United States Senate

United States Senate

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The United States Senate, sometimes termed "the world`s most exclusive club," is the smaller but more prestigious of the two houses of the federal Congress. It was established as a counterbalance to the presumed instability of the House of Representatives, whose members are popularly elected every two years.

Terms in the Senate are for six years, compared with two for the House, and the minimum age if 30. Originally, the members of the Senate were appointed by the legislatures of their respective states, but the movement to elect them directly gained support during the Progressive Era and was placed in the Constitution when the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913.

While legislation that reaches the President for his signature must be passed by both houses, certain other functions are delegated to one or the other. The Senate has the responsibility to ratify treaties and confirm presidential appointments. It has no ability to inaugurate legislation to set taxes, however, which is reserve for the House. The House is authorized to impeach, i.e. charge, federal officials, but the duty to conduct a trial rests with the Senate.

The Vice-President of the United States is the ex-officio President of the Senate. As there is no senator elected in a non-partisan fashion to lead the entire body, the third in succession to the presidency, after the president and vice-president, is instead the Speaker of the House.

In the last century, only two men have been elected to the presidency while sitting senators: John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.