Committees may block nominees and impede bills from reaching the floor of the Senate. Standing committees also oversee the departments and agencies of the executive branch. In discharging their duties, standing committees have the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses and evidence. The Senate also has several committees that are not considered standing committees.
Such bodies are generally known as select or special committees ; examples include the Select Committee on Ethics and the Special Committee on Aging. Legislation is referred to some of these committees, although the bulk of legislative work is performed by the standing committees. Committees may be established on an ad hoc basis for specific purposes; for instance, the Senate Watergate Committee was a special committee created to investigate the Watergate scandal.
Such temporary committees cease to exist after fulfilling their tasks. The Congress includes joint committees, which include members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Some joint committees oversee independent government bodies; for instance, the Joint Committee on the Library oversees the Library of Congress. Other joint committees serve to make advisory reports; for example, there exists a Joint Committee on Taxation.
Bills and nominees are not referred to joint committees. Hence, the power of joint committees is considerably lower than those of standing committees. Each Senate committee and subcommittee is led by a chair usually a member of the majority party. Formerly, committee chairs were determined purely by seniority; as a result, several elderly senators continued to serve as chair despite severe physical infirmity or even senility.
The chairs hold extensive powers: they control the committee's agenda, and so decide how much, if any, time to devote to the consideration of a bill; they act with the power of the committee in disapproving or delaying a bill or a nomination by the president; they manage on the floor of the full Senate the consideration of those bills the committee reports.
This last role was particularly important in mid-century, when floor amendments were thought not to be collegial. They also have considerable influence: senators who cooperate with their committee chairs are likely to accomplish more good for their states than those who do not. The Senate rules and customs were reformed in the twentieth century, largely in the s. Committee chairmen have less power and are generally more moderate and collegial in exercising it, than they were before reform.
Recent criticisms of the Senate's operations object to what the critics argue is obsolescence as a result of partisan paralysis and a preponderance of arcane rules. Bills may be introduced in either chamber of Congress. However, the Constitution's Origination Clause provides that "All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives". Furthermore, the House of Representatives holds that the Senate does not have the power to originate appropriation bills , or bills authorizing the expenditure of federal funds.
However, when the Senate originates an appropriations bill, the House simply refuses to consider it, thereby settling the dispute in practice. The constitutional provision barring the Senate from introducing revenue bills is based on the practice of the British Parliament , in which only the House of Commons may originate such measures. Although the Constitution gave the House the power to initiate revenue bills, in practice the Senate is equal to the House in the respect of spending.
As Woodrow Wilson wrote:. The Senate's right to amend general appropriation bills has been allowed the widest possible scope. The upper house may add to them what it pleases; may go altogether outside of their original provisions and tack to them entirely new features of legislation, altering not only the amounts but even the objects of expenditure, and making out of the materials sent them by the popular chamber measures of an almost totally new character.
The approval of both houses is required for any bill, including a revenue bill, to become law. Both Houses must pass the same version of the bill; if there are differences, they may be resolved by sending amendments back and forth or by a conference committee , which includes members of both bodies. The Constitution provides several unique functions for the Senate that form its ability to "check and balance" the powers of other elements of the Federal Government.
These include the requirement that the Senate may advise and must consent to some of the president's government appointments; also the Senate must consent to all treaties with foreign governments; it tries all impeachments, and it elects the vice president in the event no person gets a majority of the electoral votes. The president can make certain appointments only with the advice and consent of the Senate. Officials whose appointments require the Senate's approval include members of the Cabinet, heads of most federal executive agencies, ambassadors , justices of the Supreme Court, and other federal judges.
Under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, a large number of government appointments are subject to potential confirmation; however, Congress has passed legislation to authorize the appointment of many officials without the Senate's consent usually, confirmation requirements are reserved for those officials with the most significant final decision-making authority.
