The differences between congressmen and senators are often confusing. Oftentimes, the two roles are used interchangeably to represent someone who works and composes the legislature of the United States. However, the roles, influences and powers of congressmen and senators vary.

Congress refers to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. A congressman is any member of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. There are a total of 535 voting congressmen, 435 of which are representatives and 100 which are senators.

To become a senator of the U.S., the potential candidate must be elected by the people of the state. Like any election, the candidate with the most votes wins. Each senator has an office in Washington, D.C., as well as one in the home state.

Senators are members of the legislative branch – their job is to represent the people living in their state. For example, to support a bill which aims to reduce poverty, individuals can contact their state senator. These bills are voted on and passed by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, which are then signed by the president to become law. Each state within the U.S. has two senators representing it, regardless of the size or population of the state.

In accordance with the Constitution, “all legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” The Constitution grants the Senate its own unique power: ratifying treaties, approving presidential appointments and a two-thirds vote of Senate is required before a person is impeached from office.

The differences between congressmen and senators also relates to their level of authority. Congress has an important role in national defense, including the power to declare war, raise and maintain armed forces and create rules for the military.

The Senate and the House of Representatives must approve and ratify legislation before it is executed.

– Jennifer Serrato

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in the Central African RepublicOn July 19, 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme announced that it would donate $11 million, which was contributed by the United States government, in order to help feed approximately 500,000 people in the Central African Republic. The country has experienced many hunger-related problems which makes this donation a positive first step to begin combatting food insecurity in the Central African Republic.

It was reported that the 500,000 people being assisted by the World Food Programme will include displaced people, refugees and students. These groups are considered to be the most disadvantaged groups in the country.

The donation will partly help fund meals in schools in order to help students achieve their educational goals more efficiently and effectively. The relationship between academic success and hunger has been widely studied, and it is often reported that students tend to perform worse in school when they are hungry.

For instance, according to the Global Citizen, it is important that students eat healthy meals in order to succeed, because the brain needs energy to understand information and solve problems. Thus, the World Food Programme’s donation to the Central African Republic will help students focus better on their studies in order to learn the skills that are necessary to thrive as adults.

Furthermore, the Central African Republic has experienced a lot of political instability throughout its history. According to the World Food Programme, “the Central African Republic has the second-to-lowest level of human development in the world.” Many of the people that have been displaced throughout the country have been affected by the violence that has been incited by various rebel groups. Furthermore, there are heightened religious tensions between such groups, which has caused approximately 600,000 people to be displaced.

However, the government of the United States is making an important effort to assist the most disadvantaged groups through the World Food Programme so that food insecurity in the Central African Republic will be addressed and solved. Then, perhaps, other issues can be solved, too.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

How to Remove a U.S. President from Office
The American government provides avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These are the three primary reasons: criminal activity, inability to perform presidential duties and lack of party and public popularity.

Criminal Activity

One way to remove a U.S. president from office is through impeachment and consecutive conviction. This method is intended to be implemented should the president commit a crime. The president has the same rights of due process as any other legal defendant, and therefore must be indicted of an actual crime, which involves violating a law that was passed prior to him committing the crime.

The impeachment process requires agreement between both legislative bodies. The House of Representatives requires a simple majority, more than 50% of the vote, to impeach. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority.

Congress has impeached two presidents in the nation’s history. Congress impeached the 17th president, Andrew Johnson, after he replaced Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton with General Ulysses S. Grant because this violated the Tenure of Office Act.

Congress impeached the 42nd president Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice following Clinton’s testimony of his extramarital affair during a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Congress did not convict Johnson nor Clinton, however, and they remained in office.

Inability to Perform Presidential Duties

Another enumerated power which facilitates the removal of a U.S. president is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment allows the president to voluntarily step aside if he feels he may be physically or emotionally unable to perform presidential duties.

The amendment states the president’s cabinet may transfer the powers of the president to the vice president as determined by a majority vote. If the president challenges this decision, Congress determines whether to restore the president to power. In the absence of a two-thirds vote in both houses, the president returns to power. Congress has never fully implemented this method of removal.

