The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the House of Representatives being the lower chamber. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States
Composition and Election:-
The Senate i is a small body of only one hundred members, two from each State irrespective of population or area, elected for a term of six years, one-third retiring every two years. It is so arranged that the terms of both Senators from a particular State do not terminate at the same time. It is a continues-body as only one-third of the Senators face re-election for any Congress.
A long term of office, with frequent possibilities of re-election, puts Senators in more comfortable and advantageous position than Representatives. Unlike the latter with a two-year term, they have time even in a single term to acquire experience, master legislative procedure and to attain a certain degree of leadership. It is not uncommon for a Senator to run 18 to 24 years of service.
The continuous existence of the Senate is also highly beneficial. The Senate never finds itself in a position in which the House of Representatives is found every two years. The latter is entirely a new body with greatly altered in membership, obliged to organize from the ground up. The Senate is continuous and always organized, Two third of its members are already in office. Precedents and traditions of the House are therefore, carried along on the current of a never ending stream.
All States have en equal representation in the Senate and the Constitution recognizes the sacredness of this political dogma when it prescribes that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate. The concept of equality of representation was a create compromise which resulted in the establishment of the United States Union and proved a great balancing factor in the North and the South, George Hamilton asserted that, once the new government was in operation, there never would be a conflict of interests between large and small states.
This prediction has proved true and throughout the course of American history, whether the State is large or small, it has made little or no difference in its political attitudes and alignment. The Senators, too, do not now consider themselves as ambassadors of their States. They deem themselves as representatives of the nation and their interests are national rather than regional.
It has been suggested, during recent times, that the anomalies of equal representation. The Senators, too, do not now con should be removed, because, it is a gross violation of the democratic theory that geographical units should be the basis of representation, Moreover, geographical representation gives to the States with only one-fifth of the population more than one-half of the Senators and if these States with few people are gauged up against the thickly settled ones, there might be perpetual and intolerable conflict and hostility and inconceivable repercussions. For instance, California has more than seventy times the population of Alaska, yet both are entitled to the same number of Senators.
These complaints of Senatorial tenderness towards farm and allied interests are frequently heard in industrial areas. To remedy the situation it has been suggested that a State be allowed an additional Senator for every million inhabitants in excess of some fixed number.
The proposal, however as Ogg and Ray say,
Is little short of fantastic, because to carry it out would require not only a constitutional amendment, but the express consent of every State whose representation would become less than that of some other States a prerequisite which could not possibly be met.
Even if the proposal would have been practicable, the increased strength of the Senate, it is suggested, would reduce its efficiency us a deliberative body. And, the Senate and House of Representatives, would become both representative of the same people in the same positions. It means duplication and the need for a second Chamber disappears. The whole question of change, therefore, remains an academic one.
The qualifications prescribed for eligibility to the Senate are the same in principle as those required of Representatives, though there is a little difference in degree, The Senator must be not less than thirty years old, an inhabitant of the State for which he is elected, and a citizen of the United States for nine years. The framers of the Constitution thought that the longer term and higher qualifications would tend to give greater strength and dignity to the Senate than would be found in the House of Representatives and, at the same time, a Higher average ability.
There is no constitutional provision that a Senator should be a resident of a particular part of the State. In some States, however, custom came to be established that the two Senators shall be taken from two different parts. Sometimes when there is a large city in the State, the custom is to take one of the Senators from the city and the other from the country. For a long time Maryland had a statutory provision that one of the Senators should be an inhabitant of the eastern shore and the other of the western shore.
In-regard to the mode of election of the Senators there was a sharp difference of opinion among the members of the Philadelphia Convention. The method finally agreed to was that the Legislatures of the States should elect them. There were two main reasons for adopting this method.
In the first place, the Founding Fathers thought that the choice by Legislatures would be the best means of forming a connecting link between the State governments and the national government thereby cementing the bonds of union. The jealousy of the State governments towards the National Government was so manifest at that stage that all possible efforts were made by the Constitution-makers to bring about cohesion through the mechanism of the newly established government.
