United States Senate

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seal Joint seat of the Congress
logo Joint seat of the Congress
Basic data
Seat: Capitol Building , Washington, DC
Legislative period : 6 years
First session: 1789
MPs: 100
Current legislative period
Last choice: 3rd November 2020
Chair: US Vice President
Kamala Harris ( Dem. )
President pro tempore
Patrick Leahy (Dem.)
117th United States Senate.svg
Distribution of seats:
  • Republican 50
  • Democrats 48
  • Independent 2
  • Website

    The Senate of the United States ( English United States Senate is) next to the House of Representatives one of the two chambers of the Congress of the United States , a two-chamber - Parliament (bicameralism) to British tradition. The name is derived from the Roman Senate , the seat is in the north wing of the Capitol in Washington, DC

    The Senate has been a permanent state representation body since 1789 , the establishment of which is set out in Article 1 of the United States Constitution. Each of the 50 states is represented in the Senate by two senators. They each represent the entire state and are determined there by a general majority vote . Until the 17th amendment was passed in 1913, the members were selected by state parliaments. The senators serve for six years. They are divided as evenly as possible into three classes (currently two classes with 33 senators each and one class with 34 senators), which are elected every two years. As a result, around a third of the Senate is re-elected for each election. Since the federal district (the District of Columbia with the federal capital Washington) and the suburbs are not states, they are not represented in the Senate. Unlike in the House of Representatives, there is also no symbolic representation by delegates who are not entitled to vote.

    In the US political system , the Senate is heavily involved in legislation and has important control functions over the president . This includes the ratification of international treaties, a say in the appointment of senior judges and government officials, and the impeachment process , in which the Senate plays the role of the court. The Senate elects the vice president of the United States in exceptional cases unless the electoral college reaches a decision. The Vice President is also the President of the Senate with an almost exclusively representative function; his vote only counts in the event of a tie in a vote. For the time of his absence, the Senate elects a president pro tempore , usually the longest-serving member of the majority parliamentary group.

    To be laid down without constitutionally, has become the beginning of the 20th century, the election of party leaders in the Senate established, each as majority and minority leaders one of the two largest groups in the two-party system cite the mid-19th century from Republicans and Democrats is . The Senate was conceived as a deliberative organ and gives its individual members a relatively large amount of political freedom without being forced to join a parliamentary group; there are always non-party senators. These usually join a parliamentary group in order to be taken into account when appointing the specialist committees in which the legislative work is prepared and which generally work according to seniority .


    Capitol Dome
    Senate plenum (group picture 2010)

    The Senate meets in the north wing of the Capitol in Washington, DC The seat of the President of the Senate is located on a podium at the front of the Chamber . A little below in front of him, but also still on the podium, sit the clerk and other Senate employees. In front of them are two lecterns from which the senators speak to the plenary. In the hall, facing the Senate President and the lecterns, there are 100 desks in several rows in a semicircle, which are separated by a central corridor. Traditionally, the Democrats sit on the right-hand side of the room and the Republicans on the left, as seen from the session president. The allocation of the desks is based on the seniority , d. H. senior senators may choose their seat first. The faction leaders definitely have a seat in the front row.

    The interior has been unchanged for a long time: after the furniture was destroyed in the British-American War of 1812 , most of the desks that exist today were purchased in 1819. The Senate only bought new desks in an identical design for the senators of newly admitted states. In the 19th century, all tables were equipped with an extension that offered more work surfaces. The only exception is the Daniel Webster Desk : Webster rejected the extension, stating that his predecessor did not need it either. Because all of his successors at this desk followed suit, this table is the only one that has survived in its condition from 1819. Since 1974 this table has been owned by the senior senator from Webster's native New Hampshire . In the last row of the Republicans, near the main entrance, is the candy desk , from which the present Senator distributes sweets.

    The hammer with which the session president conducts the sessions dates from 1954 and is a gift from India. It is only the Senate's second hammer; its predecessor was in use from 1834 to 1954 until it splintered due to wear.

    Since the 20th century, the senators have owned offices in additional office buildings to relieve the Capitol building. These are the Russell Senate Office Building (opened 1908), Dirksen Senate Office Building (opened 1958) and the Hart Senate Office Building (opened 1982, the largest of the three office buildings).



    In contrast to the House of Representatives, the Senate is designed to represent the individual states at the federal level.

