Lesson Objectives:- Differences between the House and the Senate
- Senate debate
- The "Nuclear Option"
- Members of Congress
The House and the Senate are two equal parts of Congress, but there are features that distinguish them.
Obviously, the House is much larger than the Senate. Because of this, there are many more rules that govern how the House conducts business when compared to the Senate.
One main difference is in the form of the Rules Committee, the standing committee of the House of Representatives that provides special rules under which specific bills can be debated, amended, and considered by the House.
The Senate can have extended debates if they prefer, but the House has limits and that often results in them moving faster on issues.
Because the Senate has different rules concerning debate on the floor, there are strategies employed by Senators. One of those strategies is the filibuster. That is the use of the Senate's tradition of unlimited debate as a delaying tactic to block a bill.
Even though Senators can filibuster, they can be stopped by invoking cloture. That means that discussion on a bill is shut off if at least 16 Senators sign a petition and 3/5 of the Senate body vote for it after two days have lapsed.
Another way of bypassing filibuster is through reconciliation. That is a special rule that can be applied to budget bills sent from the House of Representatives to the Senate. Reconciliation measures cannot be filibustered.
The Senate does have the power to abolish the filibuster altogether. It would take the vote of 3/5 or 60 Senators. Such a move is considered the "Nuclear Option" since it is an extreme option to exercise. Until now, it has not been taken yet.
In the Republican party itself, the Hastert Rule states that a bill can only be introduced by the Republican Speaker if it has the support of a majority of the Republicans in the House. The Democrats have also used this guideline, but they have never made it an official rule.
Taking a look at the Congressional body, they are not at all typical as far as American citizens go. They are generally older because of the age requirement and they normally acquired a good bit of political experience to get there. They are also mainly wealthy, white males who are trained in a professional occupation such as law.
Serving in Congress comes with some great benefits. Members of Congress get a staff to assist them in all aspects from writing legislation to responding to media requests. Another benefit is the fact that if a legislator makes allegations on the floor in a debate, they cannot be held liable for it in a court of law if someone decides to sue.