In the Republic of Paraguay, the Legislative Power is exercised by the National Congress made up of two Chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators.
The Chamber of Senators or Upper House, is made up of at least 45 regular members and 30 substitutes who are directly elected by the people, from a single electoral constituency that covers the entire national territory (Art. 233, CN.).
The Chamber of Deputies or Lower House, is made up of 80 regular members and an equal number of substitutes, directly elected by the people in departmental colleges.
Each department will elect its deputies according to the number of seats assigned by the Superior Court of Electoral Justice. The allocation is proportional to the number of voters that exist in each department.
The legislators of both chambers can be elected indefinitely.
The National Congress, as a legislative and control body of government acts, must fulfill its main task, which is to legislate, representing the interests of its claimants, that is, of the citizenry as a whole.
Another of the essential functions of Parliament is that of comptroller. To this end, the National Constitution grants the National Congress various powers, such as the possibility of investigating, requesting reports and carrying out field work.
Period of Sessions
The legislative chambers meet -independently- in session or plenary, whose period extends from July 1 of each year until June 30 of the following year, with a parliamentary recess that goes from December 21 to March 1 of each year. . If necessary, the Chambers may extend the ordinary sessions until the issues in question have been exhausted, or call themselves extraordinary sessions to deal with certain issues.
Order of the day
Article 41 of the regulations of the Upper House establishes that the President of the Upper House "must determine the matters that will form the Agenda of each session." However, for years, it has been a common practice for the head of the Senate to determine the issues to be discussed with the participation of the members of the Board of Directors and the caucus leaders.
For a session to be legally valid, the number of attendees must be: half plus one of the members that make up each Chamber. With fewer legislators present, the House is unable to meet. Life senators do not make up the quorum.
According to the nature of the subject to be dealt with, the legislative regulations establish the following modalities:
- Simple majority: half plus one of the members present. (The final figure will depend on the number of attendees)
- Two-thirds majority: Two-thirds of the members present. (The final figure will depend on the number of attendees)
- Absolute majority: the legal quorum. (23 senators/ 41 deputies)
- Absolute majority of two thirds: two thirds of the total number of members of each Chamber. (30 senators/53 deputies)
Powers of the Chamber of Senators
Among the powers that the National Constitution (ART. 224) grants to the Chamber of Senators are:
- Trial the accused by the Chamber of Deputies (Political Trial) (Art. 225, CN).
- Analyze and evaluate bills related to the approval of treaties and international agreements.
- Provide agreement for military and police promotions; for the appointment of ambassadors and plenipotentiary ministers abroad.
- Appoint or propose Magistrates and officials in accordance with the provisions of the Paraguayan Magna Carta.
- Authorize the sending of permanent Paraguayan military forces abroad, as well as the entry of foreign military troops into the country.
- Provide agreement for the appointment of the President and directors of the Central Bank of the State as well as the Paraguayan directors of the binational entities.
- Authorize the President of the Nation to declare a State of Exception.
For the correct fulfillment of the task of dictating the laws that will govern the life of an entire people, the National Constitution, in its Article 191, confers immunities and they were to all legislators. The text establishes that "no member of Congress can be prosecuted for the opinions that they express in the performance of their functions...”
Upper House authorities
The Upper House is governed by a Board of Directors composed of a President, a 1st Vice President and a 2nd Vice President and three parliamentary secretaries. This board is assisted by the Secretary General, and the Secretary, who are not legislators. They have administrative and coordination functions, and are elected by the Chamber.
The Board of Directors is in charge of conducting the sessions and attending the legislative work, in addition to generating acts tending to maintain the operation of the Senate. Its members are appointed annually, at the beginning of the session period.
The President of the Chamber of Senators is also the holder of the Legislative Power. In case of absence or vacancy, he is called to succeed the President of the Republic in the second term, if it happens that the natural successor, the Vice President of the Nation, has died, resigned or is unable to hold office.
Banks or political blocs
Different groups are formed in both Chambers that bring together legislators by party, affinities and common interests. The main objective of these blocs is to maintain coherent political criteria and strategies in the face of the various problems and initiatives that arise. Each block appoints a leader and a vice leader.
Composition and function of the Commissions
In order to establish a specialization that results in the benefit of a better knowledge of the issues that will be analyzed in the parliamentary sessions, each Chamber has Permanent Advisory Commissions that are empowered to study and rule on the projects submitted for their consideration.
The effectiveness of legislative work depends largely on the proper functioning of these commissions, since it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the projects to be dealt with in depth in one session. However, as an exception, a session may be constituted in full, as a commission, if there are reasons that justify the urgency or need to deal with an issue. In practice, the projects go to the respective commissions.
The Permanent Advisory Commissions are constituted at the beginning of each parliamentary period, and their members, to produce opinions, are empowered to request reports and opinions from people and public or private entities. Article 186 of the National Constitution establishes that “all the commissions will be integrated as far as possible, in accordance with the benches represented in the Chambers”. The National Constitution confers freedom to the Congress for the creation of these instances.
Commissions can be created -Permanent, Special, Bicameral and/or National, for which a decision must be mediated by the Senate - in the case of the unicameral- and of both Houses - in the case of the bicameral. Once appointed, its members must elect a president, a vice president and a secretary.
The validity of the Permanent Commissions will last from their constitution until the first renewal of the body; that of the Specials until the matter submitted for its consideration has a final resolution of the Chamber and if it had a term to produce an opinion, the fulfillment of said term supposes the expiration of the same.
Role of Senators in Commissions
The senators who make up the commissions are a kind of link between the Legislative Power and the extra-parliamentary reality. Their work is broad: they collect information, listen to opinions and ask for advice to learn about public opinion and the interests of the community. It is within the commission, where the interests of the different social sectors are generally expressed, and it is also a space where citizens go to file complaints or request support for certain bills.
Matters may be referred to one or more committees for study, given the breadth of the topic to be considered.
The members of the commissions can propose modifications to the projects submitted to their study, and the modifications accepted for the commission's opinion that can be: unanimous, in majority or in minority.
The majority opinion would have to have the greatest weight when presented to the plenary. But this is not always the case, because on occasion, the minority opinion may be the most well-founded, the most consistent with the law, the most convenient for the interests of the nation, or the one that achieves the most support in the plenary session of the Chamber.