    Since the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of 1913, the senators - just like the members of the House of Representatives - have been directly elected, with the exact provisions differing from state to state. The senators' term of office lasts six years. A third of the Senate is elected every two years to ensure the greatest possible continuity. After each joint election periods, the senators are three "classes" divided ( Article 1, Section 3, paragraph 2 of the Constitution), than before last group was in 2020 , the Class 2 for re-election. The two senators of a state are never re-elected at the same time in this process. This leads to shorter mandate periods when new states join the United States, since at least the first mandate of one of the two senators of the new state lasts less than six years to allow for different election dates.

    Senate elections take place every two years on Election Day , the Tuesday that follows the first Monday in November in even years. At the same time, the elections for the entire House of Representatives and - in a four-year cycle - the presidential elections will take place on this day . The constituency for the Senate election is the entire state. Most states have an electoral system in which the candidate with the most votes wins ( relative majority ). Only in Louisiana and Georgia does a senator need an absolute majority , which is why there can be runoff elections.

    According to the original text of the United States Constitution , the senators were elected by the state parliaments, which was to manifest the partial sovereignty of the states. In addition, the idea was widespread that the Senate should be the more stable chamber of the bipartite parliament, less exposed to fluctuations in the political mood. In the meantime, however, the often tight majority in the Senate is changing much more frequently than in the House of Representatives. This is due to the fact that in the elections to the Senate each state only forms one constituency and consequently - unlike in the elections to the House of Representatives carried out in 435 single-constituencies - no gerrymandering is possible.

    Since the end of the 19th century, Democrats and Republicans have held primaries before elections in which they agree on a candidate so that several of their own candidates do not take away votes from each other. The rules on whether and how candidates and members of other parties can participate in the primaries differ from state to state.

    Since election campaigns, unlike in Germany, are hardly financed by the parties, the applicant's assets and the donations he has raised play a major role; the average cost of an election campaign in 2012 was $ 10.5 million.

    Active and passive right to vote

    The right to stand as a candidate - the right to be elected Senator - according to Article 1, Section 3, Section 3 of the Constitution, anyone who is at least 30 years of age and a citizen of the United States for at least 9 years. A candidate can only stand for election in the state of their primary residence . After the Civil War , Congress passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, according to which, among other things, officials who had worked with opponents of the United States despite an oath on the Constitution are not eligible. The amendment was intended to prevent Confederate supporters from becoming senators. Only the Senate itself decides whether future senators meet the criteria.

    Any citizen of the United States over the age of 18 and having their primary residence in one of the 50 states is eligible to vote. Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and other dependent territories such as the suburbs of the United States are not represented in the Senate, so their residents are not eligible to vote.


    Senators have the right to use the title "The Honorable" before their name. Within the Senate, the senior of the two senators from one state is considered to be the “Senior Senator”, the other being called the “Junior Senator”. The distinction only has practical effects in day-to-day work, as many procedures are based on the seniority principle.

    In general, the Senate mandate - in relation to a seat in the House of Representatives - is considered to be more prestigious: There are fewer members, but they employ more people, and apart from a few, very poorly populated states, a Senator represents considerably more voters than a Member of the House of Representatives. Significantly more US presidents and presidential candidates were senators than members of the House of Representatives (see the list of members of the United States Senate as a whole ).

    The income of the senators has been $ 174,000 per capita since 2009, while the Senate President and the parliamentary group leaders receive higher salaries.

    In the 116th United States Congress , 25 out of 100 Senate seats were occupied by female senators. After 23 women in the last legislature, the proportion of women was higher than ever. Each state is represented by two people in the Senate. California , Washington , Nevada , Arizona , Minnesota, and New Hampshire were each represented by two female senators. 13 other countries were each represented by a female and a male person. This meant that 31 states were represented by two male senators each. Men of European descent have always been far more numerous in the Senate than in the general population of the United States. 89 of 100 people are white , four Hispanics , three African American , 3 Asian-Americans and a person is multi- ethnic descent. Two senators identify with LGBTQ + .

