United States Senate

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United States Senate
117th 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, 2021 (2021-01-03)
Leadership
Patrick Leahy (D)
Since January 20, 2021
Chuck Schumer (D)
Since January 20, 2021
Mitch McConnell (R)
Since January 20, 2021
Dick Durbin (D)
Since January 20, 2021
John Thune (R)
Since January 20, 2021
Structure
Seats100
51 (or 50 plus the president of the Senate) for a majority
117th United States Senate.svg
Political groups
Majority (50)[a]
  •   Democratic (48)
  •   Independent (2)[b]

Minority (50)

Length of term
6 years
Elections
Plurality voting in 46 states[c]
Varies in 4 states
Last election
November 3, 2020[d] (35 seats)
Next election
November 8, 2022 (34 seats)
Meeting place
Senatefloor.jpg
Senate Chamber
United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.
United States
Website
senate.gov
Constitution
United States Constitution

The United States Senate is the upper house of the United States Congress, which is a small group of elected people who decide the laws of the country.[2] Every U.S. state elects two people to represent them in the US Senate.[3] These people are called senators. Since there are 50 US states, there are 100 senators.[3] Senators only serve six years at a time, and one-third of them are picked every two years.[3] Originally the legislature of each state decided who their senators would be. After 1913, all the people of the state chose their senators by vote. The Vice President of the United States is in charge of the Senate, but only does anything when there is a tie vote or a special event.

In order to be a senator, a person has to be 30 years old or older, and has to be a citizen of the United States for 9 years or more. They must also live in the state they represent at election time.

Functions[change | change source]

The Senate, along with the United States House of Representatives, votes on which laws the United States should have.[4] In most cases, both of these groups have to agree on the suggested law and the President has to sign it before it becomes a law.[4]

The Senate is the side of Congress where every state has the same number of votes (two). This is different from the House of Representatives, where states with more people have more votes than states with fewer people. This was decided at the Constitutional Convention, because small states like Delaware did not want the larger states to be able to decide everything. Also, only part of the Senate runs for election during elections. Every two years, 33 (two elections) or 34 (one election) senators are elected. For each state, this means that after two elections to the Senate, during one election no one will be elected to the Senate.

Also, like the House, the Senate can override the president's veto with a ⅔ (67 votes) vote. But unlike the house, some bills require a 3/5 (60 votes) vote (it used to be ⅔ of the vote) to overcome the filibuster.[5] A filibuster is when senators band together, they can stop bills from going through the senate. The United States Senate was formerly the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives ― the lower chamber ― comprised the legislature of the United States.

Confirmation powers[change | change source]

The Senate is also in charge of agreeing to treaties with other countries. The Senate has the sole responsibility for confirming presidential appointments.[6] These include federal judges, foreign ambassadors and Cabinet members.[6] If the Senate and President do not agree, the President has to pick someone else the Senate will agree to.

Political parties[change | change source]

Committees of the United States Senate and other important jobs in the Senate are assigned by the majority political party. Right now, the Senate is made up of 48 Democrats with 2 Independents who sides with the Democrats which make them the Senate Majority. The minority of the Senate is made up of 50 Republicans.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Democrats are in the majority due to the tiebreaking power of Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as the president of the Senate.
  2. The independent senators, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, caucus with the Democrats.[1]
  3. Alaska (for its primary elections only), California, and Washington additionally utilize a nonpartisan blanket primary, and Louisiana uses a Louisiana primary, for their respective primary elections.
  4. Also the Georgia runoff election and the Georgia special runoff election held on January 5, 2021.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Maine Independent Angus King To Caucus With Senate Democrats". Politico. November 14, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2020. Angus King of Maine, who cruised to victory last week running as an independent, said Wednesday that he will caucus with Senate Democrats. [...] The Senate's other independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also caucuses with the Democrats.
  2. "Members of Congress". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The United States Senate for Know-It-Alls (Minneapolis: Filiquarian Publishing, LLC, 2008), p. 3
  4. 4.0 4.1 Umar Farooq (6 August 2013). "Powers and Functions of the American Senate". Study Lecture Notes. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  5. IBP, US Senate Guide Volume 1 (Washington, DC: International Business Publications, 2015), p. 132
  6. 6.0 6.1 "About the U.S. Senate". About.com. Retrieved 1 March 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]

Coordinates: 38°53′26″N 77°0′32″W / 38.89056°N 77.00889°W / 38.89056; -77.00889