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Procedures Committees Overview

Procedures Committees Overview

The United States Senate proves to undertake many responsibilities at the legislative level. Therefore, in order to provide for more functional operation of the Senate, it divides its legislative functions to certain Senate committees. Currently, the Senate has twenty standing committees, sixty-eight subcommittees, and four joint committees.

The Senate committee system shares many qualities similar to those implemented by the House of Representatives, but it does provide for its own specific guidelines and regulations so as to provide for differentiation between the committees of both chambers. The committees themselves are separated into three general types. Standing committees are generally delegated with most legislative jurisdiction. Subcommittees are in charge of specific areas of the committee’s work. Select and joint committees usually handle oversight responsibilities.

Committees are set up in a similar fashion in which the Senate is constructed. There is a chair for each committee, and the majority of committee members will reflect the majority party in the Senate. The chair of a committee will typically control the overall agenda of their committee. Committee membership is comprised by the respective parties assigning members to each committee, and each committee will then distribute those members in subcommittees. However, there is a number limit placed on the committee positions a Senator may hold at any given time.

Committees can have quite a good amount of influence regarding the bills that get introduced on the Senate floor, as well as their actual passing into law. The bills that committees will consider can help set the overall agenda of the Senate as a whole. There are four general actions that committees and subcommittees will undertake. Firstly, a committee will refer to certain executive agencies regarding comments and explanations on a particular bill. Then it will hold hearings to gather further information from experts in the matter that are not members of any Senate committee.

The bill is then subject to amendments and revisions to be made by the committee to ensure that the committee agenda coincides with the provisions of the bill. Finally, the bill will be presented in its revised form to the Senate, along with a report describing its overall purpose and provisions contained within.

As mentioned, standing committees prove to have the most legislative jurisdiction among the three types of Senate committees. They have various responsibilities delegated to them, among them including overseeing departments of the Executive Branch, the power to subpoena witnesses and evidence within their jurisdiction, and the power to block nominees and bills from reaching the consideration of the Senate. Examples of standing committees include the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, the Senate Transportation Committee, and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is in charge of conducting hearings regarding the appointment of federal judges that are nominated by the President. The Senate Judiciary will conduct the hearings prior to the Senate body conducting a vote on the nominations. Furthermore, the Senate Judiciary Committee has quite a wide jurisdiction in matters pertaining to criminal law.

The Senate Banking Committee has quite a variety of responsibilities charged to it. Formally, the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs deals with jurisdiction in matters relating to banks and banking to financial aid to commerce and industry. The Senate Banking Committee also deals with mass transit, housing matters, and urban development.

Special Senate Committees are considered to be non-standing and are implemented on a temporary basis. Once they’re overall purposed is completed, or their goal is met, the committees are dissolved. An example of a special committee would the Senate Water Gate Committee, which was created to investigate the Watergate Scandal involving the Nixon Administration. Other special committees include the Impeachment Trial Committee and the Select Committee on Ethics.

Joint Committees involve Congress members as a whole, appointing delegates from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Joint Committees have varying tasks and responsibilities, but the main difference from other committees is that bills and nominations are not referred to these kinds of committees. Some joint committees are in charge of overseeing other bodies’ governments, such as the Library of Congress being overseen by the Joint Committee on the Library. In other situations, joint committees create reports advising for certain measures to be taken.

Procedures On Debate

Procedures On Debate

The actual proceedings that occur on the floor of the United States Senate and the discourse that occurs between the members of the Senate are known as the debate. Debates can take on many forms, but all deal with legislative aspects or matters that are brought upon the Senate, such as bills and law changes. The Senate actually has in placed codified rules that govern the process of a senatorial debate, which outlines for certain procedures and appropriate actions to be taken by Senators in order to part-take in a debate.

During debates, senators may only participate if they are called upon the presiding officer. The presiding officer can be the President of the Senate or any other senator he may choose to appoint with the responsibility of overlooking the procedures of the debate. A Senator may be recognized by rising to his feet. Under procedural standards, the presiding officers are charged with recognizing the first senator to rise to speak.

This practice, in reality, gives little control to the presiding officer regarding the actual course a debate may actually take. Both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader are given precedence and priority in the case that he/she rises at the same time as another Senator to be recognized to speak. All members of the Senate that rise to participate in the debate and deliver a speech must all address the presiding officer.

The speeches themselves are not to be addressed directly to any other member of the Senate, regardless if it is in direct response to that particular Senator’s speech. The presiding officer is to be addressed as “Mr. President” or “Madam President.” When speaking in relation to other members of the Senate, they are not to be referred directly by name.

