What Does the Senate Do?

The U.S. Senate passes and votes on legislation, approves international agreements from the executive branch, confirms presidential appointees and conducts hearings against government officials suspected of wrongdoing. A senator must also interact with constituents.

The Constitution grants the U.S. Senate its powers and responsibilities. The Senate shares many responsibilities with the lower chamber. It passes laws and regulations regarding interstate and foreign commerce, requests loans, regulates monetary policy, accumulates and disperses revenues and passes bills regarding military actions and war. The Senate holds votes on budgetary legislation, which must originate in the House of Representatives. Senators debate bills and policy issues on the floor and in committee.

The Senate operates on a committee system. As of 2014, it has 20 standing committees and almost 70 subcommittees. If the Senate and House pass different versions of the same bill, then Senate leadership nominates members for a joint committee. Members of standing committees vote on the presentation of specific legislation to the full Senate. Subcommittees vote on legislation or measures before they reach the full committee, to reduce the thousands of bills filed in each term.

The Senate acts as another check for the executive branch and for the House. The Vice President casts a vote in the event of a tie.