Secondly, it was believed that choice oy Legislatures would enable the selection of senators of greater ability as the legislators would be in a better position to evaluate the qualifications and merits of the candidates than the mass of the people.
But to working of this indirect method of elections belied the expectations of the Fathers of the Constitution. With the development of the party machinery, the actual choice of the Senator was made in the State party convention or in the legislative caucus, and both were controlled by bosses. It frequently led to long and stubborn contests which very often ended in deadlock.
Not infrequently the Legislatures failed to elect a Senator and the State with vacancy in the Senate would go unrepresented. From 1890 to 1912 not Jess than eleven States at one time or another were represented in the Senate by one member only.
In 1991 Delware had no Senator at all at Washington to speak for the State. And, then, the breaking of deadlock was sometime accomplished by bribery and other corrupt influences, Indeed, charges of bribery and corruption came to be very common, and there is little doubt that between 1895 to 1910 8 number of wealthy men found their support.
Finally, prolonged senatorial contests gravely interfered with the regular business of the State Legislatures, The obvious result was a spirited movement to secure the amendment of the Constitution and after a tiring effort the Seventh Amendment was adopted in 1913.
It provides that the two Senators from each State shall be elected by the people thereof for six years. They are elected by: vote of such persons as are entitled to vote for members of the Lower House of the State Legislature. It further provides that in case there occurs a vacancy in the Senate, the Governor of the State in which the vacancy occurs may fill vacancy by temporary appointment until the next General Election at which time a successor is elected for the balance of the former Senator’s term.
The Presiding Officer:-
The Presiding officer of the Senate is the Vice-President of the United States and despite his much exalted position, he is little more than a moderator. He is not a member of the Senate, and, indeed, may belong to a different political party that controls the Chamber. He does not appoint the Committees of the Senate and so has no power of predetermining the character of legislation, and he votes only in case of a tie.
Moreover, he cannot control debate through the power of recognition, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives does. The President of the Senate must recognize the members seeking the floor in the order in which they rise. The tradition requires that he shall treat the members of both parties impartially in according recognition for purposes of debate. The Senate does not expect leadership, as is the case with the Speaker of the House, from its Presiding Officer and would resent it most bitterly as Vice-President Dawes learnt to his sorrow in 1925, when he attempted to change the Senate rules.
The Senate also elects from among its own members a President pro tempore, who presides in the absence of the Vice-President. The President pro tempore, though nominally elected by the Senate itself, is really chosen by the majority of the caucus and is, like, the Speaker of the House, the ranking member of the party.
Though the President pro tempore is a position provided for in the Constitution, he follows the Speaker in the line of the succession to the Presidency, and his election carries with it such perquisites as an official automobile, but the occupant is not equivalent of the Speaker of the House. Since he presides in the absence of the Vice-President, whose position is of no consequence in the Senate’s power structure, he gains no significant powers from this role. As a member from a State, he can vote on all issues. He presides permanently if the Vice-President-succeeds to the Presidency.
The Senate has its own majority and minority floor leaders. They are elected in the same manner as the Party floor leaders of the House of Representatives and their position and influence are also identical. In 1947, when Republicans assumed majority in the Senate they chose as floor leader Wallace H. White, who had served for years first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate.
The Democrats, on their part, designated as minority floor leader Senator Alben Barkley, who had been their masterful majority floor leader since 1937. Necessarily the majority floor leader is potentially the more influential, especially if the President is also of the same party, but his opposite number on the minority side may be of only slightly less consequence.
The principal point of difference between the Senate and the House procedure lies in the rules respecting debate. Limitation on debate in the House is a relatively simple matter and closure rules are rigid and strict. Senate is extremely jealous of its freedom of debate and a member can speak as long as his physical capacity enables him to hold the floor.
The advantage of this privilege is occasionally taken by the Senators near the close of the session for purposes of filibustering a measure to which they are opposed. Sometimes the Senators opposing a Bill talk it to death by refusing to yield the floor until the supporters of the measure agreed to drop it from discussion.
