Last revision 01/19/2021

What are the main functions of the Senate?

The main functions are legislative, budgetary, and the supervision of Government. It also acts as the House of territorial representation. Other relevant functions are related with the authorisation of certain treaties or international agreements, and the appointment of members to other bodies.

What are the stages in the Senate's legislative procedure?

The legislative procedure is the succession of parliamentary acts required for the House to pass a law. The necessary elements are publicity, the possibility of proposing amendments (about the whole or specific sections or wording), contradictory debate and ballot. It is carried out through different bodies: Reporting Body, Commit-tee and Plenary Sitting.

In the Senate, the legislative procedure takes place within a period of two months, which is shortened to twenty calendar days in emergency situations.

Details of the different types of legislative procedures can be found in the "Key issues" section of the "Get to know the Senate" block.

Can I view acts and bills which are currently being discussed or which have already been passed?

The homepage of the website provides direct access to all the information related with acts and bills which are being debated in Parliament as well as acts that have already been passed and published in the Official State Bulletin.

In the section on "Acts being debated", you will find a list of all the legislative bills which have been entered into the Senate and which have not yet been published in the BOE. There is also a link to the webpage of the Congress of Deputies to view any bills presented through this House which are still being debated in their first reading.

The title of the bills provides a link to a page which shows all the documents and official publications associated with the debate, as they have passed through Congress and Senate, as well as details of the sessions and sittings at which they have been debated, including videos of the sessions.

The "acts passed" section shows all the acts that have already been published in the BOE, ordered chronologically starting with the most recent one. There is also a free text search box. By clicking on each of the acts, you can view the complete debate and channelling of the bill, as well as the publication of the act through a link to the webpage of the Official State Bulletin.

What happens with amendments and vetoes approved by the Senate?

The Senate can approve amendments (additions, suppressions or modifications of the text being debated) or vetoes (which imply a rejection of the bill as a whole). Amendments require a simple majority of votes; vetoes require an absolute majority.

Amendments or vetoes approved by the Senate will be sent to the Congress of Deputies to be debated and put to a vote at its Plenary Sitting. Senate amendments are incorporated into the definitive text of the act if the Congress ratifies them by a simple majority. Senate vetoes can be lifted by Congress if so decided by an absolute majority within the following two months or by a simple majority after that period.

What happens if the Senate does not approve amendments or vetoes?

If the Senate does not approve amendments or vetoes, the bill will be passed as an act. It is then passed onto Government for the purposes of its sanction and enactment by the King and subsequent publication in the Official State Bulletin.

What is its budgetary function? How are General State Budgets processed?

The budgetary function entails approving State revenues and spending for a specific year. In addition, it involves the subsequent supervision and control of budget implementation.

It is the exclusive responsibility of the Government to draw up and present the budget, whereas Parliament is responsible for examining, amending and approving the budget. The powers of amendment are subject to strict requirements. If General State Budgets are not approved by the 1st January of each year, the budget from the previous year is deemed to have been carried over.

What does the supervisory and political impetus function entail? Through which procedures is it exercised?

The function of supervision and political impetus involves obtaining information about the Government, subjecting its actions to debate and urging it to focus its policies in a specific direction. In the Senate, the parliamentary initiatives through which this function is articulated are questions, interpellations, motions, motions following an interpellation, debates about memoranda and reports issued by the Government, appearances and investigation and special committees.

The Senate does not participate in votes or motions of no confidence.

What kinds of questions can Senators submit to Government?

Questions are a supervisory initiative which can be used by members to interrogate the Government about matters that fall within their realm of competence. Questions must be submitted in writing to the Speaker of the House. Questions can require a written or an oral response, which shall be given at the Plenary Sitting or at a Committee. Questions are not admitted if they are of exclusive personal interest to the asker or any other individual person, or if they entail a strictly legal query.

How are questions channelled when they require a written response from the Government?

Questions which require a written response from the Government, which can contain more than one question, are channelled entirely via electronic means and are published on the Senate webpage. The Government must send its reply within thirty days of its communication. If the Government does not provide a response within this timescale, the Senator asking the question may request that the question is included in the agenda of the following session of the relevant Committee with regard to the matter, where it will be treated as an oral question.