    Loss of mandate

    A senator keeps his mandate until it regularly expires, he resigns or he dies. However, the Senate also has the option of excluding members with a two-thirds majority. This has happened 15 times in the history of the Senate. The first case concerned Senator William Blount , who was expelled from the Senate on July 7, 1797 for high treason . In the other 14 cases, senators who supported the Confederate during the Civil War were expelled from the Senate in 1861 and 1862. There were also various cases in which a senator resigned in order to forestall his expulsion. The last case was Senator Bob Packwood , who escaped expulsion by resignation in 1995 on charges of sexual harassment. In addition, the Senate can officially reprimand members (for example, it did so in 1954 with Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy ). This is possible with a simple majority, but has no further formal consequences for the senator.

    Succession in the event of early mandate completion

    If the office of a U.S. Senator is e.g. As is an early release of death or resignation, after the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (and not for a full six years) a successor for the remainder of his still ongoing mandate to elected, whereby the Legislative of each individual State to Governor authorize can appoint a transitional senator pending election. The details of this procedure differ in the individual states.

    In most states, the by-election is merged with the next congressional election (which takes place every two years) and does not take place at all if a senator who has resigned in the last third of his term in office. In other states like Alabama an extraordinary election is scheduled. Oregon and Wisconsin have not authorized their governors to appoint replacement senators and are holding the election accordingly. In Oklahoma usually the same (or more precisely, if the mandate after March 1 will be free and on January 3, applies to, but is there to dispense with the by-election if less than about 10 months would left of the term of former Senator of the The following year). In this case, the governor of Oklahoma is obliged to appoint the successor elected at the beginning of November as a substitute senator for the remainder of his predecessor's term of office. Some of the states that require their governor to appoint a substitute senator specify who can be nominated. In Alaska , Arizona and Hawaii , the substitute senator must belong to the party of the resigned senator. In Utah and Wyoming, the governor selects the party of the retired senator from three proposals made by the state central committee , in American without the communist connotation of the literal translation of the central committee .

    To date, governors have appointed the widow of the recently deceased senator seven times - without being legally bound to do so - until a successor has been elected, most recently Jean Carnahan (Missouri, 2001). Another widow, Maurine Brown Neuberger , won the Senate seat of her late husband in the 1960 by-election without having been appointed as his interim successor.



    The old Senate boardroom

    The Senate has to approve every American federal law because, unlike in Germany, for example, there are no federal laws that do not require approval . A law only comes into force if it is passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives with the same word for word with a simple majority and is then signed by the President or at least ignored. If the President expressly refuses to sign ( veto ), it can still be passed if both houses pass it again with a two-thirds majority in a roll-call vote. Fiscal laws, especially the annual budget, can only be initiated by the House of Representatives and only dealt with in the Senate after they have been passed there. Both houses are allowed to introduce all other laws.

    Control functions

    In accordance with its constitutional status, the Senate primarily exercises a supervisory and advisory role in addition to legislation.

    Appointment of senior government officials

    In order to occupy certain positions, the US president needs "advice and consent" (advice and consent) of the Senate, with the consent in practice is much more important than the advice. These are ministers, chiefs of federal agencies, ambassadors and federal judges, including the judges of the Supreme Court . Basically, he should approve all government employees; However, since this is not practicable with the many thousands of employees today, he has transferred these rights - for the area of ​​the lower levels - to the individual authorities. To fill the higher government offices, a candidate must first be heard by a Senate committee. Even the committee can reject the candidate, but this happens very rarely. This is followed by a hearing in front of the entire Senate plenum. In the majority of cases, the Senate confirms the candidates, and even more rarely rejects future members of the government: this has only happened nine times in the history of the United States, most recently in 1989 at John Tower , whom George Bush had unsuccessfully proposed as Secretary of Defense, while so far over 500 cabinet nominations were approved by the Senate.

    The rights of the Senate are also restricted, because while the Senate is not in session, the President can fill the vacant positions ( Recess Appointment ). This appointment is provisional and will have to be confirmed by the Senate in the next session, but it is a relatively popular way for the President to bypass strong opposition in the Senate. Another limitation is that while the Senate must approve an appointment, approval is not required if someone is removed from the position.

    International treaties

    In order to ratify international treaties, the constitution requires two thirds of the senators to give the treaty "advice and approval". However, not all international agreements are treaty in this sense. Likewise, the US Congress can pass laws that allow the President to "executive agreements" without the consent of the Senate, just as the President can conclude "congressional executive agreements" , only a simple majority to ratify them, but this time in both Houses of Parliament , necessary is. Although the constitution provides neither the “executive agreements” nor the “congressional executive agreements”, their legitimacy has been determined by the competent courts with the help of the stare decisis .


