What Are the Duties of the U.S. Senate?

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The U.S. Senate proposes and considers new laws, approves or rejects presidential nominations, provides advice and consent on international treaties, and serves as the high court for impeachment trials. Although the U.S. House of Representatives also works on new legislation, only the Senate performs the other three duties.

As part of its legislative duties, the Senate introduces bills and resolutions, or it considers legislation proposed by the House. A Senate committee usually examines and discusses a bill and then accepts or rejects it. The full Senate votes on accepted bills. If the bill is approved by the full Senate and originated in the Senate, the bill is sent to the House for consideration. If the approved bill originated in the House, the bill is sent to the president for his signature or veto.

Other Senate duties are related to its obligation to check and balance other parts of the federal government. Before the president can appoint people to certain positions, including members of the Cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, other federal judges, and ambassadors, the Senate must consent to the appointments. By two-thirds vote, the Senate must also approve treaties that the executive branch makes with foreign governments. Although only the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a government official or charge the official with misconduct, the Senate holds the impeachment trial to determine whether the official is guilty of the charge.