This provision of the 25th Amendment, implemented as a safeguard should the president become unable to fulfill his duties, works as a contingency if the president becomes incapacitated or unable to resign. This provision also applies if the president is captured or kidnapped and unable to act or if concerns arise that the president may not be mentally able to continue his term.

Lack of Party and Public Popularity

Last but not least, the president could be denied a second term in one of two ways: by the president’s own party, should it choose to nominate someone else in the next presidential election, or by voters who contribute to the president’s loss in the next election.

Since World War II, three U.S. presidents have lost the election for their second term: presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

The government provides multiple avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These account for the variety of circumstances which may warrant a removal.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Purchasing votes, or ‘vote buying,’ as it is sometimes referred to, is a popular strategy used in politics. The practice is even found within the United Nations’ General Assembly. There are a number of ways to ‘purchase’ a vote, one of the ways is by providing or withholding foreign aid.

Since 1983, the U.S. Department of State, at the behest of Congress, has prepared an annual report detailing the frequency with which other members states vote with or against the United States on resolutions at the United Nations’ General Assembly. The report, called Voting Practices in the U.N., “includes tables listing the percentages of countries’ votes that coincided with the U.S. position on U.N. Security Council and UNGA resolutions, including consensus and non-consensus votes and votes deemed “important” by the State Department.”

While for the most part, the UNGA resolutions are adopted by consensus (no dissent), a significant portion of the resolutions are adopted with recorded dissent. These non-consensus votes are usually considered substantive matters and are the basis for determining support for a U.S. position.

What the reports have found is that, since 1983, voting coincidence with the U.S. on non-consensus votes has only been greater than 50 percent on two occasions, in 1995 and 2011. The picture is somewhat better for issues that Congress has deemed important, with 58.6 percent support rate in 2013, a marked improvement from 2012’s 35.4 percent.

Where the issue of support for the U.S. at the UNGA becomes sticky is when considering that “every U.N. voting report between 1999 and 2009 listed U.S. foreign assistance disbursements to each nation in addition to its voting coincidence with the U.S.” In other words, Congress wants to keep track of which foreign aid recipients are voting  in support of the U.S.

Between the periods of 2004 to 2013, the reports have found that voting coincidence (favorable votes) on important non-consensus votes was 41 percent. Furthermore, the year after receiving U.S. aid, almost 67 percent of development recipients voted unfavorably in at least half of important non-consensus votes.

What this means exactly is the subject of some debate.

It may seem the U.S. has been doling out foreign aid to the wrong governments and consequently should withhold aid to countries who do not support the U.S. at important non-consensus votes. However, some authors have argued that the U.S. maintains a seemingly negative balance of favorable votes because it is in its long-term interest to do so.

If the U.S. is to maximize its vote purchases at the UNGA, it does not do to selectively withhold development funding to dissenters. This will only further decrease coincidence voting by cementing dissension at the UNGA. Moreover, the U.S. must continue to provide foreign aid to governments who do vote favorably in order to block other powerful states who would also purchase votes to prevent potentially turning a coincidence vote to one of dissension.

In other words, there is no good reason to withhold foreign aid as a stick, but there are two good reasons to use it as a carrot.

Pedram Afshar

Sources: Heritage Foundation, University of Heidelberg
Photo: flickr

The United States government is launching an internal investigation into a December 12 drone strike in Yemen. The drone strike was meant for an al-Qaeda militant, but ended up hitting a wedding party, killing 12 civilians and leaving more injured. A local journalist soon after took images of the strike and turned them over to a human rights organization working in Yemen called Reprieve. That group then turned it over to NBC News, the resulting actions allowed many to say that the U.S. ‘turned a wedding into a funeral.’

The U.S. released a statement acknowledging the attack while also stating that officials are now reviewing what happened. This is one of the few times the U.S. government has mentioned or confirmed that a drone strike is being questioned. A U.S. official, after declining to give any sort of identification, stated that, “Given the claims of civilian causalities, we are reviewing it.”

