- "There is no civility, only politics."
The Galactic Senate, also referred to as the Republic Senate, Galactic Congress, Republic Congress, or Old Senate (during the time of the New Republic), was the legislative and executive branch of the Galactic Republic that was located on Coruscant. Its primary duties were to mediate any disputes between star systems, worlds and cultures, to regulate trade between systems, to protect and care for citizens in need and to provide mutual defense in face of threats to the Republic.
The Galactic Senate was a place where all the Republic's elected and appointed senators and representatives from the farthest reaches of the galaxy would discuss major problems and come to decisions. The Galactic Constitution invested the Senate with the power to regulate trade, maintain maps of the galaxy's hyperspace routes, and to maintain the Republic's military. It was still a relatively weak body at the end of the Old Sith Wars. Following the Ruusan Reformation, a large amount of power was removed from the Supreme Chancellor and granted to the Senate, which although resulting in greater regional involvement in galactic politics, also resulted in increased gridlock and corruption. One of the privileges a Supreme Chancellor still possessed was his or her ability to call an Extraordinary Session.
Originally the Senate was Planetary and welcomed any planet with a large enough population until the Core was occupied by the early Republic. Then the Republic was politically divided into sectors containing up to 50 inhabited systems, small enough so that they wouldn't expand into separatist empires; the Senate then was apartised by sectorial Senators, representing the planetary Senators.
After the First Alsakan Conflict in 17,000 BBY, the Senate was composed of seated Senators with full rights of address, and unseated Senators, who had to petition for such rights. That made the Senate viable but bred corruption since unseated Senators traded most of their votes.
The Senate's role changed somewhat over the centuries. As of the Old Sith Wars it played a slightly more passive role regarding internal affairs. While recognized as the central government of the Republic and deferred to in matters of galactic policy, the Senate's power over many members was more that of a mediator than a ruling body. Negotiation and coercion were staples of its activities.
Before the start of the Clone Wars, the Senate suffered a shutdown, with corporations controlling it. The majority of the senators around the time of the Invasion of Naboo became corrupt, changing their affiliations based on their own interests. Eventually, through a series of various organizational reforms in response to the Separatist threat, the charismatic Palpatine took control of the Senate. During the Clone Wars, Sate Pestage was in charge of the Senate's executive agenda.
During the time of the Empire, the Galactic Senate was known as the Imperial Senate. However, this Senate was largely powerless, with its members discouraged from disagreeing with the Emperor's wishes. Immediately before the Battle of Yavin, Palpatine officially dissolved the Imperial Senate. It was not until 6.5 ABY that the New Republic restored it, soon after liberating Coruscant twice.
- "Answer: There are a lot of politicians on Coruscant, master. I could spend decades slaughtering them and still not make a dent."
The Senate was led by a Supreme Chancellor, elected by a vote of the Senate from amongst its delegates. He had little real authority over the Senate other than prerogative to call for a special session and could be removed by a vote of no confidence. The Vice Chair, also elected and removed by the Senate, wielded far more power being empowered to open, close and moderate debate on each motion, which allowed him to control agenda within the Senate.
The Galactic Senate was made up of over 2,000 congressmen: governor-delegates (referred to as senators) and representatives, representing sectors, systems, individual planets, or even Corporations or Guilds. Some were elected directly, while others were appointed by a planet's ruler (or even were the planet's ruler). Diplomats, religious figures, local political leaders, and other prominent people could also address the Senate as part of a senatorial delegation. Senators, however, were the only members with voting power, with the Representatives organized into the Galactic Representative Commission, although they could be appointed by their absent Senators as their temporary substitute, and still could have a minor voice in Senate business.
The full Senate convened on a regular basis, although the meetings were unscheduled in advance, and could sometimes even reach up to one hundred full assemblies per year. The order of the day was composed of a series of day-long meetings in committees and subcommittes in formal and informal situations. Most of the negotiation and diplomacy, however, happened behind the scenes, in the ambassadorial offices behind the Senate platforms.