    The Senate in the impeachment case against President Andrew Johnson in 1868

    In impeachment proceedings, the Senate has the role of court. After the House of Representatives brings the "misconduct charge" against a federal official (including the President) for "treason, corruption or any other crime against the state" (Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors) , the trial moves to the Senate negotiated. If the US president is concerned, the chief judge presides over the proceedings. The Senate needs a two-thirds majority to convict someone. As a result of the judgment, the person loses his office, and the Senate can also exclude the person from exercising all other offices. The Senate has no other options for punishment, but the offense can be prosecuted in a normal court in criminal proceedings.

    There have been 16 such cases in US history, three of which involved presidents. The Senate acquitted the presidents in the Andrew Johnson cases in 1868 and Bill Clintons in 1999, as well as in the first impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in 2020 . In 1974 Richard Nixon resigned from the House of Representatives' apparently certain indictments and thus preceded a hearing in the Senate.

    The other cases involved lower-level government officials, with the incumbent convicted seven times and one resigning before the trial was over.

    In 1834, the then Whig- dominated Senate reprimanded President Andrew Jackson (there were similar considerations during the Bill Clinton trial). However, this is not provided for in either the constitution or the rules of procedure of the Senate. Sections of American jurisprudence even consider it to be incompatible with the prohibition on condemnation of parliament contained in Article 1, Section 3, Section 7 of the Constitution.

    Election of a vice-president by the Senate

    The constitution provides in Article 2, Section 1, Paragraph 3 (pursuant to Amendment 12 ) that if no candidate for the office of Vice President of the United States receives an absolute majority of the electoral votes , the decision will be passed by the Senate. The Senate may only choose between the two applicants with the highest number of electors. The design of the electoral law in the USA (two-party system, winner-takes-all principle) makes this case unlikely; so far, the Senate has only elected Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson once, in 1836 .

    In addition, since the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of 1967, the Senate - like the House of Representatives - must approve the appointment of a Vice President if that office becomes vacant before the end of the electoral term. Before 1967, the office of vice president could only be filled by the presidential election, which takes place every four years. If a vice president died, resigned, or became president, the second highest post in the state remained vacant until the end of the current term. The 25th Amendment came into force just a few years after it came into force: In December 1973, Gerald Ford was confirmed as Richard Nixon's new Vice President by both chambers of Congress . He succeeded Spiro Agnew , who had resigned about two months earlier on allegations of corruption . After President Nixon himself was forced to resign in the wake of the Watergate affair in August 1974, Ford took over the presidency. Ford in turn appointed Nelson Rockefeller as the new Vice President, which the Senate and House of Representatives confirmed in December 1974. Both Ford and Rockefeller had to face extensive hearings from senators and MPs before the vote. Both are the only vice-presidents so far who were not elected by electors chosen by the people, but who came into office afterwards.

    Internal organization


    Kamala Harris , US Vice President and President of the Senate

    A special role in the Senate falls to the Vice President of the United States to which, according to Article 1, Section 3, paragraph 4 of the Constitution in personal union is the Senate President. He has no right to vote unless a vote ends in a draw. In this case his vote is decisive. This breaking of the separation of powers is unique in the American constitution, which otherwise provides for a much stricter separation of state powers than most European constitutions through checks and balances .

    According to the constitution, the vice-president, as president of the Senate, has the right to lead the debates. In fact, however, he only perceives this today on ceremonial occasions such as the State of the Union speech or when his voice is needed to decide a tie. The Senate therefore elects a President pro tempore ( Article 1, Section 3, Paragraph 5 of the Constitution) to represent the Vice-President in his absence. Traditionally, this is the longest-serving senator in the majority party. The President pro tempore is in fact more involved in management than the Vice-President, but he usually delegates the actual chairing of the meeting to junior senators from his own party so that they are familiar with the committee's rules of procedure.

    Originally, the president was only elected pro tempore for one session at a time, and has only been permanently appointed since the late 19th century. The President pro tempore ranks third in succession to the President of the United States .

