We’re switching our Monday and Wednesday posts this week, so, without further ado, let’s learn more about our Constitution!
This week’s Constitution post is on Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution, which addresses the Senate and the election of senators. Below is the text of Article 1, Section 3. The bracketed portions were modified by the Seventeenth Amendment which was ratified April 8, 1913. The text reads as follows:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, [chosen by the legislature thereof] for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one-third may be chosen every second Year; [and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.]
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
Judgement in cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.”
There are a total of one hundred senators, two from each state. Instead of being chosen by the legislature, senators are now elected by the people (for more information on term limits and the consequences of the Seventeenth Amendment, see Savannah’s post from a couple weeks ago here). Senators may serve for an unlimited number of six-year terms, and each senator has one vote.
One-third of the senators are elected every two years. If a senator leaves office or dies before the end of their term, the Seventeenth Amendment makes provision for the governor of the state which the senator was from to set a time for an election to replace that senator. The Seventeenth Amendment also provides for the governor, with the permission of the state legislature, to appoint a senator to temporarily fill the vacant seat until the time at which a new senator is elected.
The person who wants to be a senator must be thirty years of age or older and have been a citizen of the United States for at least nine years. A senator must also live in the state which he will represent.
The Vice President is president of the Senate, but only votes if the Senate is equally divided on an issue and needs a tiebreaker.
The Senate chooses officers such as a chaplain, secretary of the Senate, and Sergeant at Arms (also known as the Doorkeeper of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms is the highest ranking Federal Law Enforcement Officer in the Senate). The Senate also chooses a president pro tempore (president for a time), in case the Vice President is unavailable or has become President of the United States.
The House of Representatives is responsible for bringing all charges of impeachment, but it is the Senate that is in charge of the trial for impeachment. In the case of impeachment of the president, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides over the impeachment trial instead of the Vice President which would preside in all other impeachments. A two-thirds majority is required in order to convict.
The Senate cannot punish any further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any other civil office. However, the person who is impeached is still liable to undergo trial and punishment in the courts for civil and criminal charges.
I hope that this gives you a better understanding of this section of the Constitution. It’s so important that we read and understand our founding documents, and I would encourage you to read and study them yourself!