Before the invasion of Naboo, Republic-member worlds could join or become signatories to various federations or groups. Often, smaller worlds would give their voting power over to these Federations in exchange for lucrative trade deals. This allowed various corporations, guilds, federations, and businesses to gain extra power in the Senate.
The Senate was divided into many committees and subcommittees, each to handle various issues of Galactic government and lawmaking. Some of them were:
- Senate Action Subcommittee
- Allocations Committee
- Ethics Committee
- Delegation of 2000
- Finance Committee
- Financial Appropriations Committee
- Judiciary Committee
- Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee
- Internal Activities Committee
- Loyalist Committee
- Security Council
- Senate Committee on Refugees
- Senate Guard Committee
- Senate Interspecies Advisory Committee
- Senate Naval Subcommittee
- Senate Budgetary Committee
- Senate Bureau of Intelligence
- Senate Committee on New World Discovery and Exploration
- Senate Investigative Committee
- Senate Military Oversight Committee
- Senate Security Committee
- Senatorial Council
- Trade Commission
- Trade Council
- Travel and Transport Bureau
In addition to the formal committees, there were informal political factions in the Senate as well. In the years leading up to the Battle of Naboo, there were two main ones: the Core faction and the Rim faction.
During the Clone Wars, the supermajority of the Senate supported Palpatine, allowing him to amend the Galactic Constitution and be granted more emergency powers.
- "I am the Senate!"
The Senate was the legislative and executive power of the Republic (although at various times by the end of the Republic's existence, the Office of the Supreme Chancellor held Legislative, Executive, and Judicial authority). It also had limited judicial authority, presumably for high-profile plaintiffs or cases too controversial for (or tried in) the Supreme Court. Such cases included trying senators for treason (as wished by Vien'sai'Malloc); crimes against civilization (the interrupted trial of Ulic Qel-Droma); and presumably corruption and treason of the Supreme Chancellor (as Anakin Skywalker wished for Palpatine).
- "You have more confidence in the Senate than I do, Luminara. First, they would appoint a panel to study the accusation. Then the panel would produce a report. The report would go to committee. The committee would issue a commentary based on the report. The commentary would be tabled until the Senate could find the time to vote on the report. Recommendations would follow based on the vote—unless it was voted to send the report back to committee for further study ... By that time, Ansion and its allies could have seceded from the Republic, formed their own government, had a civil war, dissolved, and re-formed. One would have to live as long as Master Yoda to see the final outcome."
- ―Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi laments Senatorial procedure to fellow Master Luminara Unduli while on their mission to the secession-threatened planet Ansion.
The following are documents passed by the Galactic Senate or relating to its functioning.
- All Planets Relief Fund
- Amended Proprieties Bill
- Anti-Sith bill
- Archive File 395873X555
- Contemplanys Hermi
- Coruscant Accords
- Coruscant Financial Exchange Establishment Act
- Declaration of a New Order
- Emergency Powers Act
- Enhanced Security and Enforcement Act
- Financial Reform Act
- Galactic Constitution
- Measure 4213.0410
- Medical aid bill (Non-canonical bill)
- Military Creation Act
- Nonsentient Creatures Transportation Act
- Petition of 2000
- Reformation Act
- Reflex Amendment
- Resettlement Acts
- Rights of Sentience
- Sector Governance Decree
- Security Act amendment
- Senate Resolution BR-0371
- Tax Levy Bill
- Yinchorri embargo act
- See also: Senate Hall
Thousands of years before the fall of the Republic, the Senate was housed in a hall building. At some point after the end of the Great Sith War, the Senate was relocated to the more advanced and spacious Senate Building.
The exterior portion of the Senate Building consisted of a large courtyard in front of the structure itself, a huge mushroom-shaped building.
The interior portion was a multiple-story room with thousands of chairs for senators from each world. In the center, the Supreme Chancellor would sit with his or her aides.
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.