How are questions channelled when they require an oral answer in the Plenary Sitting? And what about questions which require an oral answer in a Committee meeting?

Questions that require an oral response in a Plenary Sitting must contain the strict formulation of one question only. The inclusion of questions in the agenda is carried out by means of a quota system for each Parliamentary Group. Questions presented can be substituted with others pertaining to matters agreed at the Council of Ministers or matters of particular urgency or topicality. Questions are formulated from the member's seat. Firstly, the member asking the question speaks, formulating the question for response by a member of Government. The member then has a turn to reply, and the member of Government has another turn to formulate a rejoinder. In the Senate, each of the intervening parties has three minutes in total to make use of the two turns described above.

Questions that require an oral answer in a Committee meeting must fulfil the same requirements as oral questions formulated in a Plenary Sitting, although there are no quotas and the times for the respective turns are longer than responses in Plenary Sittings. Only Ministers and Secretaries of State may appear in order to respond to these kinds of questions.

How is an interpellation channelled?

An interpellation is an initiative by virtue of which a member of Parliament raises a question with the Government with a view to dealing with the Cabinet's policy in matters of general interest. Once classified by the Senate Bureau, having consulted the Board of Spokespersons, the inclusion of interpellations in the agenda will be carried out in accordance with a quota system for each Parliamentary Group.

An interpellation is formulated orally by the Senator who authored the initiative or bill, and a response is also provided by a member of Government. If the interpellant is not satisfied with the Government's response, he or she may raise a motion resulting from an interpellation, which will be debated at the next Plenary Sitting.

How is a motion channelled?

A motion is an initiative tied to the function of supervision and political impetus, which is presented so that the Government makes a statement regarding an issue or submits a governmental bill to Parliament, or for the House to deliberate and an-nounce its findings with regard to a non-legislative bill, accompanied by an evaluation of its economic cost. They can be presented for debate at a Plenary Sitting or a Committee. The debate features interventions from the author of the initiative in ad-dition to representatives of the Parliamentary Groups. They are put to a vote.

How is an appearance channelled?

Committees can require, through the Speaker of the House, the presence of members of Government to report on matters within their realm of expertise. This is normally done at the initiative of a Senator or a Parliamentary Group. Appearances can also be requested by the Government itself, and authorised by the Bureau of the Committee. These appearances are regulated by section 66 of the Senate Standing Orders. Similarly, Committees can secure the presence of other authorities and civil servants of the State and the Self-Governing Communities, or other persons, to report on matters within their sphere of competence. The debate features interventions from the author of the initiative in addition to representatives of the Parliamentary Groups.

Which information does the Senate provide about its international and institutional activity?

The homepage provides direct access to the international activity of the Senate, offering information about the different inter-parliamentary assemblies and conferences, and the Friendship Groups created with other countries with which the Senate has a particular history of collaboration.

The calendar of activities also shows any scheduled international trips and visits, as well as institutional activity. Both types of activities will be highlighted in the News area when they are particularly important.

What role is played by the Senate in treaties and international agreements?

The Constitution establishes, through sections 93, 94 and 96.2, the modes through which Parliament can intervene in the conclusion and denouncement of international treaties.

The procedure followed with international treaties follows the same basic stages as governmental and non-governmental bills. They are always presented by the Government, with the Congress and the Senate intervening.

Firstly, treaties that are channelled in accordance with section 93 of the Constitution, those that are attributed to an international organisation and institution, and those derived from the exercising of competences stipulated in the Constitution (for example, treaties to join, expand or reform the European Union) are channelled in accordance with the procedure for organic acts and, therefore, require an absolute majority in Congress to be passed, when voting on the totality of the treaty.

Secondly, a large group of treaties encompassed by section 94.1 of the Constitution also require the prior authorisation of Parliament, but expressed in the form of an act and by a simple majority in each House, with Congress intervening first, then the Senate. This is true of political treaties, military treaties and those which affect the territorial integrity of the State, the fundamental rights and responsibilities established under Heading I of the Constitution, those which imply financial obligations for the Public Tax Authority, or which entail modifying or repealing an act, or which require legislative measures for their execution.

