Pre-University (CIE) Comparative Government: Specimen Questions with Answers 29 - 29 of 53

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Question 29


Describe in Detail


The American Senate has become the most remarkable invention of modern politics. Explain.


The American Senate is the most powerful second chamber in the world. The framers of the American Constitution gave it not only to coordinate authority in the legislative, executive, and financial matters but conferred upon it certain special powers which are not enjoyed by any second chamber of the world.

The Senate as a Legislative Body

  • Coordinate Powers: as a legislative body, the senate is “a coordinate and not a subordinate branch of the American Congress” . It has got co-equal powers with the House of Representatives. An ordinary bill may originate in either of the two Houses and will not become a law unless passed by both of them. No bill originating in the House of Representatives and passed by it, can become a law without the concurrence of the Senate. In case of disagreement between the two Houses, a Conference Committee consisting of three representatives of each House is appointed with a view to working out a compromise.
  • Control over Purse: in regard to money bills, the Constitution does confer upon the House of Representatives the exclusive privilege of originating these bills, but the Senate has been given the power to propose amendments to these bills and its approval is necessary for their enactment. The Senate has made full use of its power to amend the money bills even going to the extent of making them entirely new bills. Thus on one occasion, the Senate changed all the effective clauses of a tariff bill and returned it to the House of Representatives “as amended” .
  • Power to amend the Constitution: the Senate and the House have co-equal powers for effecting amendment in the Constitution. Proposals for amendments are to be made by a two-third majority of both the chambers.

The Special Powers of the Senate

In addition to the above legislative powers, the Senate has been given some special powers which are not enjoyed by any other second chamber in the world. The special powers of the Senate may be described as follows:

  • Confirmation of Appointments: Clause 2 of Section 2 of Article 11 reads: “… The (President) shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.”
  • The Approval of Treaties: The Constitution requires the Treaties concluded by the President to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. No treaty will take effect until so approved. The President negotiates the terms of the treaty and after the terms have been concluded, it is referred to the Senate which sends it to the Foreign Affairs Committee. To avoid the risk of the treaty being rejected by the Senate, the President keeps himself in touch with the leaders of the Senate, and especially with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. All the treaties, military or otherwise, need approval by the Senate. So in America there can be no such thing as “Secret treaty” . From the viewpoint of diplomacy, America may be in a disadvantageous position because the requirement that treaties must go before the Senate, has occasionally prevented the President from making a good bargain.
  • To Appoint Investigation Committees: The Senate is empowered to appoint Investigation Committees to probe into the working of the Government departments. Such Committees which were originally meant for collection of data, have proved to be mortal terrors for the departments.
  • The Power to try Impeachments: The Constitution makes the Senate the sole court to try all impeachments. Impeachment is of English origin. Impeachment in America can be made against the President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The impeachment charges are framed by the House of Representatives and after a process these are then transmitted to the Senate which has no option but to hear these charges by sitting as a court. In the impeachment proceeding, the rules of evidence are observed. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required for conviction. The punishment which the Senate can impose is removal from office and disqualification from holding a civil office ever again under the national Government. There is no appeal or pardon from a penalty by impeachment.
  • Declaring of War: Though the President is Commander-in-Chief yet he cannot declare war himself. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have co-equal powers for declaring of war. This again serves as a check on the powers of the President.

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