    The chairman of the Senate holds a seat in front of the plenary session. In contrast to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, his rights are severely limited. Above all, he serves as the spokesman for the Senate and, for example, announces voting results. He leads the debate by calling the next speaker; According to the rules of the Senate, he must call the person who got up first. It can decide motions for the rules of procedure , which the Senate can however revoke by a vote. Since there is no parliamentary group discipline in the European sense in the Senate , membership in the majority party does not necessarily help him in such a situation.

    Role of the parties

    The United States has had a two-party system since its early days . The positions and processes are traditionally geared towards two parties. Since the 1850s, the two parties have been the Democratic Party and the Republican Party . In the entire history of the Senate, third parties never managed to win more than a total of twelve seats (at the 55th Congress from 1897–1899, divided between three other parties with a total of 90 senators). Since the Second World War, at most two senators have not belonged to any of the major parties at the same time.

    Both because of the pure majority suffrage , which applies in elections, and because of a different party structure, it is more likely than in Germany, for example, that one or more senators do not belong to any party.

    The party with the majority of seats is the majority party . If two or more parties have the same number of seats each, the party to which the vice-president belongs is the majority party. The second largest party is the minority party . If a party reaches 60 seats, it can exert far greater influence on the Senate than is possible with a simple majority, since many critical votes require a three-fifths majority and a filibuster is then no longer possible.

    The president pro tempore, committee chairmen and other prominent persons in the Senate generally belong to the majority party. The minority party provides the ranking minority members who, as counterparts to the officials, control their work and coordinate that of the minority party.

    See: Democratic Caucus of the United States Senate and Republican Conference of the United States Senate

    Group leadership and discipline

    Each party appoints a spokesman who officially leads the entire parliamentary group, the majority or minority leader and a majority or minority whip . The function of the Whip corresponds in the Federal Republic of Germany to the parliamentary manager (not the parliamentary group manager ).

    This is followed in order of importance by the Democratic / Republican Conference Chairman, the Democratic / Republican Policy Committee Chairman, the Democratic / Republican Conference Vice Chairman and the Republican / Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman.

    The party discipline is, however, as in a presidential usual, much less pronounced than in most European countries with a parliamentary system of government . The individual senator enjoys more individual freedom of choice when voting than most of his European parliamentary colleagues. It is also not unusual for senators to change party affiliations in the course of their political careers. This was the case particularly often when, from the 1960s and 1970s, the party affiliations of Solid South shifted and many southerners turned away from the Democrats and turned to the Republicans. An example of this is former Republican majority leader Trent Lott . Most recently, after Barack Obama's election victory, the previous Republican Senator for Pennsylvania , Arlen Specter , joined the Democrats in 2008 .


    Senate Budget Committee (around 1995 to 2001)

    The Senate does much of the work with the help of committees and sub-committees. This includes evaluating legislative proposals and overseeing the executive. Formally, the entire Senate elects the respective committee members, but in practice the parties decide who will represent them. The party takes into account the preferences of the senator, whereby senators of higher seniority generally enjoy priority. The distribution of the seats among the parties is proportional to their strength in the entire Senate.

    The management of the committee shall be a chairman (Chairman) , the respectively, the majority party in the Senate and the Committee. Traditionally, the Senate assigned the posts strictly according to the seniority of the senators; However, as this could lead to senators leading the committee who, for reasons of age, were hardly physically able to do so or in individual cases showed the first signs of senility, the chairmen are elected today. However, the seniority principle is rarely suspended in these elections.

    The chairman has a significant influence on the work of the committee. He determines the agenda and can thus determine which topics are to be dealt with at all, although the chairmen have used this right far more cautiously than they would be possible in recent decades. The spokesman for the opposition party is known as a ranking member in most committees , but as Vice Chairman in the Secret Service and Ethics Committee .

    Standing committees

    Most of the committee work is done by the standing committees , each of which has its own policy area such as financial policy, judicial policy or US foreign policy . Each committee can deal with and add to bills that fall within its policy area. The individual committees can prevent corresponding bills from reaching the plenary session in the Senate. In addition, it reviews the President's personnel proposals for filling high government positions in the respective area of ​​responsibility. Even the committee can finally reject the nominations of the president without the Senate as a whole dealing with them. In addition, the committees are also involved in overseeing United States federal agencies. They can call hearings where they have the right to gather evidence and question witnesses.

