President of the Senate / President Pro Tempore (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

President of the Senate / President Pro Tempore

Incerto tempore
Creative Commons License photo credit: gualtiero

President of the Senate: Under the Constitution (Article I, Section 3), the Vice President of the United States presides over the Senate and is allowed to cast a vote in the event of a tie. Although the Constitution names the Vice President the “President of the Senate,” in reality, he rarely presides. The Vice President is most likely to preside over the Senate when a tie vote may occur because the Constitution empowers the Vice President to vote in case of a tie. In the absence of the Vice President, the president pro tempore, or a senator designated by the president pro tempore, presides over the Senate only during very close votes, ceremonial occasions and crucial procedural questions.

President Pro Tempore: Under Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, the chief officer of the Senate in the absence of the vice president. It means literally, but loosely, “the president for a time.” The president “pro tem” is an officer elected by fellow senators to act as the Senate’s presiding officer during the absence of the Vice President of the United States. The most senior Senator of the majority party usually is elected the president pro tempore. In practice, however, various senators of the majority party preside over Senate floor proceedings during the course of a day’s meeting.

Also see § 5.70, Senate Leadership, in Congressional Deskbook; Congressional Leadership; Presiding Officer; and A Note About Usage: ‘Congress’.

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