What is the Difference Between the House and the Senate?

Members of Congress mingle on the house floor. Editorial credit: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com
Members of Congress mingle on the house floor. Editorial credit: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

The United States Congress is the bicameral parliament of the United States federal government. It is made up of two chambers; the House and the Senate. These two bodies differ in their constitutional requirements, the number of members and their power, and more.

United States Congress

The United States Congress holds its meetings in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., the US capital. The representatives and senators are appointed through direct election although a vacancy in the Senate can be filled by gubernatorial appointment. The history of the House dates back to the Virginia Plan which was envisioned by Edmund Randolph. The Virginia plan proposed the idea of a bicameral legislature and the creation of the House to represent the Americans. James Madison drafted the plan while waiting for a quorum at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

Major Differences Between the Senate and the House

Number of Members

All the US states have representatives at the House with the most populous states having more representatives than the least populated ones; for example, California has fifty-two representatives while Vermont and Alaska have one representative each. The House has 435 members while the Senate has 100 members. Due to this arrangement, the Senate has more flexibility in its rules. The senator who has the podium can speak for as long as he/she wants which means that the minority can control the Senate. The House of Representatives has more structured instructions on what the members can talk about and for how long. The House has more members than the Senate; therefore, all the discussions must proceed more quickly for everything to be completed in time.

Constitutional Requirements

The US Constitution stipulates that for anyone to be a senator, he/she must be over thirty years old and lived in the country for about nine years. Members of the House of Representative are over twenty-five years of age and must have resided in the United States for over seven years. A senator serves for a six-year term while the representatives have a two-year term. The House has shorter terms so that the representative can be more responsive to the needs of the people.

Power of the Members

The decision of one senator can change the entire course of a bill in the Senate while a representative in the House cannot. In the House of Representatives, the majority members control everything, and the individuals in the minority part are disadvantaged when it comes to passing bills. In the Senate, every senator has a say in the laws being passed and for it to precede all the members must agree unanimously. A single senator can object to the legislation if he/she disagrees with the bill.

Other Differences Between The House And The Senate

All bills which deal with revenue must come from the House of Representatives before proceeding to the Senate. The senators can only consider the bill and propose any amendments, but they do not have the final say. The president can nominate anyone to the office but only after they gain approval from the Senate majority. The House has no say when it comes to appointing of candidates. The House of Representative can impeach an elected official while the Senate does not have this power.


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