    Temporary committees

    The temporary committees are called select committees or special committees , which have been set up, for example, on questions of ethics or the aging process in society. The committees can also be formed on an ad hoc basis, such as the Senate Watergate Committee , which served to investigate the Watergate scandal .

    Indian Affairs
    Select Committee on Ethics
    Select Committee on Intelligence
    Senate Committee on Aging (Special Committee on Aging)
    Caucus on International Narcotics Control

    Joint committees

    In contrast to other committees, joint committees with the House of Representatives do not have the right to discuss bills. In some cases, they serve to oversee certain government organizations such as the Library of Congress or take on an advisory role such as the Joint Committee on Taxation . The presidency rotates between the senior senator and member of the House of Representatives of the majority party, while the seniority of the ranking member is calculated based on the total time in both chambers of Congress.

    Rules of Procedure

    The rules of the Senate, which the president of the session ensures that they are observed, are more open than those of the House of Representatives. In addition to the written rules of procedure, the Standing Rules of the United States Senate , there are also numerous traditional and unwritten regulations and protocols. Usually, however, these can be temporarily lifted by unanimous resolution.

    Capacity to act

    According to the constitution, the Senate needs a quorum of at least half of the senators plus one in order to be able to act. However, the quorum is taken as given as long as nobody explicitly doubts it and demands a quorum call . An employee then reads the names of the senators to determine their presence. In practice, the quorum calls are used less often to check the quorum of the Senate, but mainly to force a short break in the session, during which, for example, the parliamentary group leaders can negotiate a compromise. If the break is no longer necessary, any senator can request a vote to unanimously end the quorum call and establish a quorum.


    The chairman of the session determines which senator has the right to speak. However, he is bound by the order in which the senators stand up to be given the right to speak and therefore has very little control over the debate. Traditionally, majority and minority leaders have priority when they want the floor. All speeches must be formally addressed to the session president and marked with “Mr. President ”or“ Madam President ”begin, all other members of the Senate must be addressed in the third person. Usually they are not named by name, but rather according to their state or their position as "the senior senator from California" or "the junior senator from Texas."

    In terms of content, there are hardly any provisions on speech; in particular, there is no requirement that the content must deal with the topic that the debate actually deals with. Likewise, the length of the speeches is usually not regulated.

    This enables the filibuster's strategy , in which a senator holds up the meeting where he doesn't stop talking. The record in this regard is held by Strom Thurmond , who spoke for over 24 hours in a debate about US civil rights laws. The Senate can end such a filibuster by voting on the closing of the debate. A majority of three fifths is required (two thirds when it comes to debates on the rules of procedure). After that, the debate is limited to a further 30 hours of speaking time . In order to limit it further, a further three-fifths majority is required. Usually this is only possible on undisputed issues, as one party seldom alone has the required majority.

    Before debates, the Senate can unanimously decide that a certain time limit applies to them. This applies generally in budget debates. The reconciliation process for budget debates was devised in 1974, but has only been binding since the early 1980s.

    According to the Standing Rules, no senator is allowed to speak more than twice on a subject on a legislative day. A legislative day begins and ends when the Senate opens or closes the session and is therefore not the same as a calendar day.

    The Senate rarely meets non-publicly in a secret or closed session . The doors to the plenary hall will be closed, and all persons will be removed from the visitors' gallery who have not sworn an oath of secrecy, are not instructed in the procedure of a closed session or are unable to contribute significantly to the session. These meetings take place when the Senate is discussing issues that are critical to the security situation in the United States, concern private communications from the President or during an impeachment process. A closed session can be called by any Senator as long as another Senator agrees.


    Votes are usually made orally. The chairman of the session asks the corresponding voting question and the senators present answer one after the other with “Yea” (approval) or “Nay” (rejection), see Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution. The chairman of the meeting announces the result according to his acoustic impression.

    Any senator present can question the result of the vote and request an individual vote. A fifth of the senators present have to agree to this, but normally the request is always granted out of courtesy. In the individual vote, an employee reads the list of senators; they give their opinion when their name is called. If you are not in the hall at this moment or if you do not cast your vote, you can do so while the vote is still open. When the voting ends, the chairman decides; however, it must be open for at least 15 minutes.

    If such a vote leads to a tie, the Vice-President, if present, can cancel the tie with his vote. If the Vice President is not present, an application will be deemed rejected in the event of a tie.