Many important measures had actually been abandoned on a mere threat of the use of filibustering. Individual filibusters of note include those staged by Huey Long and Robert Lafollette, Sr., who held the floor continuously for 18 hours in 1908. The all-time record for continuously holding the floor was achieved in 1953 by Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon; he talked for 22 hours and 26 minutes.
A filibuster against an atomic energy Bill produced a Senate impasse for twelve days in July 1954, including a four-day around the clock session. The longed filibuster speech so far recorded is that of Storm Thurmond, who spoke for more than twenty-four hours against the civil rights legislation of 1957.
More commonly filibuster is conducted by a group of Senators talking in relays, each yielding the floor to a colleague known to be friendly and bound to continue the delaying action. Southem Senators have used the filibuster relay to great advantage in preventing the consideration of civil rights legislation. Very often, they had gained their ends merely by threatening to take and hold the floor.
In 1917, a small group of Senators filibustered to prevent the Senate from taking a vote on a Bill to give to President authority to arm American merchant vessels notwithstanding the fact that nearly all the other Senators desired to pass the Bill. President Woodrow Wilson expressed the general public resentment over the obstructionist tactics by declaring.
The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action. A little group of wilful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United State a helpless and contemptible.
The Senate had long recognized the s serious repercussions of filibustering, but the incident of 1917 resulted in a movement to limit the filibuster and adoption of a new rule by the Senate which made it possible, by a two-thirds vote, to limit the debate on any measure to one hour for each Senator. This rule was applied for the first time in 1919, to bring to an end the discussion on the Treaty of Versailles.
Since then it had been successfully used for three times more. The closure (cloture) rule of 1917 was amended in 1949, after a filibuster on civil rights legislation. A revised closure was made applicable on any matter under Senate proceedings, except change of rules. According to Rule XXII as amended in 1949, a vote of two-thirds members of the total membership of the Senate was required to carry closure.
The old rule of 1917 required two-thirds votes of the members present and voting. The amendment of 1949 had, thus, made closure more difficult to use. A ceaseless effort was made to change the closure rules, but it was always opposed by Southern Senators who were out to filibuster the Civil Rights Bill.
In 1959, on the proposal of the majority leader Johnson, the pre-1949 formula permitting two-thirds of members present and voting to impose closure was adopted, But the controversy has not ended. Current proposals center around a closure by a majority vote or, alternatively, by a three fifths vote of those present and voting.
Filibuster is, thus, a device by which an insistent minority can, if it feels strongly, usually block action on a proposed Bill and frustrate the business of the Senate. But fortunately resort to filibuster remark Professors Swarthout and Bartley, is infrequent. It is the ultimate weapon of the intransigent few. The fact is that even on most controversial matters the Senators are usually able to reach a unanimous agreement that the debate must end at stipulated time on a given day.
This self-imposed curb on unlimited debate, add Swarthout and Bartley,
is the rule the filibuster is the rare exception.
Special Functions Of The Senate.
The Senate was intended to be more than an Upper Chamber of Congress. The Founding Fathers designed it to be, in a way, the counterpart of the Privy Council in Britain and it was for this reason that they provided in the Constitution that the advice and consent of the Senate would be required in certain,executive actions, for example appointments and treaties.
President Washington, during his first term of office sought the advice of the Senate in person. But the Senators refused to sit with the President in executive session and declined the proposal. Washington, accordingly, gave up his plan of personal conferences with the Senate and substituted the practice of sending business to it in written communications. In this way, the Senate ceased to be everything like a Privy Council and its prerogative became one of consent rather than advice.
Even then, its power of consenting to certain action of the executive together with coequal legislative powers with the House of Representatives, and judicial powers relating to impeachment cases, gives to the Senate a unique position and it has eclipsed in prestige and authority the popular Chamber, the House of Representatives.
