Size, Election, and Terms

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1 SECTION 3 The Senate How does the size of the Senate differ from the size of the House? How have States elected senators in the past and present? How and why does a senator s term differ from a representative s term? What are the qualifications for serving in the Senate? Size, Election, and Terms The Constitution: Senate shall be composed of two Senators from each State. 100 Senators. Originally, the Constitution provided that senators were chosen by the State legislatures. In 1912 the Seventeenth Amendment was passed and called for the popular election of senators. Senators serve for six-year terms. The Senate is a continuous body, meaning that all of its seats are never up for election at the same time. 1

2 Compare Senators with House Member Because senators serve longer terms than House members and because they represent the views of their entire State, senators are expected to focus less on the interests of small localities and more on the "big picture" of government and of their entire State. Senators more well known because the Senate is much smaller than the House they serve a longer term, and they have larger staffs. Qualifications for Senators The requirements for the U.S. Senate are higher than for the House of Representatives. The Constitution (1) must be at least 30 years of age, (2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least nine years, and (3) must be an inhabitant of the State from which he or she is elected. Senate judges the qualifications of members May exclude a member-elect by a majority vote. Senate may punish members with a majority vote or expel them with a two-thirds vote. 2

3 S E C T I O N 4 The Members of Congress What are the personal and political backgrounds of the current members of Congress? What are the duties of the job of serving in Congress? How are members of Congress compensated, and what privileges do they have? Profile of the 113th Congress 3

4 Personal and Political Backgrounds Congress is not a representative cross section of the American people. The average member of Congress is a white male in his mid-50s. The House has the highest percent of women, minorities, and tends to be younger than the Senate. Most members are married, have children, and are members of a Christian church. Most members are lawyers, though many have backgrounds in business, education, agriculture, journalism, or professional politics. Duties of the Job Members of Congress must act as legislators, committee members, representatives of their constituents, servants of their constituents, and politicians. The oversight function of a member of Congress is to check to see if agencies in the executive branch are working efficiently and according to law. Congressmen fulfill the obligations of their job based on how they see their role: trustee, delegate, partisan, or politico. 4

5 How they see their role (even vote) Trustees - Many members see themselves as holders of the public trust who must decide issues based on merit alone, and not based on the opinions of constituents or any other groups. Constituents are people in a Congressman's State or district. Delegates - Many members see themselves as agents of those who elected them and believe they should suppress their own views in favor of those of the electorate. Partisans - Many members see themselves as bound to vote on issues according to the party platform and the wishes of party leaders. Politicos - The role of a member of Congress as a balancer of conflicting factors. All members of Congress also must act as servants of their constituents, providing the people back home with a wide range of services, from making appointments to military academies to helping companies in their districts obtain government contracts. Other Roles 5

6 Compensation Senators and representatives receive salaries of $174,900 per year.* (Leaders receive more) Nonsalary Compensation - wide range of fringe benefits free parking low-cost medical care generous pension plans to free printing and distribution of speeches, newsletters, and other materials. Also included is the franking privilege, or the ability to send job-related mail for free. The Politics of Pay Congress sets its own pay and benefits. Reasons for high salaries: making public service appealing to qualified people; allowing people to move away from their home states; and as a guarantee that the most able people will run for Congress. Two checks that prevent them from going overboard: 1) First, the President may veto their pay-raise 2) and second, the fear of voter backlash. 6

7 Membership Privileges Members may not be arrested for misdemeanors while Congress is in session. Members are immune from court action because of any speech they may make in Congress. Freedom of speech is vital to legislative debate. 7

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