The Journal of Politics


Is the Senate More Liberal Than the House?

Sam Kernell

Conventional wisdom holds that the Senate is more liberal than the House. The intuitive reasonableness of this proposition rests in part on the public images of the two chambers. The Senate's smaller size, permissive floor privileges, and the generally higher status of its members have made it and not the House the forum where the issues of the day are debated and communicated to the nation at large. Taking advantage of these perquisites, presidentially-aspiring senators advance themselves before the national electorate by identifying new—and advancing innovative solutions to old—problems. It is in the Senate where many new ideas and proposals are first introduced and advertised along with their sponsors. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield has recognized and paid tribute to this special function:

Senators individually have every right to comment on whatever they wish to do so on the floor of the Senate. Highly significant initiatives on all manner of public affairs have had their genesis in the remarks of individual Senators on the floor.

Sam Kernell, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, will join the political science faculty at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1973.