House vs Senate Powers: Who Does What?

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How do House vs Senate powers compare? Is the House or Senate more important?

Comparing House vs Senate powers shows how a legislature is a balancing act. Neither chamber holds more power.

See a comparison of House vs Senate powers and understand “is the House or Senate more important?”

Overview of Congress

Now, let’s turn to the specific branches of government and their components to get a fuller picture of how the system of checks and balances was designed to function. The House of Representatives is the lower house of the national legislature, with members apportioned within each state by population—the higher the state’s population, the more representatives it has.

The Senate is the upper chamber of the national legislature. Unlike the House, its members must be 30 years of age and have been citizens of the United States for nine years prior to their election. Thus, senators would tend to be older and more experienced, and have greater familiarity with the laws and customs of the United States, than their counterparts in the House.

House vs Senate Powers

The Senate was designed to temper the House. The House vs Senate powers balance one another out. This was because the Senate’s members were fewer, they were not elected directly by the people, and their terms in office would be longer. This would prevent them from being susceptible to democratic political pressures.

This was meant to insulate senators from the passions of the people. The Senate was meant to act as a check, slowing down or stopping the passage of hasty and ill-considered legislation. By acting as a purposely deliberative and conservative-minded body, the Senate was to provide more wisdom and consistency in legislation and national administration.

The six-year terms were instrumental to this. Because senators served such long terms, they would provide much-needed constancy. This would be unworkable, however, if they had to stand for reelection every two years, as members of the House did. While it was important to preserve republican principles, it was also important to ensure that the United States acted with a steady and consistent hand, and was not seized by fleeting impulses toward dangerous policy decisions.

This function for the Senate was perfectly in keeping with the best practices of constitutional government. Once more, the paramount example was Great Britain. There, the House of Lords (the rough equivalent of the Senate) was not even indirectly elected, but was instead composed of landed nobility and clergy, serving for life by right of birth.

Yet, even with such a body comprising the upper chamber of Parliament, Great Britain had remained well-governed and had not sunk into despotism. In fact, the aristocratic House of Lords had steadily lost power relative to the more representative House of Commons. If even a noble upper house could not destroy free government in Great Britain, then surely one elected by the state legislatures in America would prove to be perfectly harmonious with liberty.

House vs Senate Powers: Who Does What?

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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