    The Senate of the 117th Congress

    Composition of the Senate by state in the 117th Congress.
    Red: 2 × represented by republicans
    Blue: 2 × represented democratically
    Purple: 1 × represented democratically and 1 × republican represented
    Light blue: independent in a democratic parliamentary group
    Gray: vacant
    (striped: one of the two seats is occupied accordingly in each color)

    The Senate of the 117th Congress was constituted on January 3, 2021.

    Distribution of seats

    117th United States Senate.svg

    According to the result of the 2020 Senate election , on January 3, 2021, 50 seats were occupied by the Republicans and 46 seats by the Democrats and 2 independent Senators. On January 6, 2021, two more Democratic Senators were elected in a runoff election in Georgia, and they were sworn in on January 20, 2021. Alex Padilla took her seat after United States Vice President Kamala Harris resigned as Senator . Since the President of the Senate Kamala Harris decides by her vote in the event of a tie, the Democrats have been the majority party since January 20, 2021.

    Important positions

    position Surname Political party Country since
         Senate President ( Vice President of the USA ) Kamala Harris democrat California 2021
         President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy democrat Vermont 2021
         Majority Leader Charles Schumer democrat new York 2021
         Minority Leader Mitch McConnell republican Kentucky 2021
         Majority Whip Dick Durbin democrat Illinois 2021
         Minority Whip John Cornyn republican Texas 2021
         Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso republican Wyoming 2019
         Democratic Caucus Chair Charles Schumer democrat new York 2017
         Republican Conference Vice Chair Joni Ernst republican Iowa 2019
         Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Mark Warner & Elizabeth Warren democrat Virginia , Massachusetts 2017
         Democratic Caucus Secretary Tammy Baldwin democrat Wisconsin 2017
         Republican Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt republican Missouri 2019
         Democratic Policy Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow democrat Michigan 2017
         National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Todd Young republican Indiana 2019
         Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Catherine Cortez Masto democrat Nevada 2019
         Republican Steering Committee Chair Mike Lee republican Utah 2015
         Democratic Steering Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar democrat Minnesota 2017


    Demokratische Partei (Vereinigte Staaten) Republikanische Partei National Union Party United States Whig Party Demokratisch-Republikanische Partei Demokratisch-Republikanische Partei Demokratisch-Republikanische Partei Föderalistische Partei

    The history of the Senate begins with the ratification of the US Constitution on March 4, 1789 .

    The Senate was created primarily for two different reasons. On the one hand, it was supposed to have a stabilizing and moderating effect on the legislature and the entire political system of the USA , similar to the British House of Lords . The senators should definitely belong to the upper class of the United States and bring a more prudent, more deliberate attitude into the system of government vis-à-vis the House of Representatives, in which the whole people should be represented and whose current mood should be integrated. On the other hand, the smaller federal states enforced that in the Senate every state is represented by the same number of senators, regardless of its number of inhabitants, size of area or economic strength. However, their hope of gaining direct influence on central political power was quickly dashed. In the early days, the state legislatures appointed the senators to ensure that they were indeed prominent members of society. The states hoped to have a greater influence on them.

    In the history of the American Congress, the Senate has also distinguished itself from the House of Representatives in the more informal rules and the associated greater freedom of the individual senators, which was also derived from the original idea that the Senate should form a chamber of deliberation and not of political action .

    While the Senate was clearly the less prestigious and in fact less powerful chamber of Parliament in the early years, this order was reversed from the early 19th century. The confrontation with President Andrew Jackson gave the Senate its own profile. The Senate Page Program began in 1829, and since then young people have served as auxiliaries to support the Senate's work.

    In the years leading up to the American Civil War , it was the most important forum for discussion between the slave-holding southern states and the abolitionist northern states. In contrast to the House of Representatives, both conflicting parties were represented roughly equally in the Senate, so that negotiations and compromises became necessary on which the whole nation could then - at least temporarily - actually agree. Important compromises at the time, such as the Missouri Compromise or the Compromise of 1850 , were primarily negotiated in the Senate.

    After the civil war, however, the free movement of internal rules of procedure ensured that the political corruption, which was widespread in the so-called Gilded Age , was able to particularly spread in the Senate. During this time there were numerous cases of bribery, nine senators alone stood before a Senate court of honor for this reason. The practice of appointing senators often failed in the tense climate of the post-war period: a total of 45 senatorial posts from 20 states could not be filled at times because the legislature in the respective federal state could not agree.

