Congress vs Parliament: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Structure – The US Congress is bicameral with the House and Senate, while parliaments can be unicameral or bicameral in structure.
  2. Head of State – The US has a separate head of state in the President, while parliaments have a prime minister derived from the parliament itself acting as head of state.
  3. Powers – Congress has mechanisms like filibusters and committees that decentralize power compared to parliaments, where the majority party drives the legislative agenda.

What is Congress?

Congress refers to the legislative branch of the United States federal government. It is a bicameral legislature consisting of two separate chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Together, these two chambers make up the U.S. Congress.

Congress is responsible for making and passing laws, as well as performing other important functions such as overseeing the executive branch, approving the federal budget, and representing the interests of the American people. The Constitution grants Congress the authority to exercise legislative powers, including declaring war, regulating commerce, and raising revenue through taxation.

What is Parliament?

Parliament is a legislative body found in many countries around the world. It is a representative assembly that plays a crucial role in the democratic governance of a nation. A parliament’s specific structure and powers can vary depending on the country’s political system, but there are common features.

In a parliamentary system, the parliament is responsible for making and passing laws, representing the interests of the people, and providing oversight of the government. It serves as a forum for debate, discussion, and decision-making on various issues affecting the country.

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Difference Between Congress and Parliament

  1. Congress is a term commonly used to refer to the legislative branch of the United States federal government, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. On the other hand, Parliament is a more general term used to describe the legislative bodies in various countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and India, which may have different structures and compositions.
  2. Congress is a bicameral legislature with two separate chambers, whereas parliaments can be either bicameral or unicameral. Bicameral parliaments have two chambers, such as the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, while unicameral parliaments have only one chamber, like in Sweden or New Zealand.
  3. In parliamentary systems, the head of government is a member of parliament and is accountable to the legislature. The executive branch is formed by the majority party or coalition in parliament. In contrast, in the United States, the president, who is the head of the executive branch, is elected separately from Congress and is not a member of either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
  4. Members of Congress in the United States are elected directly by the people of their respective districts or states. The number of representatives for each state is determined by population. In parliamentary systems, members of parliament are also elected, but the specific electoral systems and methods can vary among countries. Some use a constituency-based system, while others use proportional representation or a combination of both.
  5. Congress in the United States has broad legislative powers, including the ability to pass laws, declare war, and regulate commerce. It also has oversight responsibilities over the executive branch. Parliaments have similar legislative powers, but the specific functions can vary depending on the country. They may have the power to enact laws, approve budgets, conduct inquiries, and hold the government accountable through question times and debates.
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Comparison Between Congress and Parliament

Parameter of ComparisonCongressParliament
StructureBicameral (Senate and House of Representatives)Can be bicameral or unicameral
Head of GovernmentSeparate from the legislative branch (President)Often a member of the legislature
Relationship with the Executive BranchSeparation of powerslose relationship with the executive branch
Election and RepresentationDirectly elected by the peopleElected through various electoral systems
Legislative PowersBroad powers to pass laws, regulate commerce, declare war, etc.Similar legislative powers, but can vary by country

Last Updated : 07 September, 2023

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