Typically, a nominee is first subject to a hearing before a Senate committee. Thereafter, the nomination is considered by the full Senate. The majority of nominees are confirmed, but in a small number of cases each year, Senate committees purposely fail to act on a nomination to block it. In addition, the president sometimes withdraws nominations when they appear unlikely to be confirmed. Because of this, outright rejections of nominees on the Senate floor are infrequent there have been only nine Cabinet nominees rejected outright in United States history. The powers of the Senate concerning nominations are, however, subject to some constraints.
For instance, the Constitution provides that the president may make an appointment during a congressional recess without the Senate's advice and consent. The recess appointment remains valid only temporarily; the office becomes vacant again at the end of the next congressional session.
Nevertheless, presidents have frequently used recess appointments to circumvent the possibility that the Senate may reject the nominee. Furthermore, as the Supreme Court held in Myers v. United States , although the Senate's advice and consent is required for the appointment of certain executive branch officials, it is not necessary for their removal. Senate passed a legally non-binding resolution against recess appointments.
The Senate also has a role in ratifying treaties. The Constitution provides that the president may only "make Treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur" in order to benefit from the Senate's advice and consent and give each state an equal vote in the process. However, not all international agreements are considered treaties under US domestic law, even if they are considered treaties under international law.
Congress has passed laws authorizing the president to conclude executive agreements without action by the Senate. Similarly, the president may make congressional-executive agreements with the approval of a simple majority in each House of Congress, rather than a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Neither executive agreements nor congressional-executive agreements are mentioned in the Constitution, leading some scholars such as Laurence Tribe and John Yoo  to suggest that they unconstitutionally circumvent the treaty-ratification process.
However, courts have upheld the validity of such agreements.
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The Constitution empowers the House of Representatives to impeach federal officials for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" and empowers the Senate to try such impeachments. If the sitting president of the United States is being tried, the chief justice of the United States presides over the trial. During an impeachment trial, senators are constitutionally required to sit on oath or affirmation. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority of the senators present.
A convicted official is automatically removed from office; in addition, the Senate may stipulate that the defendant be banned from holding office. No further punishment is permitted during the impeachment proceedings; however, the party may face criminal penalties in a normal court of law. The House of Representatives has impeached sixteen officials, of whom seven were convicted. One resigned before the Senate could complete the trial. Both trials ended in acquittal; in Johnson's case, the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. Under the Twelfth Amendment , the Senate has the power to elect the vice president if no vice presidential candidate receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
The Twelfth Amendment requires the Senate to choose from the two candidates with the highest numbers of electoral votes. Electoral College deadlocks are rare. The Senate has only broken a deadlock once; in , it elected Richard Mentor Johnson. The House elects the president if the Electoral College deadlocks on that choice. The following are published by the Senate Historical Office. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For current members of the Senate, see List of current United States senators. Upper house of the United States Congress.
Seal of the U. Upper house. President of the Senate. Mike Pence R since January 20, President pro tempore. Chuck Grassley R since January 3, President pro tempore emeritus. Patrick Leahy D since January 3, Majority Leader. Mitch McConnell R since January 3, Minority Leader. Chuck Schumer D since January 3, Majority Whip.
John Thune R since January 3, Minority Whip. Dick Durbin D since January 3, Voting system. Varies in 5 states Plurality voting in 45 states. Main article: History of the United States Senate. Main article: Current members of the United States Senate. Current members by seniority by class. Party leadership of the United States Senate. Cloture Committees list. Executive session Morning business. Filibuster Nuclear option. Quorum Quorum call Salaries. Saxbe fix Seal Holds. Senatorial courtesy Standing Rules. Traditions Unanimous consent. Senate office buildings Dirksen Hart Russell.
Further information: List of United States Senate elections. Federal Government. Constitution of the United States Law Taxation. Presidential elections Midterm elections Off-year elections. Political parties. Democratic Republican Third parties Libertarian Green. Other countries Atlas. Main article: Seniority in the United States Senate. See also: Clay pigeon floor procedure. Main article: Closed sessions of the United States Senate.