    Important reforms of the early 20th century, such as the introduction of direct election of the senators by the 17th amendment to the constitution, the first-time possibility of ending a debate by majority vote, or the possibility of hiring paid employees, ensured a sustainable modernization of the Senate. In the following decades he played an important role in the US political system. He prevented the United States from joining the League of Nations , but supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's entire government policy (see, for example, New Deal ). In the Senate, Joseph McCarthy had his power base as a persecutor of communists after the Second World War . The big parliamentary debates on the Civil Rights Acts took place here, with the practice of filibusters being taken to new extremes: Strom Thurmond gave a 24-hour speech in 1957, and in 1964 a number of Southern Senators, the Civil Rights Act and anybody else made it Block the Senate's legal capacity for 57 days by holding speeches.


    • Michael Barone, Michael and Grant Ujifusa: The Almanac of American Politics 1976: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (1975); New edition every two years
    • Louis Fisher: Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and The President. University Press of Kansas 1997 (4th edition). On the position of the Senate in the political system, ISBN 0-7006-0815-X
    • Lewis L. Gould: The Most Exclusive Club: A History Of The Modern United States Senate , Basic Books 2005; Comprehensive presentation from a historical perspective, ISBN 0-465-02778-4
    • Christoph M. Haas, Second Chamber, First Class: the US Senate, in: Gisela Riescher, Sabine Ruß and Christoph M. Haas (eds.), Second Chamber, Munich / Vienna: Oldenbourg 2000, pp. 22–47, ISBN 3 -486-25089-2 .
    • Nathan W. Monroe, Jason Matthew Roberts, David W. Rohde (Eds.): Why Not Parties? Party Effects in the United States Senate. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2008, ISBN 978-0-226-53487-9 .
    • Samuel C. Patterson and Anthony Mughan: Senates. Bicameralism in the Contemporary World Ohio State University Press 1999. The Senate in Comparative Perspective, ISBN 0-8142-5010-6
    • Donald A. Ritchie: The Congress of the United States: A Student Companion Oxford University Press, 2001 (2nd edition). Introductory textbook ISBN 0-19-515007-4
    • Hendrik Träger: The US Senate: Influential unchanged for 220 years , (18 pages) in: Sven Leunig (Ed.): Handbook of Federal Second Chambers, Opladen / Farmington Hills, MI 2009, pp. 258–275 ( ISBN 978-3 -86649-238-7 )
    • Julian E. Zelizer (Ed.): The American Congress: The Building of Democracy Houghton Muffin 2004, Collected Essays by Various Scholars ISBN 0-618-17906-2 .

    Web links

    Commons : United States Senate  Album of Pictures, Videos, and Audio Files


    1. ^ Image of the desk on the pages of the Senate.
    2. ^ Picture of the little hammer on the pages of the Senate.
    3. ^ Matthias Kolb: Meeting of millionaires in the congress. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , January 10, 2014.
    4. Senate Salaries since 1789. In: Senate.gov (English).
    5. Catie Edmondson, Jasmine C. Lee: Meet the New Freshmen in Congress . In: The New York Times . November 28, 2018, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed January 10, 2019]).
    6. Beatrice Jin: Congress's incoming class is younger, bluer, and more diverse than ever. Retrieved January 10, 2019 .
    7. ^ Jack Maskell: Beginning and end of the terms of United States senators chosen to fill senate vacancies. Congressional Research Service , January 20, 2010 (PDF) .
    8. Widows Who Succeeded Their Husbands in Congress. Center for American Women and Politics, 2017 (PDF) .
    9. Juliet Lapidos: Chuck Hagel's Chances. In: The New York Times , January 8, 2013; Elizabeth King: This Is What Happened Last Time a Cabinet Nomination Was Rejected. In: Time , February 3, 2017 (English). See in detail nominations. In: Senate.gov (English).
    10. Yea or Nay? Voting in the Senate. In: Senate.gov (English); Aye versus Yea: What's the difference? In: GovTrack.us , November 18, 2009 (English).
    11. ^ Jasmine Wright and Chandelis Duster CNN: Harris resigns from the Senate ahead of inauguration. Retrieved January 18, 2021 .
    This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on June 29, 2006 .