elected.
The Senate, like the House of Representatives, is the sole judge of the election and qualification of its members.
III- ORGANISATION OF SESSIONS
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
At least one session a year beginning at midday on 3 January of each year, unless Congress enacts a law that sets a later date. During 2001, the Senate met for 1,114 hours on 159 days.
Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives may adjourn for more than three days without the prior consent of the other chamber. On some days the Senate meets very briefly in pro forma sessions at which no business is conducted.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
The President has the constitutional authority to convene the Senate or both houses of Congress in exceptional circumstances. This power rarely is exercised.
IV.- RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
1) The right to propose legislation
Senators have the same authority as Representatives to propose legislation, with two exceptions. The Constitution states that all revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives traditionally has insisted thar this constitutional provision also requires that appropriation bills originate in the House.
2) Right of amendment
Senators may amend all bills, including revenue and appropriation bills. Furthermore, Senators usually may propose amendments in plenary sessions that are unrelated to the subject of the bill that the Senate is considering. This right enables Senators to initiate revenue and appropriation proposals, even though these proposals are presented as amendments to bills that the House ef Representatives already has passed.
3) Legislative procedure
a) The Senate, like the House of Representatives, has the constitutional authority to establish its own rules of procedure. There are only a few constitutional requirements that govern how the Senate conducts its business. The legislative procedures of the Senate are distinctive in two respects. First, as noted immediately above, Senators usually may offer amendments on any subject in plenary sessions, without regard to the subject of the bill that the Senate is debating. Second, there usually is no time limit on the length of Senators'speeches. This creates the opportunity for a filibuster that the Senate can end only by invoking cloture, which requires the support of three-fifths of all Senators.
b) The presidential vetoes:
If the President vetoes a bill that both houses of Congress have approved in precisely the same form, Congress may enact the bill into law by a two-thirds vote of the Senate and a two-thirds vote of the House. The chamber in which the bill originated has the first opportunity to vote on whether to override the President's veto of that bill. The Constitution requires that any vote in the Senate or the House to override a presidential veto must be conducted by a call of the roll in which the votes of individual members are recorded publicly. However, there is no requirement that either house must vote within a certain period of time on whether to override a veto.
B - SUPERVISORY POWERS
1) Impeachment :
The Senate tries all cases in which the House of Representatives has impeached an official of the Federal Government for the purpose of removing that official from office.
To convict an impeached official requires the vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting.
When the President has been impeached, the Chiefs Justice of the United States presides over the trial in the Senate.
2) International treaties:
The Senate has the exclusive constitutional power, by a two-thirds majority of the Senators present and voting, to authorize the President to ratify a treaty that has been negociated on behalf of the United States. If legislation is required to implement a treaty that the President has ratified after receiving the advice and consent of the Senate, both houses of Congress must approve that legislation
The Senate also has the exclusive constitutional power to confirm, by simple majority vote, the nomination of persons whom the President has nominated to high executive and judicial positions, including cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and federal judges. The House of Representatives is not involved in the confirmation of nominations.
The Senate, like the House of Representatives, may establish special investigative committees. In addition, the standing committees of the Senate are authorized to conduct investigations of matters within their respective jurisdictions. Standing and special investigative committees have the authority to issue subpoenas that require a person to appear before the committee and, if necessary, to produce documents.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
A - CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
A constitutional amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress, or the legislatures of two-thirds of the States may call for a convention to propose constitutional amendments.
To become part of the Constitution, an amendment that has been proposed must be ratified by the legislatures or special conventions in three-fourths of the States.
B - DECLARATION OF WAR BY CONGRESS
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war, and makes the President the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
The last time that Congress declared war was in 1941, when the United States entered World War II. Since then, the armed forces of the United States have become engaged in hostilities without a formal declaration of war. On some occasions, Congress has expressed its support by other legislative actions. On other occasions, the President has acted in his capacity as Commander-in-chief.
C - ELECTING THE PRESIDENT
The candidate who receives a majority of the electoral votes cast is elected President of the United States. If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from among the three candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. In voting for the President, members of the House of Representatives vote as State delegations, with each delegation having one vote.
D - INABILITY OF THE PRESIDENT TO SERVE
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1967, authorizes the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet secretaties to declare that the President is unable to perform the duties of thar office. The Vice President then serves as the Acting President. If the President notifies Congress that he or she is not disabled, the President resumes the powers and duties of the office unless Congress, by a two-thirds vote of each house, agrees with a determination made by the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet secretaries that the President remains disabled.