Once authorisation has been granted by the two Houses it is communicated to the Government which, from then on, proceeds to ratify the treaty or agreement.

Finally, for other treaties, not subject to authorisation requirements, the Constitution only requires the Houses to be informed of their conclusion (section 94.2 of the Constitution and 146 of the Senate Standing Orders).

The process for gaining authorisation in the Senate is similar to the legislative procedure, with a few specific characteristics. The most notable feature of treaties processed in accordance with sections 93 and 94.1 is that they are not open to amendments. Only non-ratification proposals can be presented (which are subject to the stipulations outlined for veto proposals, equivalent to the need for an absolute majority for their approval), or ratification postponement or reservation (in this latter case, providing treaties make provision for this possibility or their content admits it). If presented, they are sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee which sends its findings or reasoned proposal to the Plenary Sitting regarding whether authorisation should be granted or not.

In the event that the Senate’s decision regarding authorisation differs from that of the Congress of Deputies, a Mixed Committee must be set up. The text drafted by said Committee will be sent directly to the Plenary Sitting, whose agreement will be communicated to the Government and the Congress of Deputies.

The House, at the proposal of a Parliamentary Group or twenty-five Senators, can request the Constitutional Court to declare whether or not a treaty or agreement subject to its consideration is contrary to the Constitution. Once the request has been agreed, the channelling of the treaty or agreement is suspended until the decision of the Constitutional Court.

What role does the Senate play in appointing members of other bodies?

The Senate is charged with the function of appointing members of other constitutional bodies of State. Proposals for appointments, designation or election of people are regulated by sections 184, 185 and 186 of the Senate Standing Orders. Among other functions, the Senate proposes the designation of four Magistrates in the Constitutional Court, six Members of the General Council of Judiciary Power, and six councillors in the Court of Auditors, four members of the Board of Directors at Cor-poración RTVE and one member of the Advisory Board of the Spanish Data Protection Agency. Also, together with the Congress of Deputies, it appoints the Ombuds-man.

Which are the official publications and where can I find them?

Within the sphere of Parliament, the official publications are the Official Bulletin of Parliament (BOCG), which in turn is divided into three sections (Parliament, Congress of Deputies and the Senate), and the Journal of Sittings.

The Official Bulletin of Parliament - Senate section - is the official publication which reproduces all the texts and documents which must be published in accordance with the Senate Standing Orders, for their due knowledge and adequate parliamentary processing, or when publication is so ordered by the Senate Speaker. Since 1st January 2011, they have been published exclusively in electronic form on the Senate's webpage, and are divided into six sections: legislative bills, motions, authorisa-tion, other parliamentary activities, rules about parliamentary matters, and Senate Administration.

The Journal of Sittings contains the transcriptions of the House Plenary Sittings, sessions of the Permanent Deputation and meetings of Committees which are not classed as secret. It reproduces the interventions of speakers, keeping a record of any incidents and the results of any ballots held.

The official Senate publications are accessible from the homepage of the Senate website in the "Parliamentary Activity" section. They encompass all the House's activities since the Constituent Legislature of 1977. In relation to the Official Bulletin of Parliament, Senate section, the webpage offers the possibility of searching for specific text, or by date using a calendar. You can also ascertain the authenticity of cop-ies using the electronic verification code (CVE). To access the official publications for the Congress of Deputies and the Parliament (also available exclusively in elec-tronic format since 1st August 2012), a link is provided to the webpage of the Congress of Deputies.

It is currently possible to subscribe to official publications, which will be provided electronically, through the email address given by the user, and which may also be downloaded in PDF, XML and EPUB formats.

The official publications of the Senate during the historical period, between 1834 and 1923, can be accessed through the "Archive" section: "The Senate in History".

What kind of work is carried out in the Senate during the months of January, July and August?

Our Constitution of 1978 establishes two ordinary periods of sessions, the first of which is held from September to December and the second from February to June (section 73) although, during the months of January, July and August, the House continues its activity.

Nevertheless, parliamentary activity is often extended during those months, as it has become a usual practice to set up days for holding Extraordinary Plenary Sittings, Committee meetings or for the work of Reporting Bodies.

In addition, the Parliamentary Administration continues to perform the preparatory tasks for the following period of sessions.