Share in Appointments:-
The President shares with the Senate the power of appointing federal officers. The President nominates and the Senate confirms officers of the United States by simple majority. The underlying idea was to restrain the unlimited powers of the President by a system of checks and balances and thereby ensure the appointment of honest and capable men to office. The Constitution-makers never intended to give the Senate anything more than the negative power of rejecting the nominations of the President. But the practice of senatorial courtesy gives to the Senators of the State concerned, where an appointment is to be made, both a positive as well as a negative function.
According to law the President sends the nomination to the Senate, where it is referred to the appropriate Standing Committee. An appointment to the federal Judiciary, for instance, is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee; an appointment to the military establishment to the Armed Services Committee, If the nomination is contested, hearing may be held at which those actively favoring or opposing the nomination are heard. If a Committee majority is favorable, a report to that effect is made to the Senate itself. On rare occasions, the Committee reports unfavorably. The Senate, then, votes and if it refuses to confirm a nominee, his appointment is not possible.
But the actual process of appointment has greatly altered the provisions of the Constitution, For a proper understanding of the procedure in vogue the principal officers of the United States may be divided into two groups:
- Those who serve the nation as a whole, as do Supreme Court Judges, Cabinet members, officers of the military establishments, ambassadors, etc., and
- Those who serve as federal officers, within a particular state, a3 do federal district judges, certain classes of post-masters, distinct attorneys, marshals, etc.
Presidential appointments of principal officers are rarely rejected by the Senate, though there have been a few outright rejections in recent years.
Appointees whose federal duties are confined within the boundaries of a single State, and referred to under category 2 above, come under the custom of senatorial courtesy. The custom demands that the President should consult, the senior Senator of the State in which the appointment is to be made. If the senior Senator does not belong to the President’s party, he must do so with the junior Senator. If neither Senator is of the President’s party, the President is not bound to consult with either Senator, but he will often do so.
Even if he does not consult, the President will rarely appoint a personal enemy of the Senators concerned. The Senate is jealous of its traditional prerogative and will rarely approve an appointment which is personally obnoxious to the Senator most concerned. In 1938, President Roosevelt tried to break this iron-clad tradition and nominated a federal Judge in Virginia, without first clearing his choice with the senior Senator from Virginia, Carter Glass.
The latter, though himself a Democrat, asked his colleagues to reject the nomination as he had been bypassed. The Senate refused the nomination by 72 to 6 votes. In 1951, President Truman was unable to secure confirmation of two nominations of federal district judges in Illinois, because of the opposition of Senator Paul Dougals, senior Senator from the State. The nomination of Justice Fortas by President Johnson in 1968 for appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court raised a storm and was rejected. Within five months, November 1969-April 1970, the Senate rebuffed for the second time President Nixon in his attempt to appoint a Conservative Southerner as Supreme Court Judge.
Share in Treaty-making:-
The Senate also shares with the President the power of making treaties. All treaties negotiated by and on behalf of the President are laid before the Senate and a two-thirds vote of the Senators present is necessary to the validity of the treaty. The Fathers of the Constitution probably wanted the President and Senators to sit down together and jointly work out a treaty. It is evident from the use of the words advice and consent of the Senate used in the Constitution, Washington, who thoroughly knew the mind and intentions of the Philadelphia Convention, visited the Senate to discuss a treaty which he desired to be concluded with the Souther Indians.
Having received the rebuff from the Senate Washington started up in a violent fret, and said that this defeats every purpose of my coming here. And since then no President h conferred directly with the Senate. Nonetheless the Senate plays a significant role in makings treaties and ratifying treaties. If the making entertains doubts on the repudiation resident by the Senate, he consults member of foreign Relations Committee of the Senate.
How Important is the treaty ratifying power of the senate is given by John Hay, once the Secretary of State. He said,
A treaty entering the Senate is like a bull going into the arena; no one can say just how or when the final blow will fall. But one thing is certain it will never leave the arena alive.
This is rather too sweeping a statement and particularly when it comes from a former Secretary of State. It is true that the extraordinary two-thirds majority required for the approval of a treaty has frequently proved a great handicap and led to the defeat of a number of treaties. It is also true that a small majority can sometimes threaten to defeat a treaty and to reap political advantage thereby.
Some of the rejected treaties such as Taft Knox arbitration treaties of 1911-12, the Treaty of Versailles, and the protocol for participating in the World Court, were of supreme importance, But the Senate, too, has unconditionally approved about 900 of the approximately 1,100 or more submitted to it; many of the remainder were passed with amendment or reservation.
There ts, however, strong agitation to modify the Senate’s treaty-ratifying power. It is demanded that this power should be given to a simple majority either of the Senate or of the two Houses. There is evidently no marked Sentiment for change and the Senate is not likely to surrender the power given to it by the two thirds majority requirement so long as the pro posing of an amendment to mark the change requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress,
A Court of Impeachment:-
Another special function of the Senate is that of acting as a court for the trial of impeachment cases. The Constitution prescribes that the President, Vice-President, and all Civil officers Shall be removed from office on impeach, for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives initiates the charge and the Senate sits as a court of trial. On such an occasion the Senate is on a judicial mien and issues wets Subpoenas to Witnesses, and administers oath. When a President is on trial, the Chief Just of Supreme Court presides. A Committee of representatives appointed by the Houses appears of the Senate and prose impeached official.
A two thirds vote of the Senate is required for conviction and the:penalty which it can impose is removal from Office and disqualification from holding office in the future. It cannot inflict punishment ranging to imprisonment or fine, But the person convicted and removed may be indicted and tried by courts under the ordinary procedure of law as any other criminal may.
The procedure of removing an officer by impeachment i is so cumbersome and unwieldy that it is very seldom resorted to. The Senate has sat as a Court of Impeachment on twelve occasions so far, and it has given the verdict of guilty only four times. The most notable trial was that of President Andrew Johnson, who in 1868 escaped conviction by only one vote after a three month sitting of the Senate as a Court of impeachment.
Senate: Causes of its Strength:-
Not a Subordinate Branch:-
In addition to the three general functions which the Fathers of the Constitution assigned to the Senate, it is also a legislative body. But it is a co-ordinate body and not a subordinate branch of Congress and exercises co-equal powers with -the House of Representatives in making the national laws. There is no law in the the United States, as it is in Britain, which empowers the House of Representatives to veto the Senate. The only eminence which the House enjoys over the Senate is the one relating to raising of the revenues and the Constitution simply provides that such measures must originate in the House of Representatives. But it, also, prescribes that the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.
It means that the Senate can agree to, amend, modify or reject any measure relating to revenues and sometimes it so drastically mutilates it that it becomes beyond any possible recognition, as it did a few years back with the Tariff Bill. The Senate can, thus; virtually initiate new revenue proposals under the guise of amendments. The Tariff Bill was so completely amended that it struck out everything in the Bill except the enacting clause.
Then, it inserted a new tariff of its own and transmitted the measure back to the House of Representatives as amended. The House unnecessarily grumbled over this invasion of its special privilege and in the end accepted the tariff as amended by the Senate. On another occasion, a tariff measure came back from the Senate to the House of Representatives with no less than 847 amendments. And every Bill, money or non money, carries with it the introductory clause stipulating. Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States, in the Congress assembled.
According to the letter of the law the revenue Bills must originate in the House of Representatives, but in practice the Senate can also do that and as Munro says, it has found a way of doing what the Constitution did not intend it to do.
With regard to the appropriation Bills, the Constitution is silent and the only logical inference is that in the absence of any constitutional prohibition, the Senate may originate appropriation Bills, including the national budget, if it wishes to do so. The custom, however, is and the House has guarded it with great jealousy that it has the exclusive right to originate appropriation Bills. Yet it cannot be denied that the Senate’s fiscal role rivals that of the House of Representatives.
The Senate has very often undertaken special investigations embracing varied matters. Among the constitutional powers of Congress to which the investigating function is ancillary are those of legislation, impeachment, determining the qualifications and elections of its members, the consideration of treaties and agreements requiring Senate action, and the confirmation of Presidential nominees for public posts.
