Why Is the Senate Called the Upper House?

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The Senate is sometimes referred to as the upper house, upper body or upper chamber because the Senate chamber was located above the House in the building where Congress first met in New York City. In contrast to the Senate, the House of Representatives is sometimes called the lower body. The two chambers form the body of Congress, and each has different roles granted through the Constitution.

The United States Senate has the same fundamental design as other bicameral legislative bodies around the world. The two chambers signify the division of governmental power into separate but equal subdivisions. These divisions carry out different roles in governmental processes, but are equally important in maintaining a proper balance of power. This arrangement prevents one branch from assuming too much power over the other.

The Senate, under presidential systems of government, has the duty to carry out specific tasks as assigned under the Constitution. However, it can also assume responsibility for carrying out duties not specifically granted to the House of Representatives when there is a lack of clarity between the roles of the two chambers. Typical powers granted to the Senate include the ability to advise on the appointment of certain officials, such as judges and ambassadors, and the ability to impeach officials, including the president, for misconduct.