Video:Why We Have a House and a Senatewith Robert Longley
There are two chambers in Congress, the House and Senate. Here is a brief guide as to why Congress is split up into a Senate and a House of Representatives.See Transcript
Transcript:Why We Have a House and a Senate
Setup of House and SenateThere are two chambers in Congress, the House and Senate. While it may appear clumsy, the two-chamber or "bicameral" setup of Congress works today exactly the way a majority of the Founding Fathers envisioned in 1787. Clearly expressed in the Constitution is the Founders' belief that power should be shared among all units of government. Dividing Congress into two chambers, with the positive vote of both required to approve legislation, is a natural extension of the Founders' concept of employing "checks and balances" to prevent tyranny.
Different Approaches of House and SenateMajor bills are often debated and voted on by the House in a single day, while the Senate's deliberations on the same bill take weeks. By designing such differences into the House and Senate, the Founders assured that all legislation would be carefully considered, taking both the short and long-term effects into account. The Founders intended that the House be seen as more closely representing the will of the people than the Senate. They provided that members of the House, U.S. Representatives, be elected by and represent limited groups of citizens living in small geographically defined districts within each state. Senators, on the other hand, are elected by and represent all voters of their state. When the House considers a bill, individual members tend to base their votes primarily on how the bill might impact the people of their local district, while Senators tend to consider how the bill would impact the nation as a whole.
Term Limits in House and SenateAll members of the House are up for election every two years. This ensures that members will maintain close personal contact with their local constituents, thus remaining constantly aware of their opinions and needs. Elected for six-year terms, Senators remain somewhat more insulated from the people, thus less likely to be tempted to vote according to the short-term passions of public opinion. By setting the constitutionally-required minimum age for Senators at 30, as opposed to 25 for members of the House, the Founders hoped Senators would be more likely to consider the long-term effects of legislation and practice a more mature, thoughtful and deeply deliberative approach in their deliberations.
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