The Senate is the reflection chamber.
Full bicameral system
For the basic federal legislation, the Chamber of
representatives and the Senate are on an equal footing.
This rule applies to :
When considering matters concerning the monarchy (***), the Chamber of representatives and the Senate convene as United Chambers.
Conflicts of interest
The Senate addresses conflicts of interest.
When a legislative assembly considers that it could be severely prejudiced by a bill or draft law put forward in another legislative assembly, the Senate may be called upon to resolve the dispute through consultation.
Should the Senate fail to resolve the dispute, the case is referred to a consultation committee at government level.
Subdued bicameral system
As regards "ordinary" lawmaking (****), the Senate's authority is limited.
Although the Senators have a right to initiative (= the right to put forward a bill), the draft laws (= of the government) are always presented to the Chamber of representatives.
Immediately after its adoption by the Chamber, the bill is sent to the Senate.
If at least 15 senators, within 15 days, request it (= right to evocation), the bill will be reviewed by the Senate.
Within 60 days the bill can be amended and be sent back to the Chamber.
If the Senate rejects the bill, the text which was sent to the Chamber will be considered not to have been amended.
The Chamber has the final word.
It decides whether or not to accept the amendments which were adopted (= voted) by the Senate.
If the Chamber adds new amendments, the Senate may again review the bill and possibly add new amendments.
Then too, the Chamber has the final word.
Right to control
Although the Senate cannot attach any political sanctions to its actions, it does play a politically significant role.
Members may put written and oral questions to the federal government as well as demands for explanation (= elaborate questions can lead to a debate and the acceptance of a motion).
In order to properly fulfil its mandate, the Senate needs to be appropriately informed by the federal Government.
Furthermore, the Senate has a right to conduct enquiries with the same powers as an examining magistrate.
Lists of candidates for the offices of councillor in the "Court de Cassation" (High Court), member of the Council of State or judge in the Court of Arbitration are presented alternately by the Chamber of representatives and the Senate.
* Court of Arbitration = court which, amongst other things, determines whether the federal authority, a region or a community may be making decisions in conflict with its authority. (to be associated with a Constitutional Court)
** Council of State = court which advises on bills, draft laws and draft decrees to prevent judicial contention and conflicts of authority. The Council of State also judges as High Court in administrative disputes between a citizen and the authority
*** The King takes the constitutional oath before the United Chambers (= all representatives and senators together)
**** "Ordinary" legislation = all legislation, except legislation for which the Chamber of representatives has exclusive authority and except legislation for which the Chamber and the Senate have equal authority (for the Constitution and the basic institutional legislation)
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