Senate Essay, Research Paper
Exploring the Distinction between the House and Senate
In the House and Senate, Ross L. Baker investigates the differences encompassing both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This book reveals an in-depth comparison between the two chambers, providing a through history regarding the differences in size, leadership, and electoral relations.
First, the disparity of size has always been a questionable matter concerning Congress. When our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, many compromises took place in order for most of the Continental Congress to agree with this revolutionary form of government. However, many people were still not pleased. In the first years after the establishment of the bicameral Congress, observers, some from different countries, recorded extensive examinations of the difference between both chambers. Alexis de Tocqueville enjoyed the size of the Senate allowing unlimited discussion and debate. On the other hand, he felt that the rules of the House of Representatives restricted debate.
Baker further explores the reasons why size has an effect on the class distinctions differentiating between both chambers. Since the state legislatures elected the Senate, the government began to regard the Senate as an elitist group. In contrast, due to the fact that the people directly elect the House, the government began to regard the Representatives as common, ordinary people. During this time period, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in favor of the structuring of the Senate. He agreed with senatorial appointment by state legislatures because of the Senator?s willingness to contribute to the government through high-minded thought and eloquent speech. He regarded the Representatives of the House as cloud-minded people filled with trivial thoughts irrelevant to government. He did not believe that the people could adequately select a group of people to represent them directly in government.
Senators experience more privileges because of the difference of size in both chambers. When finding office space, Senators are allowed 4,000 square feet, while Representatives are only allowed 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. Senators also enjoy a staff of about 60-80 employees while Representatives only employ about 20 to 25 people. Senators enjoy a six-year term limit, easing the advancement and security of a congressional career. On the other hand, the House makes it difficult for Representatives to secure a congressional career by only allowing two-year term limit. Representatives must constantly campaign and are not able to be as focussed on political issues as Senators.
Senators enjoy the advantage of certain individual powers that Representatives do not have. Senators enjoy unlimited time of discussion and are allowed to speak as long as desired. Senators can also ask for a recorded vote at any time during debate. With the power to stop debate on a bill single handedly, Senators can request a hold on the bill or using a filibuster. Clotures against filibusters are possible, but rarely succeed in passage. Senators also enjoy the ability to add non-germane amendments to popular bills. These amendments can be previous bills that were revoked or entirely new amendments. By the usage of non-germane amendments directly added on the Senate floor, Senators can completely circumvent the committee system. Because the House has a germaness rule, the job of the committee will not be evaded.
Second, Congressional leadership varies in both chambers; however, both the House and Senate share the responsibilities of committees. Committee membership uncovers a determining factor with whom a Congressman will interact with in a particular setting. Since senatorial committees tend to be smaller, Senators are able to develop personal friendships with other senators establishing contacts that will last for several years. When selecting members for a committee, partisan bias differed immensely between both chambers. In the Senate, committee chairmen tend to choose members by a joint leadership with the ranking minority member. Minority members are active participants. They are also as politically important as any other majority members are. The committee chairman ensures to include the minority out of common courtesy and to prevent any individual opposition that might stop a bill from being heard by the committee. On the other hand, the House operates to guarantee that the minority remains a minority. Both Republican and Democratic leadership chose members based tremendously on particular partisanship. Committee chairman search for members known to stick with their party on all issues, pledging an assurance that whatever bill the committee chairman wants to pass will not have any opposition.
The quality of leadership differs in both the House and Senate. Some of the greatest leaders in the Senate have been the Senators with great oratory skills while in the House; some of the greatest leaders are the Representatives who are able to impressively use the powers of persuasion. Baker mentions that this distinction in leadership was based primarily on the difference in rules. Senators are allowed to speak longer on the Senate floor, having a full audience to hear their speech. However, because of the strict time limitations present in the House, Representatives use recess hours to ensure both partisan and individual support for a bill. Senators are exposed to each other enabling individuals to recognize leadership outside the designated offices. Representatives are unable to effectively seek out leadership located beyond the Speaker and Majority Leader.
Finally, the congressional representation varies greatly within both chambers. In the House, Congressmen represent a district. In districts, interests tend to be narrower, representative of one dominant racial or ethnic group. Because of this assiduously- based philosophy, Congressional districts are about the most secure location for an incumbent. Baker states that ?once he or she is entrenched, establishes name recognition, and raises enough campaign money to deter or defeat challenges, only conspicuous criminality or incredibly bad luck seem capable of dislodging the House incumbent (104).?
Representing a state, in contrast to a district, is entirely different. Senators must constantly be open minded to issues yet still maintain a sense of security in the majority view. Senators must represent both farmers and executives. They must maintain a sense of balance between liberal and conservative views. Senators have a difficult time establishing name recognition within the first years of office. Because of differences in state constituents, Senators must constantly battle for a consistent platform agreeing with the diversity of the state.
Media attention differs between Representatives and Senators. Voters tend to get to know Representatives through face-to-face interaction. Constituents are likely to meet House members at meetings or gatherings. They are able to talk with their Representative and directly involve themselves. In contrast, voter contact with Senators is not very personal. Senators shake hands and are highly visible. However, they are able to directly speak with constituents on issue-based problems. Voters primarily see their Senator during elections when television ads are frequent in a senatorial campaign. Television has its drawback. Baker states that television ads are ?unilateral, impersonal, and establishes no firm bond. Yet senators are compelled to use it (123).?
One weakness of the book is, although it attempts to provide adequate examples to the situations presented by the author, some of the examples tend to be too lengthy and detract from the subject matter. When reading about bipolar districts, Baker recites three examples of different Representatives who experienced basically the same occurrence but in a different district. Instead, he should of only recited one example and give his opinion of the situation. Baker?s greatest flaw is his unwillingness to give his opinion. The introduction leads the reader to believe that Baker will give an attentive description of his observations and interviews. Instead, he only gave brief thoughts cluttered by long-winded examples and quotations.
Generally, Baker?s sense of structure and organization is dynamic. Each individual thought is concise, divided into a separate theme within each chapter. His observations provide a detailed account of life in Congress. I was adequately impressed on the prudent contrast he recited between the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is uncanny to believe that so many differences exist even within the same branch of government. I also agreed with what topics he covered concerning Congress. It?s rare when a book goes into much detail pertaining to lobbying. Baker was able to effectively describe the art of lobbying and how it both directly and indirectly effects Congress.