Senators are referred to by their actual position, or by the state they represent. All addresses and speeches are delivered from a Senator’s desk. No Senator is allowed to interject or interrupt while another Senator has the floor and is addressing the chamber. If an interruption is sought, a Senator must first rise and be given consent to interrupt.

The consent for an interjection is addressed to the presiding officer, who will either allow it or restrict it. It is important to note that even though there is no legislation regarding time limits on the speeches of Senators, they can only speak a total of two times on any particular topic on the same legislative day.

Therefore, an actual legislative day may in fact be longer than a normal, calendar day. The presiding officer is also charged with the ability to bring a Senator that has violated the rules of the Senate during policy debate.

He may call for that Senator to be brought to order, at which time he/she must take his/her seat, and can not proceed or re-engage in the policy debate without a motion that he/she be allowed to proceed. Such motion, if granted, is not subject to debate. Appeals can only be made in the form of a Senator asking the presiding officer for another member of the Senate to be brought to order.

Understand The Procedures Filibuster

Understand The Procedures Filibuster

The United States Congress has various types of legislative procedures that occur on a day-to-day basis. The United States Senate has a specific process regarding the passage of bills. A filibuster is a tactic employed by Senators in an attempt to prevent a particular measure from being subjected to chamber vote.

This process can take on many forms, but usually involves an obstructive action that is dilatory in nature. Many tactics exist, but the most common one involves when a Senator tries to delay or prevent a vote on a bill to occur.

A Senator will extend the debate on the measure and is permitted to do so by Senate rules. A filibuster will typically involve a Senator speaking on a topic of his/her choice for an extended period of time. A filibuster may be stopped only through a three-fifths voice of the chamber, which is known as cloture.

The filibuster has its origins dating back to 1789 when the first United Congress would convene. The Senate was drafting its particular rules and regulations regarding its legislative procedures. Originally, there were provisions regarding the proper way to end a debate in the Senate which would bring a matter to a vote. However, the legislation was considered to be unnecessary and was removed. Essentially, this would create the possibility for a filibuster to occur. However, it would not be until 1837 in which the first filibuster would occur.

Since then many filibusters have occurred in the United States Congress. However, it is important to note that the actual threat of the filibuster will often be enough to create for a certain motion to occur. Arguably the most famous and notable filibuster to occur in United States Congress history was in respect to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many southern Democratic Senators enacted filibuster that was not successful in blocking the passage of the bill.

The filibuster itself would last for a total of 75 hours. Robert Byrd alone undertook an address in the Senate during the filibuster that lasted over fourteen hours. Various filibusters that occurred in the 1960s due to civil rights bills allowed for the creation of a tracking system. This allows for the Senate Majority LeaderMinority Leader



A filibuster is a tactic that can be employed by a Senator, or a group of Senators, that is allowed by the rules created by the Senate itself. A filibuster essentially is an obstructive tactic that is employed in the attempt to prevent a particular motion or resolution to be brought to a vote by the members of the Senate.

Though there are several types of the filibuster, the most commonly used involves the Senator extending the debate. Senators can literally speak for as long as they want and about any particular topic they choose. The only way to successfully end a filibuster is by achieving a three-fifths vote of the chamber to put an end to the debate. The longest filibuster in the history of the Senate lasted a total of twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes.

Procedures Voting At A Glance

Procedures Voting At A Glance

Among all of the legislative procedures that occur in the Senate, arguably the most important one is voting. Senate voting is considered highly important to party leaders, for they often schedule voting at a time when Senate approval is most likely to meet their agenda goals. Senate voting takes place on an average of 95% of the time when the chamber is in session.

There three different types of Senate voting that are implemented: Voice Vote, Division Vote, and Roll-call or Recorded Votes. Voice and division votes are not provided for in the Senate rules and regulations but are implemented due to precedent. The only voting procedure committed to text are roll-call votes, and are identified in terms of the “yeas and nays.”

A voice vote is a fairly simple procedure undertaken by the Senate. Senate voting in this fashion is conducted by the presiding officer. The presiding officer will simply ask the remaining members of the Senate to say “aye” if they are in favor of the proposed resolution or matter on the floor or to say “no” if they are opposed.

Once the votes are tabulated, the chair will announce the results. The results are not official until the chair officially declares the decision of the Senate voting. Senators may often request that one of the other forms of Senate voting be implemented if they believe it might reverse the decision in their favor.

However, such a request must be made before the final result is made by the presiding officer. The presiding officer will say “Without objection, the motion, resolution, etc. are agreed (or not agreed) to.” If an objection is made by a Senator on the floor, it may result in other votes taken by one of the other methods.

