A bicameral legislature is a type of parliament in which legislative power is shared by two chambers. In the USA, these chambers include the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate is considerably smaller in size and comprises two senators from each state. In the House of Representatives, the number of representatives is proportional to population. As a result, more densely populated states have more representatives in this chamber (Heitshusen 5). Both houses are fundamentally equal in their functions and legislative roles and maintain the power balance through collaboration.
The occurrence of the U.S. bicameralism is associated with its historical development. Firstly, The USA is known to have been one of the British colonies during the 19-18th centuries. During this time, England achieved economic and military prosperity and was frequently regarded as a role model for other countries. For this reason, although the colonial America had rebelled against the British governance, they still borrowed the idea of bicameralism and ultimately created a governmental system which was similar to that of Great Britain and implied the division of legislative power (Drexhage 7).
Secondly, the U.S. legislature is rooted back to the period, when the Constitution was in the developmental stage and the government ultimately opted for bicameralism to compromise on an issue of power distribution. At that time, some officials voted for a parliament in which all the states would have equal rights, regardless of the population size. Others expected that the participating states would be proportionally represented, regarding the population size of each state. The agreement seemed to be reachable only if two chambers were composed differently. The U.S. Congress was the first example of bicameralism that was not designed to represent different social classes or estates. Instead, it was a system based on the territory division.
The working principles of the Senate and the House of Representatives were developed in the result of the contradiction between the Virginia and New Jersey Plans. The Virginia Plan proclaimed that representatives had to be elected with respect to population size, meaning that the more populous the state was, the greater impact it had on legislative issues. On the contrary, the New Jersey Plan insisted on an equal number of representatives per each state. These two models widely affected further development of the U.S. chambers. The Senate was considered the “Upper Chamber” whereas the House of Representatives was referred as a “Lower House”. It means that while the House of Representatives promotes the interest of the U.S. citizens, the Senate acts for the state in general.
The Senate comprise 100 representatives that serve a 6-year term and the number of terms for them is unlimited. For election purpose, the Senate is further divided into three classes, one of which stands for election two years. Such structure ensures that the Congress always has a certain number of well-experienced representatives. In the Senate, the vacancies are filled through appointment by the state governor whereas the Vice President holds a position of the Senate President. Although the Senate shares legislative power with the House of Representatives, it has a unique authority to itself. Hence, the Senate is obliged to confirm the appointment of a president to the U.S. Supreme Courts, federal courts, and key officials within the Executive branch prior to allowing an appointee to take office. The Senate is also responsible for approving or rejecting the international treaties which have been negotiated by the U.S. President. If an impeachment takes place, the Senate is empowered to conduct the trial and perform as a jury (Stern 12).
The House of Representatives consists of 435 members that have been appointed in respect to the population of each state. All of them serve 2-year terms with an unlimited number of terms. Every member of the House of Representatives stands for election every two years and is elected in regard to a Congressional District. In the House of Representatives, vacancies can be filled only through special or general elections. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected by the members as a leader of the whole chamber and a representative of the majority party. The House of Representatives also has the number of unique responsibilities, including the power of laying a charge of impeachment against the Supreme Court and the President, the development of the bill for increasing revenues, and the selection of the President if any of the candidates receives the majority of the votes (Stern 13).
Each of the chambers has its own requirements to the applicants` characteristics and qualifications. Hence, the minimum age requirement for a position of a U.S. senator is 30 years. Older representatives are accepted as the U.S. government is convinced that the older the candidates are, the greater life and career experience they have. The applicant to the Senate must be a citizen of the USA for nine years before submitting an application. The U.S. candidates must inhabit the states in which they are elected (Maskell 10). The requirements of the House of Representatives differ from that of the Senate. For instance, the applicants to the U.S. House of Representatives must attain the age of 25. They must be citizens of the USA for at least seven years. Finally, they must be the residents of those states that they have been elected to represent (Maskell 11).
In closing, it is necessary to say that the historical development of the USA has affected its governmental system and created the government in which the power is equally distributed among the representatives. All the components of the U.S. governmental structure are mutually dependent, thus preventing corruption and abuse of authority and contributing to the prosperity of the country.
- Drexhage, Betty. Bicameral Legislatures: An International Comparison. Amsterdam: Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, 2015. Print.
- Heitshusen, Valerie. “Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress,” Congressional Research Service. Print.
- Maskell, Jack. “Qualifications of Members of Congress,” Congressional Research Service, 2015. Print.
- Stern, Jason. How the United States is Governed, Herndon: Braddock Communications, 2003. Print.