Main article: United States congressional committee.
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Further information: Act of Congress. March 26, Retrieved October 4, January 1, The Yale Law Journal. Senate Elections". Legislative Studies Quarterly. Berke September 12, The New York Times. Friedman March 30, June 16, Constitution: Article 1, Section 1 ". Retrieved March 22, Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of Retrieved March 17, Archived from the original on November 23, Archived from the original on November 1, Retrieved September 17, Senate official website. Retrieved April 23, United States Senate. Retrieved November 17, United States Printing Office.
Retrieved November 13, April 12, Congressional Research Service. Archived PDF from the original on June 5, Retrieved October 13, NOTE: wherever present, references to page numbers in superscripts refer to the electronic. September 17, Massachusetts Great and General Court. Anchorage Daily News. October 28, Archived from the original on May 28, Retrieved October 2, Retrieved June 19, Roll Call. Retrieved November 8, Page 4. Senate Chamber Desks. Retrieved July 11, Retrieved November 10, Retrieved February 8, Gold, Senate Procedure and Practice , p.
July 5, The Washington Post. The Economist. Backcountry Conservative. July 27, Nieman Watchdog. July 31, Voting in the Senate". Retrieved April 11, Zelizer, On Capitol Hill describes this process; one of the reforms is that seniority within the majority party can now be bypassed, so that chairs do run the risk of being deposed by their colleagues.
See in particular p. Archived from the original on August 10, The New Yorker. Retrieved January 1, The Invention of the United States Senate , p. See Wilson, Woodrow. See Sullivan, John. Text common to all printings or "editions"; in Papers of Woodrow Wilson it is Vol. January 5, April , pp. Retrieved November 20, Further information: U. Baker, Richard A. Brady and Mathew D. The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Knopf, Comiskey, Michael. Press of Kansas, Congressional Quarterly Congress and the Nation XII: — Politics and Policy in the th and th Congresses ; massive, highly detailed summary of Congressional activity, as well as major executive and judicial decisions; based on Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report and the annual CQ almanac.
Cambridge U. Press, Davidson, Roger H. Oleszek, eds. The day after the meeting with the Treasury, at least 10 senators made trades to protect their financial interests, while Americans remained in the dark. Congressman Jim Moran jumped ship too, frantically trading stock in 90 different companies — his biggest trading day of the year. Representative Spencer Bachus publicly tried to prevent the American economy from crashing — while privately betting it would. He cleverly arranged his portfolio so that if the American people lost, he would make a profit.
Her Puerto Rican mother cleaned houses to support her two kids. But the money wasn't enough, and she had to fight off foreclosure. After Ocasio-Cortez graduated from college, she wanted to help, so she moved home to the Bronx and supplemented her nonprofit jobs by waiting tables and mixing drinks at night. She made the most of the service-industry work, befriending customers and building a support network of colleagues.
But she also had to grow a "really thick skin" to deal with rude customers and harassment. BNC cofounder Saikat Chakrabarti said the group wasn't looking for anyone to challenge the district's term Democratic incumbent when they reached out to the year-old. But after a few calls and a meeting with Ocasio-Cortez, Chakrabarti thought, "Holy crap: You're an incredible candidate. It took a few months of convincing, but Ocasio-Cortez, still moved by what she saw at Standing Rock, said yes. The congressional campaign began with a handful of volunteers, living-room stump speeches, and a coalition of local progressive support.
They proposed big ideas: a universal jobs guarantee, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, and tuition-free public college. Justice Democrats , another Sanders-inspired group that Chakrabarti founded, gave Ocasio-Cortez media and policy training. Volunteers led an aggressive canvassing operation. Ocasio-Cortez quit Flats Fix in mid-February Chakrabarti moved home to New York in early to cochair the campaign.
