The United States Congress and its legislative bodies confuse millions of Americans and foreigners struggling to understand political jargon.
Understanding the functions and differences between the two legislative bodies is crucial to monitoring events occurring in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Congress comprises two legislative bodies: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
These legislative bodies are similar in their institutional designs, but some distinct elements differ. The public elects senators and representatives, who hold chambers in the U.S. Capital. Laws require a nod of approval from the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass legislation. The similarities between the two bodies make us question, are there any differences between their functions and legal stature?
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Elected Members & Voting Processes
The Senate consists of 100 senators, electing two senators to represent one state. Previously, state legislatures chose the senators. However, after the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, the electoral power was passed to the public. Now, senators are elected by the popular vote by the people of their state. Senators must complete a six-year term, and the elections occur after every two years.
All senators must meet the criteria for selection, including 30 years of age and residence in the state they represent. Senators must also have U.S. citizenship for at least nine years to qualify for the election. The sole power to validate the President’s appointments lies with the U HYPERLINK “https://online.maryville.edu/blog/difference-between-house-and-senate”. HYPERLINK “https://online.maryville.edu/blog/difference-between-house-and-senate”S HYPERLINK “https://online.maryville.edu/blog/difference-between-house-and-senate”. HYPERLINK “https://online.maryville.edu/blog/difference-between-house-and-senate” Senate and its elected senators. The Senate can confirm the President’s charges, provide consent to endorse treaties, and give advice on critical policy matters.
The Senate is also responsible for the impeachment proceedings of federal officials demanded by the House of Representatives. The Vice President of the U.S. is appointed as the President of the State. However, the Senate and the House work closely to approve Presidential decrees, particularly treaties involving international trade.
The House of Representatives comprises 435 elected members representing 50 states, depending on their total population. Aside from the elected members, the House consists of 6 non-voting members. These members represented several U.S. territories, including the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Representatives cast votes to elect the Speaker of the House, who also serves as the presiding officer.
Fun Fact: The Speaker is third in the line of succession to become the President of the United States.
Political Representation & Functions
The US Senate
Over the years, the House and the Senate have evolved into more dynamic and assertive bodies than their inception. Senators represent their states, while Representatives represent different districts from their states. Every state has at least one representative to voice the state’s political grievances and concerns in the U.S. Congress.
Both legislative bodies have unique functions, regulations, and political tools. Most political aspirants find the Senate more effective at lending political representation and voice to elected officials. This belief stems from the fact that the Senate allows unlimited debate on legislation and political issues. Every senator has an equal opportunity to share their concerns and influence legislation passed in the country.
Compared to the Representatives, Senators don’t have to speed up proceedings to ensure legislation is passed. They can take their time to debate the benefits and drawbacks of proposed legislation and put forward their state’s concerns. The Senate is a “continuous body,” which means that all of its seats are never available for election at the same time.
The Senate does not have to change its rules and adopt new procedures every two years. In contrast, the Senate is a legislative body governed through traditions and precedents that determine its procedural structure. The Senate allows leaders representing the majority and minority to work together and collaborate.
House of Representatives
It’s pertinent to note that party leaders and their committees have distinct functions in the House and the Senate. The House elects the Speaker, who yields great power and control over the rules, regulations, and legislation. The Speaker controls the calendar to decide which bills require debate and the general timeline of events. The Speaker also controls the House Rules Committee to deliberate which legislation is worthy of consideration.
The Senate does not have a regulatory and authoritative position like the Speaker, allowing leaders to work together and collaborate. The membership of the House of Representatives expires in two years, pushing Representatives to honor their constituents. It’s typical for Representatives to work closely with their constituents, whereas Senators have a more extended period.
Representatives are more responsive and eager to meet their constituents to listen and voice their concerns. Debates held in the House of Representatives are formal. Members are driven to raise sensitive concerns to represent their constituents.
It’s pertinent to understand that both legislative bodies have distinct enumerated authority and implicit powers. Enumerated power refers to the explicit stipulations outlined in the Constitution. And implicit powers are not outlined in the Constitution but are assumed to maintain law and order.
Understanding the legislative functions is crucial for people to exercise their voting rights and choose their political representatives. It’s also advisable to watch televised debates in the Senate and the House of Representatives to learn about rules and regulations.