US Senate

Organization

The Senate is one branch of the United States Congress, which is one of three branches of government.

On 4 March 1789, the Senate convened for the first time at New York City's Federal Hall. On 6 December 1790, Congress began a ten-year residence in Philadelphia. On 17 November 1800, Congress convened in Washington, DC. In 1909, the Senate opened its first permanent office building, which was named in honor of Sen. Richard B. Russell (D-GA) in 1972.

Much of how the Senate is organized is enumerated in the US Constitution:

  • The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 1
  • Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 2
  • 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.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 3
  • The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote unless they be equally divided.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 4
  • The Senate shall chuse 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.
    US Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 5
Next:

The US Constitution enumerates powers held by the Senate. This article examines the power of impeachment, treaty, appointments, war declaration and expulsion of members.

  • The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments . . . And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
    US Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 6
  • [The President] shall have Powers, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur ...
    US Constitution, Article II, section 2, clause 2
  • [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 ...
    US Constitution, Article II, section 2, clause 2
  • The Congress shall have Power: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water...
    US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8
  • Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 5
  • John Hipple Mitchell (R-OR-1905). Mitchell was indicted and convicted of having received fees for expediting the land claims of clients before the U.S. Land Commissioner. An appeal was pending when he died in December 1905. Source: US Senate
  • Joseph R. Burton (R-KS-1906). Burton was convicted in 1904 (and again on appeal in 1906) of illegally receiving compensation for services rendered before a federal department and served five months in prison. He resigned rather than be expelled. Source: US Senate
  • Truman H. Newberry (R-MI-1920). In 1921, Newberry was tried and convicted of election “irregularities”; the conviction was reversed by the Supreme Court, and, following an investigation, the Senate declared Newberry entitled to his seat but expressed disapproval of the sum spent on his election. In the face of a movement to unseat him, Newberry resigned. Source: US Senate
  • Harrison Williams (D-NJ-1982). Williams was one of the congressional targets in the government operation known as ABSCAM. He was convicted of corruption and served 21 months of a three-year prison term. Rather than be expelled, he resigned his Senate seat on 11 March 1982. Source: US Senate

    Since 1789, the Senate has expelled only 15 members; 14 were charged with supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.

    • 1797; William Blount (R-TN). Charge: Anti-Spanish conspiracy; treason. Result: Expelled
    • 1808; John Smith (R-OH). Charge: Disloyalty/Treason Result: Not Expelled
    • 1858; Henry M. Rice (D-MN). Charge: Corruption. Result: Not Expelled.
    • Date: 1861; James M. Mason (D-VA) Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; Robert M.T. Hunter (D-VA). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; Thomas L. Clingman (D-NC). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; Thomas Bragg (D-NC). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; James Chesnut, Jr. (D-SC). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; Alfred O.P. Nicholson (D-TN). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; William K. Sebastian (D-AR). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
      Note: On March 3, 1877, the Senate reversed its decision to expel Sebastian. Because Sebastian had died in 1865, his children were paid an amount equal to his Senate salary between the time of his expulsion and the date of his death.
    • 1861; Charles B. Mitchel (D-AR). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; John Hemphill (D-TX). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; Louis T. Wigfall (D-TX). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1861; John C. Breckinridge (D-KY). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1862; Lazarus W. Powell (D-KY). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Not Expelled
    • 1862; Trusten Polk (D-MO). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1862; Waldo P. Johnson (D-MO). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1862; Jesse D. Bright (D-IN). Charge: Support for Confederate rebellion. Result: Expelled
    • 1862; James F. Simmons (R-RI). Charge: Corruption. Result: Resigned
    • 1873; James W. Patterson (R-NH). Charge: Corruption. Result: Term Expired
    • 1893; William N. Roach (D-ND). Charge: Embezzlement. Result: Not Expelled
    • 1905; John H. Mitchell (R-OR). Charge: Corruption. Result: Not Expelled.
      Note: Mitchell died on December 8, while his case was still on appeal and before the Senate.
    • 1906; Joseph R. Burton (R-KS). Charge: Corruption. Result: Resigned.
      Note: Burton was indicted and convicted of receiving compensation for intervening with a federal agency. When the Supreme Court upheld his conviction, he resigned rather than face expulsion.
    • 1907; Reed Smoot (R-UT). Charge: Mormonism. Result: Not Expelled
    • 1919; Robert M. La Follette (R-WI). Charge: Disloyalty (for giving a speech in 1917 opposing US entry into World War I). Result: Not Expelled
    • 1922; Truman H. Newberry (R-MI). Charge: Election fraud. Result: Resigned
    • 1924; Burton K. Wheeler (D-MT). Charge: Conflict of interest. Result: Not Expelled
    • 1934; John H. Overton (D-LA). Charge: Election fraud. Result: No Senate action
    • 1934; Huey P. Long (D-LA). Charge: Election fraud. Result: No Senate action
    • 1942; William Langer (R-ND). Charge: Corruption. Result: Not Expelled
    • 1982; Harrison A. Williams, Jr. (D-NJ). Charge: Corruption (ABSCAM). Result: Resigned
    • 1995; Robert W. Packwood (R-OR). Charge: Sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Result: Resigned the day after the Committee on Ethics issued its recommendation for expulsion.