Apart from this, as a result of the implied powers, which the Supreme Court has held as the valid jurisdiction of Congress, the investigation committees may exercise the power to delve deep from time to time into many aspects of the activities of the Executive. The Legislative Reorganization Act, 1946, charges the Standing Committees of Congress with watchfulness over the corresponding agencies on the administrative side. In this watchdog capacity, the Committees may be concerned with the handling of appropriation, the personal or official probity of Executive appointees or with maters touching the national security.
The investigation committees may sit in Washington or they may go about the country to find facts, ideas, opinion and information, seek advice that may be of utility j in coming to a conclusion. It may summon witnesses, official and non-official, require them to produce papers and documents considered necessary for purposes of the investigation. In 1857 provision was made by law for one year imprisonment on conviction for refusal to testify.
The Supreme Court has held the Act of 1857 constitutional. In McGrain v. Daugherty (1937) the Supreme Court while upholding the Senate’s authority to probe into the official conduct of a former Attorney General, did not indicate that a witness might refuse to answer if the bounds of power were exceeded by a committee or if the questions were not pertinent to the matter under inquiry.
In 1953, the Supreme Court held in United States v. Rumely that if the subject under examination lies outside the authority of the investigating committee, a witness is under no legal obligation to answer its questions. In 1957, in the case of Waikins v. United States the Supreme Court set aside the conviction of a wimess for contempt of Congress because the questions he had refused to answer had not been demonstrated to be pertinent to the subject under investigation.
Bryce credits committees of the Senate with having more than once unearthed dark doing which needed to be brought to light. There is now increasing emphasis in the United States on the watchdog function of the investigation committees. The only way Congress can check the administration is through the questioning of official witnesses tn the committees when appropriation Bills are under consideration, or through interim investigations of its own into the way Executive agencies are being run.
The Committee can summon any official of the United States, from a member of the Cabinet to the routine clerk to testify in public and private hearings. It is, indeed, an effective method of checking administration. But to say, as Munro observes that they are merely seeking data as a basis for legislation is to use the words with Pickwickian versatility.
What they often are Seeking is ammunition that can be used in the next election campaign. The inquiries are, therefore, largely political in nature. The Senators dominate the politics of the country and Congress, and its investigation committees are always politically vigorous. Many famous investigations have since taken place and the most recent was the Truman Committee during World War I which probed into waste and inefficiency, made many constructive suggestions, and helped put its chairman (Harry Truman) in the White House.
Another important investigation committee was the Kefauver Committee inquiry into organized crime. The Water-gate Committee and the Tower Commission remain unsurpassed in making public sensational disclosures. Special Investigation Committees have all the powers of Standing Committees, except that they normally may not introduce legislation.
There is a mortal terror of these senatorial investigations and many official dread the loaded questions of hostile Congressmen. Errors are likely to arise here and there in the conduct of administration which when discovered are widely publicized for political gains, and investigations thrive on publicity. Senatorial investigations operate directly in spotlight and often the proceedings are covered by newsreel and television cameras and reported by the host of newsmen.
Recently, some investigators have so fanatically sought publicity that they have indulged in defamation of character, bullying and mistreatment of witnesses, and outright partisanship. Such a situation is viewed with alarm even by the members of Congress. Senator Scott W. Lucas has warned that unless Congress reforms its methods of conducting investigations, unless it puts some limits of responsibility both upon the interrogation of witnesses and upon the type of testimony which witnesses are allowed to give unless, indeed, it adopts a wholly new and more judicious attitude one of the great and important instruments of legislative process will be destroyed.
But the intrinsic utility of investigation committees cannot be denied if they conduct their investigations keeping in view the objects they are charged with. Brogan has correctly said that the investigation committees are one of the most important modifications of the separation of powers and, consequently, one of the indispensable driving belts of the American system. To put in the words of Galloway, they are the buckle that binds, the hyphen that joins the legislature to the executive.