A division vote is rarely used in Senate voting procedures. Also referred to as a standing vote, a division vote simply denotes whether a particular proposition is approved or disapproved. There is no record that provides for how each Senator in the chamber voted on a certain proposition. Similarly to a voice vote, Senators may also request that another method of Senate voting be undertaken, as long as the final announcement of the results is made by the presiding officer.

Both voice and division Senate voting institute a majority quorum for a resolution to be passed. Typically, this requires that a total number of fifty-one of the one hundred Senators vote either in favor or against a certain resolution. However, the majority of quorum may differ in there are vacancies in the Senate.

Roll-call votes, or the “yeas and nays,” are the only form of Senate voting that is prescribed by the United States Constitution, and can be found under Article 1DebateHouse of Representatives

Salary and Benefits Overview

Salary and Benefits Overview

The salary and benefits for the members of the Senate are the same as those granted to the House of Representatives. The pay grades differ in accordance to their position in that particular chamber of the United States Congress.

Members of the Senate, such as the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders will have a higher salary than other members of the Senate, those considered to be Rank-and-File Members. Even though salaries are higher for those in the Senate leadership, all senators receive the same type of benefits.

The salaries of Senators are administered and determined by the Office of Personnel Management. This governmental faction derives the Senator salaries through the implementation of a fairly complex calculation system to derive at the total amount. One of the main arguments or disputes regarding the salaries of Senators is the fact the pay rates also affect other governmental positions, such as those for federal judges. Originally, it was suggested by Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention.

Understanding the Senate Seniority System

Understanding the Senate Seniority System

The United States Senate has a system of seniority in place in regards to its members. There are several factors considered to determine seniority, but the system is designed around the basis of the length of time a particular member has served in the Senate. Furthermore, the seniority system also provides for certain benefits and/or perks for the chamber’s most senior members that may prove to be advantageous for their political careers.

The Senate’s seniority system is based on several factors to determine Senators’ ranking in the chamber. Firstly, the ranking starts even at the state level, meaning that the system applies between the two Senators that are elected by each state. A Senior Senator and a Junior Senator are terms that will always apply between two senators elected by the state.

The Senator that has been serving the Senate the longest and has done so in a continuous fashion will be granted the title of Senior Senator. However, sometimes, a situation will occur when both Senators of any given state are sworn in on the same day, in which the time of servitude can no longer be applied to determine seniority. The Senate has eleven factors that are used to determine seniority in the chamber, and they are:

Amount of time serving as United States Senator in a consecutive manner

Having been a United States Senator at a previous time. In other words, having served in non-consecutive terms

The length of time that a Senator has served in prior non-consecutive terms

Senator was a former member of the United States House of Representatives

Length of time the Senator served in the House of Representatives

The Senator was a former President

The Senator was a former Vice President

The Senator was a former cabinet member

The Senator was a former state governor

The population of the state that the Senator represents as recorded by the most recent census from when such Senator took office in the United States Senate

Alphabetical according to the last name, which is used in the case of two Senators being sworn in on the same day, representing the same state, and has the same credentials or political experience in their careers.

The factors are listed and numbered in terms of importance, with the length of consecutive Senate terms being the most important consideration, and alphabetical consideration as the least.

Even though seniority is implemented by the Senate and senior members do receive some special treatment, there is no real rights or power that is bestowed on Senators due to seniority. Generally speaking, a Senator would have more power being the Majority Party than being the most senior member in the chamber. However, Senators do enjoy some perks due to seniority status.

More senior members are most likely to have the choice of Senate Senate Committee assignments. Seniority is also implemented in committees to the extent that it may be possible for a Senator to obtain a higher seniority ranking than another, and yet still be considered his junior in terms of the Senate as a whole. Furthermore, chairmanship in Senate committees, even though are elected positions, will typically be awarded to the most senior member of the majority party on the committee.

The ranking of Senators due to seniority can actually be visually represented, for the more senior members of the Senate will sit closest to the front of the Senate Chamber. Senior Senators will also have the choice of the best offices as well, which can prove to be a nice perk in itself.

Understanding The Vice Presidents Role as Senate President

Understanding The Vice Presidents Role as Senate President

However, in the past, the Vice President would undertake in the actual presiding of Senate sessions, but the practice would change by the 1950s. Since then, the Senate President does not really participate in any Senate debates.

The modern Senate President only tends to participate in ceremonial affairs, such as the swearing-in of new senators or during joint sessions. The Constitution also provides for a temporary replacement to fill the position of Senate President in the case that the Vice President is absent.

