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Study Notes

Senators (Role and Election)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Senators are Members of the United States Senate in the United States Congress.

Role of the Senators

Members of the United States Senate are elected to represent their constituents at the US Capitol. As a result every member’s primary responsibility, above all else, is to their state. If a member doesn’t effectively represent their state or their constituents, then they run the risk of losing the next election.

As Senators, they are to vote on legislation that appears before the Senate, serve on committees which interest them (or have a connection to their state). In addition to this primary law making responsibility, Senators will also introduce legislation themselves, obtain federal money for their states and work with other Senators to advance their beliefs in Congress.

In a notable difference to the House of Representatives, Senators will take part in votes to confirm or reject executive appointments. These can vary from Directors of Federal Agencies to Supreme Court nominees. This power is derived from the Advice and Consent Powers outlined in the US Constitution.

Qualifications for Office

The US Constitution lays down several rules for those people seeking to become a Member of the Senate. These are laid out in Article I, Section 3.

Every Senator must be at least 30 years old.

Every Senator must have been a citizen of the US for at least 9 years

Every Senator must live in the state that they represent

The Fourteenth Amendment allows Senators to be disqualified if they rebel against or aid the enemies of the United States.

Elections & Terms

Elections to the Senate occur every two years, in those years that end with an even number (i.e. 2016, 2018, 2020). They are held on the first Tuesday, after the first Monday in November. This will coincide with elections for the House of Representatives, and elections for US President.

However, the Senate is elected in thirds, meaning only 33/34 Senators are up for election at any one time. This is designed to mean that the Senate doesn’t change as rapidly as the House does. The division means that both seats from each state are never normally contested at the same time.

Historically, Senators were appointed by the state legislatures. This changed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment, instigating elections in all states for the Senators.

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