EL Civics for ESL Students

U.S. Senate Lesson

EL Civics, History, and Government
President Barack Obama Shaking Hands with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

110th U.S. Senate - Inside Senate Chambers

U.S. Capitol Building - Senate Wing


1. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution: 1) each senator must be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they seek to represent.

2. Senators make $174,000 per year (2009). They have the exact same health and retirement benefits as other federal employees.

3. The Senate may expel a senator with a 2/3 vote.

4. The District of Columbia and all other U.S. Territories do not have representation in either House of Congress.

5. Senators are elected in staggered terms. Approximately one-third of the senate seats are up for election every other year. This prevents states from having two senate vacancies at once.

  • The U.S. Congress is divided into two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • Each state has two U.S. Senators. The senator that has served the longest is the Senior Senator and the other senator is the Junior Senator.
  • Senators are elected for six-year terms and they represent all the people of their state.
  • The senate meets in the north wing of the capitol building.
  • The capitol is located in Washington, D.C.
  • Congress was divided into two parts to allow smaller states to have more equal influence and at the same time allow more populated states to be well represented.
  • Congress is the legislative branch of the U.S. government. It makes federal laws.
  • The powers of the Senate are found in the U.S. Constitution.
  • Powers of the Senate include: consenting to treaties, confirming appointments such as Supreme Court Justices, and holding impeachment trials of federal officials.
  • Bills may be introduced in either House of Congress; however, tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives.
  • The Senate cannot propose tax bills.
  • Both Houses of Congress must approve a bill before it can become law.
  • If there is a tie in the Senate, the U.S. Vice President can vote to break the tie. The current Vice President is Joe Biden.
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