This position is known as the president pro tempore. Typically, the most senior member of the Senate in the majority party will be appointed to serve as the president pro tempore. Similarly, the president pro tempore will also not participate in Senate debates, abiding in the modern practice of the position. Even though the Senate President does not regularly preside over the Senate, delegates will be appointed to do so.

the Vice President will choose junior senators of the majority party to undertake the role. This will usually occur in a rotating fashion, and in an hourly basis. The Vice President will also sometimes delegate this responsibility to new senators for purpose of welcoming them into their position and to have become more accustomed to the procedures and regulations of the Senate.

As is evident, the powers of the Vice President as the Senate President are fairly limited, and far less extensive than those of its counterpart in the House of RepresentativesHouse of Representatives-Election of the Speaker.

What You Need to Know About Impeachment

What You Need to Know About Impeachment

Pursuant to Constitutional provisions, the power to impeach government officials is an express power granted to the legislature. Impeachment is the legislative power and authority to bring criminal charges against a government official that is committed during the individual’s time in office.

It is important to denote that impeach relates directly to the removal from office of a government official, and the actual court proceedings are to be considered separate from the power to impeach.

The power to impeach is granted to the United States Congress. Each house has specific responsibilities and authority regarding the actual impeachment process. The House of Representatives has the actual power to impeach an official, while the United States Senate is responsible for conducting the trial contingent on an official being impeached. Once impeachment charges are brought to a government official, the Senate is responsible for the trial proceedings.

The court proceedings themselves are similar to those of a regular criminal trial, in which the involved parties have to right to perform cross-examinations as well as call witnesses to testify on their behalf. The prosecution’s case is presented by the members of the House of Representatives and the government official will act as the defendant in the trial, mounting a case with his/her own lawyers and attorneys. All of the government officials involved in the impeachment trial proceedings are required to take an oath stating that their duties will be conducted with honesty and due diligence.

The charges will be heard by the Senate, and upon doing so, will usually deliberate upon the findings and arguments in a private manner. In order for a conviction of an impeached government official to occur, the Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote.

The Senate will then render their decision for an acquittal or conviction, with a copy of their judgment also provided to the Secretary of State. If the impeached individual is found guilty, then that person will be automatically be removed and relieved of his/her office. The conviction may also deny that individual to hold any other office in the future as well. Presidential pardons are not allowed for impeachment cases.

There has been some controversy in recent years regarding the implementation of the Senate using Impeachment Trial Committees. In the 1980s, these committees were called upon to deal with the phase regarding the presentation of evidence in the trial. Furthermore, they were also responsible for the supervision of cross-examination procedures.

The committee would then present the record of all of the evidence presented during the trial to the Senate for review, prior to their eventual decision regarding the case. One of the main reasons that Impeachment Trial Committees were implemented was for the sole purpose of convenience and time management.

An impeachment trial would take a lot of the Senate’s time, which would impede its normal function in the United States Congress. The dispute and controversy regarding these committees lie in the interpretation of the actual Constitutional provision and text regarding the power granted to the Senate to try all impeachment cases. Many have posed the argument that in delegating procedural duties to other committees is a direct violation of the Constitutional regulations, though the practice itself has not been brought under review by the courts.

Classification, Qualification, and Filling Vacancies for Senators

Classification, Qualification, and Filling Vacancies for Senators

The reason that the Senate was divided in such a way was to provide for a system so as to maintain two-thirds of the Senate for every election. For example, when the 1st Congress of the United States assembled in 1789, Senators were divided into three classes. These classes were to be divided into concordance with a certain number of years that they were to serve.

The first class of Senators would only serve for two years. The second class of Senators would serve for four years, and the third class would serve for six years. This practice would essentially provide for the current six-year term that Senators carry out.

However, even though Senators are elected for a six-year term, every two years, one-third of the Senate is replaced. The third of the Senate to be replaced is determined in accordance with what class they are in.

The Framers of the Constitution provided for quite an ingenious system, in which the Senate would never be completely replaced in one election, but it would also never remain the same for the entire six-year term period. This is quite a stark contrast to the House of RepresentativesSeventeenth Amendment. The Seventeenth Amendment would provide for the filling of Senate vacancies to be provided for through a popular special election. However, the provisions do maintain the power of a Governor appointing a temporary replacement until such a special election is to occur.

The Governor’s appointment of Senators must also be previously approved by the State Legislature. If such approval is not granted, that seat in the Senate is to remain vacant until the special election is held to appropriately fill the position. In this regard, the vacancies in the Senate are also similar to those provisions regarding vacancies in the House of Representatives.