      Censure is a less severe form of discipline than expulsion. Since 1789 the Senate has censured only nine members.

      • January 2, 1811.
        Timothy Pickering (F-MA). Charge: Reading confidential documents in open Senate session before an injunction of secrecy was removed.
        Result: Censured. Failed reelection (elected to the House in 1812).
        Vote: 20-7
      • May 10, 1844
        Benjamin Tappan (D-OH)
        Charge: Releasing to the New York Evening Post a copy of President John Tyler's message to the Senate of April 22, 1844 regarding the treaty of annexation between the United States and the Republic of Texas.
        Result: Censured. Did not run for reelection.
        Vote: 38-7
      • February 28, 1902
        Benjamin R. Tillman (D-SC) and John L. McLaurin (D-SC)
        Charge: Fighting in the Senate chamber on February 22, 1902.
        Result: Each was censured and suspended, retroactively, for six days. This incident led to the adoption of Rule XIX governing the conduct of debate in the chamber. Tillman -- reelected; McLaurin -- did not run for reelection.
        Vote: 54-12; 22 not voting
      • November 4, 1929
        Hiram Bingham (R-CT)
        Charge: Employing as a Senate staff member Charles Eyanson, who was simultaneously employed by the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut. Eyanson was hired to assist Bingham on tariff legislation. The issue broadened into the question of the government employing dollar-a-year-men.
        Result: "Condemned" for conduct tending "to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute." Defeated for reelection.
        Vote: 54-22; 18 not voting
      • December 2, 1954
        Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI)
        Charge: Abuse and non-cooperation with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections during a 1952 investigation of his conduct; for abuse of the Select Committee to Study Censure.
        Result: He was "condemned." Died in office.
        Vote: 67-22
      • June 23, 1967
        Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT)
        Charge: Use of his office (1961-1965) to convert campaign funds to his personal benefit. Conduct unbecoming a senator.
        Result: Censured. Defeated for reelection.
        Vote: 92-5
      • October 11, 1979
        Herman E. Talmadge (D-GA)
        Charge: Improper financial conduct (1973-1978), accepting reimbursements of $43,435.83 for official expenses not incurred, and improper reporting of campaign receipts and expenditures.
        Result: His conduct was "denounced" as reprehensible and tending to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. Defeated for reelection.
        Vote: 81-15
      • July 25, 1990
        David F. Durenberger (R-MN)
        Charge: Unethical conduct "in connection with his arrangement with Piranha Press, his failure to report receipt of travel expenses in connection with his Piranha Press and Boston area appearances, his structuring of real estate transactions and receipt of Senate reimbursements in connection with his stays in his Minneapolis condominium, his pattern of prohibited communications respecting the condominium, his repeated acceptance of prohibited gifts of limousine service for personal purposes, and the conversion of a campaign contribution to his personal use."
        Result: "Denounced" for reprehensible conduct, bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. Did not run for reelection.
        Vote: 96-0