Last time we saw the section authorizing the House of Representatives. Today, let’s see what the Constitution says about the Senate.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 3. 1 The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.ARTICLE I.
Whereas House members are elected directly by the people, this provides that Senators be appointed by the various legislators, making them responsible to a smaller and, hopefully, more informed constituency.
We learned in Section 2 that House members have two-year terms, because it was felt that frequent elections would keep the members more closely attuned to their constituents. The longer terms provided for Senators allow for more continuity.
2 Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
This establishes the staggering of term expirations so that Senators are never all up for reelection at the same time, further building continuity. It also provides for more immediate filling of vacancies than is provided for the House.
3 No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
This establishes slightly higher requirements for Senators than those provided for Congressmen. They must be five years older and have two more years of residency in the country than Congressmen.
4 The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
Interestingly, this is the only Constitutional duty of the Vice-President.
5 The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
Other than the Vice-President, members of the Senate choose their own leadership.
6 The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
We discovered earlier that only the House can impeach. This provision assures that the jury trying the case is not the same as the body bringing the charges. Having the Chief Justice preside in cases of Presidential impeachment assures that the judge is removed from election pressures.
7 Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
The impeachment process does not provide for punishment—only for removal from office and disqualification from future office holding. Any punishment would have to come from a regular trial completely separate from the impeachment and initiated after the person’s conviction in the impeachment.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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