The powers and functions of` the Senate prove beyond any shadow of doubt that not only it is more powerful than the Lower House, but it is also the most powerful second chamber in the world. Even the Fathers of the US Constitution mentioned Senate first, and then the House of Representatives in the Article of the original Constitution. In prestige and authority, the Senate has in due course, over shadowed the popular House of Congress and has become unique among the second chambers of the world. The following points clearly prove the strength of the Senate of the USA. Also Read: Indian Constitution Notes
Direct Executive Powers
The Senate is the only legislative organ in the world. Which enjoys some direct executive powers. In shares with the President his power of making top-ranking appointments and through this privilege. It controls the internal administration of the federal governments. Then no treaty or agreement with a foreign state concluded by the President is valid without the prior ratification of the Senate. Through this power, the Senate controls the external policy of the President. It is to he noted that these powers are exclusively exercised by the Senate. The House of Representatives has nothing to do with them
Small Membership and Long Tenure
The membership of the US Senate is small but its tenure is long. On the other hand, the membership of the House of Representatives is large and its tenure is short. The Senate consists of only 100 members. This small size makes it really a more deliberative body and adds to its importance. The House of Representatives is an unwieldy body consisting of 438 members. The large size of the House makes its deliberations less effective. Then the Senators are elected for a term of 6 years whereas members of the House are elected only for a short term of 2 years. The Senators are, therefore, not worried about their elections after every two years. Moreover, during a brief span of two years, no party can do full justice to its program and policy.
Absence of Parliamentary Government
The absence of Parliamentary form of government has also indirectly helped the Senate to acquire a domineering position over the House. In countries with parliamentary form of government the Lower House attains a higher status than the other one on account of the fact that it has control over the executive as in England and Pakistan. In USA the position is rather reverse. It is the Upper House which has some control over the executive and the Lower House is devoid of any such power.
Members of US Senate consists of Senior Politicians
Senior politicians and men with legislative experience and wider knowledge of public affairs, usually aspire to the membership of .the Senate because of its longer term and greater prestige than the Lower House. The result is that the Senate becomes superior to the Lower House in intellectual quality, legal talents and political wisdom. The newspapers give great coverage to the speeches made in the Senate. Public attention is more focused on what happens in the Senate than in the House.
Direct Election of Senators
Unlike the members of the Second Chambers in England, Pakistan, India or Canada, U.S. Senators are directly elected by the people. It is a matter of common experience that an indirectly elected Upper Chamber finds it difficult to resist the will of the Lower House, which is elected by the direct vote of the people in these countries. But in U.S.A. the Senate can claim equally representative character with the House. The later is therefore not in a position to dominate the former.
Equal Legislative and Financial Powers
The Senate enjoys equal powers in the legislative and financial spheres with the House both in theory and practice. In England, Pakistan and India, the Upper House is given a lesser authority than the Lower House in the sphere of legislation. Since in USA, both, the House of Representatives and the Senate have equal and co-ordinate powers regarding ordinary and financial legislation, the deadlocks are frequent. In order to resolve such deadlocks, a Conference Committee consisting of equal members from both the Houses is constituted. The legislative History of Congress. shows hat the Senate’s viewpoint, which ultimately prevails. It is natural because the Senate consists of seasoned statesmen and stalwart politicians and men who really matter in the public life of the country.
Greater Freedom of Speech
The Senators enjoy greater freedom of speech than the members of the Lower House. A Senator can, go on speaking for any length of time. This enables a full-length debate; on every matter and every measure is discussed from all viewpoints and angles. The rules of procedure arc simple and flexible enabling the Senators to carry on full-length discussion.
Court of Impeachment
The Senate has the sole right to try impeachment against the President the Vice-President and other high officials of the USA both civil and political. This fact enhances the prestige of the Senate and enables it to over-shadow the House.
Solidarity of the Senate
The Senate is the one legislative organ in the world the members of which have solidarity and unity irrespective of their political affiliation. As for instance, when President Roosevelt tried to bypass Senatorial Courtesy in 1938. It stood solidly against it. Even Senators of his own party did not support him. The entire Senate stands as one unit wherever any attack on its authority is made.
The Senators Represents the State
The members of the Senate are elected by the entire population of a state whereas the members of the House are elected by a fraction of population in constituency the Senators thus have the proud privilege of having great representative character and greater popular support as against the members of the House of Representatives. The Senators represent the States as political units. The Old State loyalties having diminished and the narrow outlook disappeared the Senators now regard themselves as representatives of the Nation as a whole.
Committees of Investigation
The Senate- can appoint committees investigating into the misuse of authority by the Administration. The power increases the prestige of the Senate as against that of the House because the Executive being afraid of such investigations subordinates to the wishes of the Senate.
The Senate is indeed a unique institution. It partakes in all three functions of state, executive, legislature and judicial. In view of this, F.J. Haskin sums up the position, of the Senate well, There are things which the President and the Senate may do without the assent of the House of Representatives, and things which the Senate and the House may do without assent of the President, yet the President and the House can do comparatively a little without the assent of the Senate. It is thus manifest that while upper chambers in other of the world have been declining in power and importance, the Senate is adding to its strength and importance. All these facts prove that no second chamber in the world enjoy such powers as are enjoyed by the US Senate.