Some are calling this a ‘wake up call’ that highlights the problems with the U.S. drone campaign. There are even reports that the target of the strike Shawqui Ali Ahmed al Badani, a mid-level militant, ended up escaping the attack. Others on the ground in Yemen said that Badani wasn’t even present at the time. Baraa Shiban, a human rights activist who was in the area at the time, said that he had not heard any reports that Badani was in the area. He explained that, “Badani was from a different region so he would have been a stranger in the region.” He, furthermore, added that he believes that the US acted on incorrect intelligence.

This drone strike has, moreover, garnered a strong reaction against the U.S. within Yemen. To illustrate this, the Yemen parliament passed a resolution that called for an end for all drone strikes in Yemen shortly after the wedding day drone strike. Official numbers provided by the U.S. government claim that they have carried out 59-69 drone strikes in Yemen, resulting in between 287-423 deaths, both civilian and militant. Though more strikes are suspected to have been carried out by the U.S., they have not been officially confirmed.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: NBC, RT
Sources: Reprieve

United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with the Vatican on January 14 for an hour and a half to discuss issues facing the Middle East. Kerry and the Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolinm covered topics that ranged from Israel and Palestinian relations, the Syrian civil war and a possible meeting between Pope Francis and President Barack Obama.

John Kerry is the first Roman Catholic Secretary of State to visit the Vatican since the 1980’s. Kerry stopped by the Vatican on his way from Paris where he was at the Syrian Peace Talks with the UN.

The Pope has been very critical of the United States, debating whether they should invade Syria saying, “Violence and war are never the way to peace.” The current state of Syria was discussed at length, with the Vatican issuing a statement of support of the peace talks. Both men said the talks, ‘covered broad topics’ and were a ‘comprehensive conversation.’

Kerry hinted that there are plans in the works for a meeting between Obama and Pope Francis who have both expressed interest in addressing extreme poverty on a global scale. Pope Francis has further caught the attention of United States conservatives who criticized him for his focus on addressing poverty.

In a statement outlining his vision for the future of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said, “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open, there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor…may we never abandon them.”

Pope Francis has brought positive change with his plan to address global poverty. It is a welcome and refreshing change to have the religious leader proclaim that Catholics should focus more on helping the poor. The pope leads a religion with an estimated 1.2 billion people across the world.

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Christian Today, USA Today, The Washington Post
Photo: Religion News Service

20 Facts About the U.S. Senate
With a long history, there are no shortage of interesting Senate facts. Below are a few of our favorites.

1.    The word “senator” comes from the Latin word for “old man,” “senex.”

2.    The first Senate met in 1789 in New York City. The Senate soon after moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and then to Washington D.C.  ten years later.

3.    Out of 100 Senate seats, there are just 17 female Senators.  The first female Senator was Rebecca Felton, a Democrat from Georgia in 1922.

4.    U.S. Senators serve six year terms with no term limits.

5.    The first Senators elected were Robert Morris and William Maclay from Pennsylvania in 1788.

6.    The longest-serving Senator was Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia who, in 2009, served for 56 years.

7.    The first black Senator was Hiram Rhodes Revels in 1870,  representing Mississippi after the Reconstruction.

8.    The longest speech was Strom Thurmond’s 1957 filibuster against the Civil Rights Act. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

9.    Thurmond was also the oldest Senator, retiring at 100 in 2002.

10.  The first son and father team to serve in the Senate was Henry Dodge and Augustus Dodge in 1857 to 1866.

11.   The first radio broadcast from the Senate chambers occurred on March 4, 1929.

12.   C-Span began Senate coverage in 1986.

13.   Tammy Baldwin is the first openly lesbian Senator. She was elected in 2012 and represents Wisconsin.

14.   The first former president to be elected Senator was Andrew Johnson in 1875.

15.   Senator James Shields represented Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri in the late 1800’s.  He is the only Senator to represent three states in his career.

16.   The first woman elected to chair a Senate committee was Hattie Caraway of the Committee on Enrolled Bills in 1933.

17.   There have only been nine Hispanic and Latino American Senators.

18.   There have only been nine African-American Senators, with just three currently in office.

19.   Senators receive a yearly salary of around $165,000.

20.  The youngest senator to serve was John H. Easton of Tennessee, who was 28.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: U.S. Senate, Feinstein for U.S. Senate, Info Please, Cardin for Senate, News One
Photo: Vintage 3D