The investigatory power is an essential adjunct of the law-making authority, for investigatory function is used to seek information in matters in which legislation is contemplated to ascertain the effectiveness with which laws are being executed, to uncover the wrongs and excesses of the government and thereby to put before the public problems essential to the country’s welfare.
It is only by such investigations that Congress can discover what has been going on, as it has not the day-to-day contact with the executive Departments the question time gives to the House of Commons in Britain. Some of the investigations conducted by the Senate Committees, especially by the Foreign Relations Committees, have been marvellously tevealing and advantageous in keeping administration on its toes.
Conference Committees :-
In case of disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives the differences are resolved through a Conference Committee. The members of this Committee called managers are equally drawn, generally three and in exceptional cases five, from each Chamber and, they confer together. Each Chamber votes as a unit and the conferees may be given instructions by their respective Houses. It is natural that the Senators, who are seasoned statesmen and stalwart politicians with longer and maturer parliamentary experience, should have better of the gain. And considering the degree of solidarity often exhibited by the Senators the conferees are usually supported by the Senate. The Senate, in fact, usually gives a free hand to its representatives on Conference Committees whereas the House binds its conferees more than often to instructions. That is done as the House feels that its managers are too easily out-talked by the Senators.
Political Role of the Senators:-
Senators are somewhat a different breed of political animal from the average representatives. The Senators represent, as compared with Representatives, more people and greater areas and thus, are not subject to the fluctuating public opinion and personal idiosyncrasies of the electors of a particular locality. A Representative must cater to local needs and remain susceptible to the influence of a few interest groups and handful of local party bosses.
The Senators, and a majority of them, enjoy nationwide reputation for their political sagacity. Their Opinions are reckoned with and even Presidents at times have to defer to the wishes of some eminent Senators, especially those who are the prospective candidates for the Presidency. Senators also very often command important positions and dominating influences in the organization and policies of their party in the state which they represent. Their party position is essentially linked with their control of federal patronage, The power of the Senate to confirm Presidential appointments is important constitutionally as well as politically. The former is indicative as a part of the system of checks and balances whereas the latter emphasizes that the individual Senator has virtually a veto power over major appointments in his State.
Closely allied with it is solidarity exhibited by the Senators. In a sense the Senate is a mutual protection society. Each Senator jealously guards the rights and privileges of others irrespective of party tics and whenever an onslaught had been made to break its solidarity, as Roosevelt did to bypass the traditional method of senatorial courtesy in 1938, it has always stood together.
Washington correspondents have frequently reported that two Senators may attack each other in vehement language on the floor, only to be seen a short time later strolling arm in arm in the corridors outside. They thrive on the principle of live and let live and their code of behavior is to speak well of the Senate as an institution. Such a sense of solidarity enables them to ward off all encroachments from outside.
The Senate remark Swarthout and Bartley,
is alert against any possible threat of pressure by either of these two (the President or the House of Representatives) sources, and it is quick to resent any action it considers to be a danger to its prerogative or its tradition.
In its solidarity lies the independence and assertiveness and these qualities make the Senate one of the most powerful legislative assemblies in the world.
One of the most important factors which accounts for the authority and independence, of the Senators is the continuity, stability and traditions of the Chamber which the House of Representatives has not been able to develop. The entire membership of the House of Representatives must stand for re-election every two years and every time it is faced with the laborious task of reorganizing itself.
The Senate, on the other hand, pas been continuously organized since 1789, for only one third of its members stand for re-election in each two-year period. Coupled with this fact is the six-year Senate term. There are many members who again election for three terms and some even see six Presidential terms come and go.
The continued long service gives to the Senators a standing and prestige and they carry with them the sense of senatorial pride. They regard themselves as senior lawmakers of the country and custodians of the balance of powers between the Legislative and Executive departments. Each Senator strives to become a specialist, working hard at unglamorous legislative work.
