A Look at the U.S. Senate
The U.S. government consists of three branches of government, the judicial branch, executive branch, and the legislative branch. The legislative branch is then further broken down into the Senate and the House of Representative, together being referred to as the Congress.
The Senate is made up of two Senators from each state, for a total of 100 Senators. The Vice President of the U.S. also serves as the President of the Senate and as the power to vote on a decision that is tied.
Each member must be at least 30 years old and a citizen of the U.S. for at least nine years, as well as a current resident of the state they wish to represent. A senator serves a six year term that can be renewed without limit if the state if voted for through a popular election as defined by the 17th Amendment.
These terms are staggered and thus elections for Senators occur every two years for approximately a third of the Senate. One major purpose of this is to prevent having elections for both seats of a state at once.
The powers of the Senate are very clearly defined in the U.S. Constitution. They are the only body that has the power to confirm any appointments made by the President that needs consent. The Senate also has the exclusive power to ratify treaties.
The only exception to the Senate’s powers is that any treaty involving foreign trade or appointments to the Vice President must be approved by the House of Representative as well. The Senate also has the exclusive power of declaring war
Any legislation that has reached the President for his signature has already been passed by majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If a President chooses to veto a bill, it can still be passed as long as the Senate and House both pass it again with a two-thirds majority.
There are currently 17 different committees and 70 subcommittees within the Senate. These amounts are not definite and are subject to change with every new Congress. In order to pass a bill through the Senate, it is first introduced within a subcommittee and can then be accepted, rejected, or amended. After the subcommittee decides to move the bill forward, then then goes to the full committee and if approved again, moved to the Senate floor.
Once on the Senate floor, there is a debate process where members speak about the bill or introduce amendments. These methods are often used to filibuster or delay a bill. In order to break a filibuster, 60 members, or a supermajority is needed. After debate ends, a simple majority can pass a bill.