Looking at the U.S. from Europe it gets the impression that the senators are more influential in policy formation than their House counterparts.

The first explanation that comes to mind is that this more great influence depends on their small number, 100 vs. 435.

Nevertheless, I wonder, is this the only reason? To me, but I can be wrong, the numeric reason seems not enough as an explanation. In fact, thinking about it, one could imagine other reasons, for example, the fact that they are more closely connected to their constituent or the fact that they have a stronger connection with the office of the president.

Can anybody explain the reasons why it seems that senators are more influential than their House counterparts?

  • 5
    Why is the number not enough of an explanation? Doesn't it stand to reason that numbers alone would make an individual senator 4 times as influential as a representative on average? Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 18:15
  • 1
    Why are we accepting the premise that the senate is more influential in policy formation?
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 22:12

2 Answers 2


The numbers are a part of it, only 51 senators can have a huge impact on the nation where 218 representatives are required for similar effect. The senate has control of appointments, treaties, and is the jury in impeachment cases; these are viewed as more powerful abilities than the house possesses. A huge source of power for senators is the ability to filibuster, so a single senator or a small group can bring the legislative process to a standstill, most recently done by Rand Paul. Finally, and most importantly, Senators are elected for 6 years, which gives them a lot more time to not worry about reelection than house members, replacing an elected official is extremely hard in practice and one who gets to stick around longer than every other elected official at the federal level has more weight to throw around.


I think the difference in numbers explains a lot of it, if not all of it.

the fact that they are more closely connected to their constituent

This is backwards. Senators are much less connected to their constituents than house members are, particularly in big states.

Here are some other possible contributing factors:

  • Senators are elected in statewide elections, which means they will most likely have much higher name identification than house members from their states
  • The U.S. senate confirms appointments, and the house does not. This gives senators quite a bit of influence over the makeup of the federal bureaucracy, which is Leviathan very large and powerful.
  • The U.S. senate approves treaties, and the house does not.
  • U.S. Senate rules allow very small numbers of senators to bring the legislative process (in the context of a bill, treaty, appointment, or any other regular duty of the senate) to a halt; most notably, "the filibuster" allows a single senator to stop everything for a limited time. Another example is the convention of allowing a presidential nominee to be put "on hold" if a senator from that nominee's home state objects; this is most commonly used for judicial nominations.
  • Senators have longer terms (6 years) than house members (2 years).
  • 1
    Technically, 7 of the states (AK, DE, MT, ND, SD, VT, WY) also elect their Representatives in statewide elections, due to only having one of them.
    – dan04
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 19:07

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