Ocasio-Cortez's press secretary, Corbin Trent, left his wife, kids, and food-truck business in Tennessee to sleep on Chakrabarti's couch. Alexandra Rojas, now the year-old executive director of Justice Democrats, led the last six weeks of the campaign's text- and phone-banking effort. Then a pair of something socialist filmmakers from Detroit produced a polished, low-budget ad that framed Ocasio-Cortez as a courageous working-class underdog.
The two-minute spot went viral. Donations jumped, hundreds of new volunteers turned out to the field offices, and Vogue published a glowing profile. The video caught the attention of another young woman of color running an insurgent Democratic primary bid. Ayanna Pressley remembers watching it several times in a row and saying aloud to herself, "Hell yes. Two weeks before the election, Rep.
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Ro Khanna became the only member of Congress to endorse Ocasio-Cortez. He made the decision at 2 a. It was particularly tortured because he'd already endorsed her opponent, Rep. Joe Crowley. But the progressive Democrat thought to himself: "This is the type of person who deserves to have a shot to serve. She's doing it for all the right reasons. With tens of thousands of social-media followers, Ocasio-Cortez is already more famous than most other members of Congress and many likely presidential contenders.
No one was prepared for Ocasio-Cortez to beat Crowley in the Democratic primary. Or, even stranger, for her to become a star and the next right-wing boogeywoman. But on June 26, Ocasio-Cortez shocked the American political world. The difference was just over 4, voters in the Bronx and Queens. In a deep blue district, she was virtually assured a seat in the th Congress. About 1, media outlets requested interviews over the next three days. After tweeting about her preferred lipstick Stila Stay All Day Liquid in Beso , it sold out the day after the primary.
In a political moment that rewards celebrity, she's already more famous than most other members of Congress and many likely presidential contenders. Ocasio-Cortez credits social media with powering her rise. Since the first days of her campaign, she's used it to develop a relationship with her followers, sharpen her message, and control the media narrative.
When she launched her bid, in May , she had fewer than Twitter followers. Her Facebook livestreams got a few dozen likes. But by primary day, she'd grown her Twitter following to 60, — more than many sitting House members. She argues that her online presence allowed her to bypass a media largely uninterested in her race and communicate directly with voters. Ocasio-Cortez hit 2 million Twitter followers on Saturday, far more than the other 60 freshman House Democrats combined. And she has a shiny new handle to go with it, AOC.
She uses social media like a lifestyle blogger or a celebrity influencer. She talks like a normal person. She details the challenges and gives advice. Thousands of people tune in to watch her talk politics and make Instant Pot mac and cheese on Instagram Live. And as many have pointed out , she's skilled at creating viral moments — often when clapping back at her critics.
Much like millennial conservative influencers Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk, who've built their personas around " owning the libs ," Ocasio-Cortez seems to relish defending herself and lampooning the right wing. She regularly calls online critics sexist, racist, and ageist. She turns attacks on her clothes , childhood home, and high-school yearbook photos into Twitter memes and frequently ridicules Fox News and its relentless coverage of her. Buffoonish right-wing attacks on her regularly inspire a legion of memes parodying them before she even has a chance to respond.
The cheap shots only further endear her to her supporters. But critics, including Democrats, have also put forward substantive criticism of the political newcomer. They argue her policy proposals are too costly, impracticable, or ill-informed. Fact-checkers have taken issue with inaccurate or sweeping claims she's made about the cost of programs she supports, like Medicare for All, and her claims about the unemployment rate.
Ocasio-Cortez calls constant questions about how she'll pay for her proposals "very disingenuous. She subscribes to modern monetary theory, a burgeoning theory among some economists positing that the federal debt is not an economic restraint for the US. We can pay for it by raising taxes on the very rich.
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We can pay for it with a transaction tax. We can pay for it with deficit spending. She said modern monetary theory, which holds that the government doesn't need to balance the budget and that budget surpluses actually hurt the economy, "absolutely She watched President Barack Obama bail out the banks, Occupy Wall Street fail to extract concrete wins, and college debt soar.
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