Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Laurence Hall
Last updated: April 25, 2019
The framers established Congress as a bicameral legislature as a check against tyranny, fearing any one governmental body becoming too strong. The bicameral system created distributes power throughout two bodies that check and balance one another rather than centralizing power in a single body. This bicameral legislature is more than just numbers and figures created for balance, though. It has developed a unique system in which diverse groups of people work together to create laws for our country. A bicameral legislature was originally created with the intentions of preserving the power of the wealthy so that upper class elements of society were protected (Cutrone and McCarty 1). The senate was created with the idea that it would be wiser and more wealthy in order to preserve the interests of the wealthy, and to “absorb the fickleness and passion” of the House, as explained by James Madison.
Bicameralism, in the framers eyes, would allow the Senate, ruled by aristocrats, to have a veto on policy, and they would be elected by the state legislature to ensure this. The House, on the other hand, was to be elected by popular vote, and they were seen to be impulsive and unpredictable, which for the framers, made it necessary to have a wealthy and wise Senate to balance (The Constitutional Background). Although these were the original intentions of the framers, things did not work out quite as they hoped, as Senate elections were eventually amended to be elected by popular vote as well.
The English Parliament became bicameral to respect the distinction between the nobility, clergy, and the commoners. When British colonies were established in America, their assemblies were bicameral as well because there were two things to be constituted; the mother country, by the governor, and the colonists, by their chosen proxies. Although the Continental Congresses and the Congress of the Confederation had been unicameral, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 decided that the new national legislature should consist of two branches, as the English Parliament had done, in order to preserve the identity of the separate states, safeguard the influence of the smaller states, and protect the interests of property.
The British House of Lords, historically known to be for the interest of the wealthy, is comparable to the original purpose of the Senate, as the House of Commoners is comparable to the first intentions of the House of Representatives. It is evident the framers looked to English models of bicameralism to create the United States model while drawing from the original structure of the colonial assemblies. The House and the Senate have Constitutionally different powers, but they are intended to create cohesion and balance powers. For example, the House initiates articles of impeachment (Art.
I, sec. 2), and the Senate tries impeached individuals (Art. I, sec.
3). These established powers were created in order to ensure the balance of powers between the two houses and make sure they each play a part in large decisions impacting the country. Another way the two houses work together is in the way that they collaborate to create laws.
First, a representative promotes a bill. If the bill is released by the committee it is assigned to, it is then put on a calendar to be debated upon or amended (The Legislative Process, 2011). If the bill passes by majority, 218 of 435, the bill moves into the Senate. The bill is once again assigned to a committee, and if it is released, it will be voted on in the Senate. A majority, 51 of 100, will pass the bill from the Senate. A committee made of House and Senate members, displaying the comradery between the two, amend any variance between the House and Senate models of the bill. The new, agreed upon bill returns back to the House and Senate for the ultimate assent. The Government Printing Office prints the modified bill and the President then has 10 days to sign or veto the bill (The Legislative Process, 2011).
Each of these examples displays how the House and Senate work closely to make sure that a bill is aligned with every representative’s views, and hopefully, the citizens of the United States as well. The two houses have vastly different structures and requirements for office, each creating a different atmosphere. There are three qualifications for U.
S. Senator or Representative in Congress in the U.S. Constitution. Representatives in the house must be at least 25, and Senators must be at least 30 years of age. In the house, one must have been a citizen for at least seven years, and for the Senate, one must be a citizen for nine years (Maskell, 2015). For both, the elect must live in the state at the time elected (U.
S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, cl. 2; and Article I, Section 3, cl. 3). The House consists of 435 members, each with 2 year terms, and the Senate consists of 100 members each with 6 year terms. These terms of office and conditions for appointment in each of the branches have a drastic impact on the way they act as a whole and the “personalities” they both exhibit. The House, due to the massive nature of its size and frequent turnover of members, may be considered as impersonal and less intimate.
The short terms combined with the massive size of the body may be grounds for more hostile debate and atmosphere in the chamber, as the members are not as worried with pleasing each other or hurting one another’s feelings. “House members may not recognize their colleagues, and some have staff members assigned as “spotters,” who whisper names into their ears to avoid embarrassment” (House Archives, 2011). The impersonal nature of the House calls for such extreme measures as these spotters. The House meets in the largest parliamentary room in the world, and there are no assigned seats (American Politics). The members sit where they choose, most often next to colleagues they do not even know. This makes for a more impersonal atmosphere, which rolls over into more hostile debates on the floor. If the House were likened to a person, it would be slightly hostile, and reckless when it comes to others feelings.
The small size of the Senate and long, 6 year terms, makes for a more intimate environment and allows for the members to get to know each other well. They have assigned desks, and meet in a smaller chamber which puts them in close contact with each other at all times (American Politics).This close environment may make for more respectful, thought out debates in which senators take the time to respect and listen closely to their colleagues, as opposed to the House, where a loose knit environment calls for a more reckless debate over issues. If the Senate were likened to a person, it would be a respectful and modest person, who cares about the wellbeing of those around them. The bicameral structure of Congress benefits the United States by giving every area of the country a voice in legislature. The varying and diverse structure of each of the houses is what gives the citizens a voice and ensures there will never be tyranny of the majority, just as the framers intended it to be.