- "There is no civility, only politics."
- ―Sheev Palpatine
The Galactic Senate, also referred to as the Galactic Congress, the Congress of the Republic, or the Republic Senate, was the governing body of the Galactic Republic. It consisted of hundreds of senators who represented the many worlds of the galaxy, and was led by a Supreme Chancellor that was elected by and from the representatives. Its primary concern was mediating disputes between varying worlds and dictating the laws and regulations necessary to maintain the Republic.
During the reign of the Galactic Empire, the Galactic Senate was transformed into a ceremonial legislative assembly known as the Imperial Senate. However, this Senate was largely powerless, with its members discouraged from disagreeing with the policies of Emperor Sheev Palpatine. Immediately before the Battle of Yavin, Palpatine officially dissolved the Imperial Senate.
After their victory at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance was reorganized into the New Republic. One of the Republic's first acts was restoring the Republic Senate, which was done so on the New Republic's first capital world, Chandrila. As the capital of the Republic rotated among its member worlds, so did the new Senate.
Reign of the Senate
- "The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good."
- ―Sheev Palpatine
During the early years of the Galactic Republic, the Senate would come to serve as the democratic means of solving disputes within the new government as detailed in the Galactic Constitution, and would sit in the Senate Rotunda on Coruscant, located in the Senate District on the capital world of the Republic. The Senate and the Supreme Chancellor were protected by the blue-robed Senate Guards who stood watch and blended in well with the formal surroundings. They served as a symbol of order in the early Republic owing to its absence of a formal standing army. The guards could also be found at the entrances to many of the delegate platforms and at the entrances to the Senate Rotunda itself.
Rise of Palpatine
- "It's a clear desa Separatists made a pact wesa desa Federation du Trade. Senators, dellow felagates. In response to this direct threat to the Republic, mesa propose that the Senate give immediately emergency powers to the Supreme Chancellor."
- ―Jar Jar Binks
As the Separatist Crisis escalated to open war, the Senate approved of Junior Representative Jar Jar Binks' motion to grant emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine. The chancellor publicly vowed to relinquish his wartime authority once the crisis was resolved, but the Sith Lord Darth Tyranus warned the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi that the Senate had fallen under the influence of a Dark Lord of the Sith. Grand Master Yoda disregarded Tyranus' warning as an attempt to confuse the Jedi. As the war progressed, Palpatine's emergency powers eroded the Senate's authority, while amendments to the Galactic Constitution prompted questions even from the chancellor's own Loyalist Committee.
- "So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause."
- ―Padmé Amidala
In the waning days of the Clone Wars, Jedi Master Mace Windu confronted Chancellor Palpatine along with other members of the Jedi High Council; having discovered Palpatine's true identity as Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, Windu declared his intention to arrest the Supreme Chancellor in the Galactic Senate's name. Though Windu decided to allow the Senate to determine Sidious' fate, he reconsidered his decision after the Sith Lord fought back, killing the other Jedi before being disarmed by Windu. He also concluded that neither the Senate nor the Republic courts would side with the Jedi against the chancellor, who effectively controlled the government at this point in the war.
After Windu's death and the execution of Order 66, the Senate convened an emergency session by order of the Supreme Chancellor. With his self-inflicted facial scarring, the result of his own Force lightning attack, Sidious portrayed himself as the victim of an assassination attempt by the Jedi Order, whose members were declared instigators of rebellion and enemies of the state subject to summary execution. With the Confederacy of Independent Systems neutralized and the Great Jedi Purge under way, Sidious proclaimed the birth of a New Order, the First Galactic Empire, ruled by himself as Galactic Emperor. The new Imperial Senate broke out into applause, cheering the end of the Galactic Republic to the dismay of Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan and Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo.
- "Need I remind the honorable members that Palpatine maintained the illusion of the Imperial Senate for nearly twenty years after the Old Republic's fall? A tyrant can make anything seem to be 'the will of the people.'"