Membership in the Senate is, in fact, greatly coveted. A high proportion of its members are former Representatives or former State Governors. The tendency of many of the most able House members to seek Senate seats has constituted a drain on the talent of the House of Representatives. The loss of the House is the advantage of the Senate.
Similarly, the presence of around twenty-five former State Governors not only adds to the prestige and stature of the Senate, but also imparts an active quality to Senate behavior less evident among the House membership, where talent is depleted by the locality rule and some other factors.
The Constitution-makers had thought that the Senate would prove the bulwark of conservatism. They had, accordingly, designed it and given it special powers so that it might serve as a check on the more radical House of Representative.
The Senate has fulfilled the expectations of is designers and acted as a conservative obstacle to hotheaded action as was illustrated some years ago when it opposed President Truman’s proposal to draft rail-road strikes into the army. It is from Senators, writes Charles Beard, rather than Representatives that public may expect staunch defense of constitutional methods and powerful opposition to violent, high-handed and bigoted opinions and actions. But the Senate no longer remains a rich man’s club, as it appeared before 1913.
The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution made the Senate popularly elected and it has almost lust its plutocratic element. In recent years it has usually been more liberal than the House of Representatives, but it has never been swayed by Violent gusts of passion. The Senate has justifiably fulfilled the expectation of the framers of the Constitution and to put it in the words of Washington we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.
Influence on Foreign Policy:-
The Senate has been the Congressional spokesman on foreign policy, and the House its junior partner. This is due to the Senate’s treaty ratifying authority and its veto power over Presidential appointments of ambassadors, ministers and other important officials. The Senate can, also, influence the foreign policy through investigations. The investigations of the Nye Committee paved the way for neutrality legislation in 1930. In 1951, the Senate Investigation on the question of dismissal of General Douglas Mac Arthur brought Truman’s foreign policy in the Far East under fire and the administration was obliged to clarify its position.
But the present trend is to undertake international obligations by legislation rather than by treaty. The notable examples of such a joint action by the Senate and the House are the Greek Turkish Air Programme, the European Recovery Programme, Point Four, the Indian Grain Programme, etc. Some Senators have vehemently protested against such an encroachment as well as the President’s frequent use of executive agreements. They stress that no obligations be incurred except by formal treaty procedure.
The obvious result is that all through these times the Senate has kept its supremacy. The longer term and greater dignity of a Senator attract political leaders to the Senate than the House of Representatives and the appearance in the Senate enhances the prestige of being a Senator still more.
The Senate is the smaller body and generally speaking its fellowship includes citizens older in years and wider in political experience. They are usually better acquainted not only with the problems of Jaw-making, but also with the inner working of the federal administration. It is through the Senate that most national patronage is siphoned to the State party machines.
The Senate has more influence than the House over the conduct of foreign affairs. James Bryce remarked that the Senate has succeeded in effecting the chief object of the Fathers of the Constitution, viz., the creation of a center of gravity in the government, an authority able to correct and check on the one hand the democratic recklessness of the House, on the other, the monarchical ambitions of the President.
Placed be tween the two, the Senate is necessarily the rival and often the opponent of both.The House can accomplish nothing without its concurrence. The President can be checkmated by its resistance. There is, so to speak, the negative success on its positive side, it has succeeded itself eminent and respected.
There has been a good deal of overlapping of actions of the Senate and the House during recent times, but if either body has increased its powers relative to the other, it is the Senate. While Upper Chambers in other parts of the world have been declining in power and importance, the Senate has added to its strength and prestige. It is not only the most powerful Second Chamber in the world, but also one of the most powerful legislative assemblies in the world.
According to C, Wright Mills, the American Congress operates at the middle level of state power. It generally registers decisions made elsewhere by the American Power Elite which consists of three inter-related, dominant elites:
- Heads of a few largest corporations;
- Top military generals, admirals and air force officers, and
- A few hundred top leaders of the two main American Parties.
Both Senators and Congress men belonging to the lower house obey the dictates of what he calls the economic, military and a political elites fused into an interconnected Power Elite.