- ―Leia Organa
The Galactic Senate was preserved, becoming known as the Imperial Senate, but its existence was largely ceremonial. Stripped of much its power, the Senate only grew weaker under the Empire, which enforced its power largely through a system of Regional Governors. When the DS-1 Death Star Mobile Battle Station was deemed fully operational, the Emperor announced the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, bringing an end to the final remnant of the Old Republic. The Death Star's destruction at the Battle of Yavin frustrated Sidious' plans; he had tolerated the Senate's continued existence as a necessity for maintaining order, and only disbanded the legislature due to his confidence in a planet-killer. With neither a Senate nor a Death Star, he found his Empire skirting the edges of chaos and disaster.
The Galactic Senate was led by a democratically elected Supreme Chancellor that held the ability to call for special sessions of congress, but could just as easily be removed as voted into office through a Vote of No Confidence from the various senators that served under them. Supporting the High Chancellor was the Vice Chair, who would help set the agenda for the senate and call for votes on varying pieces of legislation. Hundreds of senators would represent varying worlds, sectors or trade groups from across the galaxy, while Junior Representatives could voice the opinions of a minority population or political party of an already represented planet. Despite this position, the Representative could not actively vote on or introduce new legislation, but could perform these duties if the instated senator was on a leave of absence or otherwise unavailable. Members of varying corporations, guilds, federations, and businesses received representation in the Senate, with members of the Trade Federation and others exploiting this position for monetary gain, and causing dissatisfied systems to view the Senate as corrupt.
The Galactic Senate Chamber located in the Senate Building would serve as the meeting hall for the Galactic Senate, and would be lined with one thousand and twenty-four repulsorpods which could detach from their positions along the wall and float into the center of the chamber. Despite being the stage for which galactic debate would ensue, most work was done behind the scenes in formal and informal subcommittees in the Senate Office Building, which contained the offices of varying senators and the Chancellor's office at the top. Under the Supreme Chancellor existed the Office of the Chancellor which would consist of his immediate staff.
The Senate was divided into numerous committees and subcommittees, each to handle various issues of Galactic government and lawmaking. Some of them were:
- Antislavery committee
- Committee for transportation of construction materials
- Core Worlds educational reform committee
- Delegation of 2,000
- Loyalist Committee
- Military Oversight Committee
- "I am the Senate!"
- ―Sheev Palpatine
The Galactic Senate would serve as the primary legislative body of the Galactic Republic. It was responsible for creating laws, mediating disputes, making treaties, and regulating commerce. It possessed the authority to levy taxes, declare war, declare Free Trade Zones and manage almost every action necessary to preserve the stability of the Republic. Despite its vast authority, it did not prosecute offenders, leaving the judicial system in the hands of the Supreme Court and peacekeeping efforts largely in the hands of the Judicial Department. The Senate could not order the Jedi Order into action, but could often pressure it into carrying out its directives.
The following are documents passed by the Galactic Senate or relating to its functioning:
- Galactic Constitution
- Military Creation Act
- Mandalore Defense Resolution
- Republic financial reform bill
- Republic military enhancement bill
- Petition of 2,000
The exterior of the Senate building consisted of a large courtyard known as the Senate Plaza which displayed several statues of the Republic's ancient founders. The interior held the Galactic Senate Chamber which could hold one thousand and twenty-four repulsorpods that detached from the chamber wall, and were equipped with voice-amplifying microphones, translators, and hovercams that recorded the various proceedings. At the center of the chamber was a podium where the Supreme Chancellor and the Vice Chair would preside over meetings of the Senate.
Behind the scenes
In background material composed by George Lucas in 1977 for licensees of the Expanded Universe, the "Republican Senate" represented a total of 24,372 systems and elected a Chancellor to a four year term. There was a term limit of one term. During a crisis, a Chancellor extended his term to 12 years and finally declared himself Emperor, first by rhetorically attacking the bureaucracy and then by aligning himself with it. The Jedi sided with the Senate after it attempted to impeach him. This story appears to be the germ of much of the events of the Prequel trilogy.
- William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga