Difference Between House and Senate

Difference Between House and Senate

Many people ask: What is the difference between the House and the Senate? Unarguably, this is an interesting question. Because they belong to the same segment, many people think that they do the same thing. While this misconception appears logical, nothing can be further from the truth. Essentially, they make laws and check the activities of the Executive, another independent tier. The need to scrutinize the activities of that Executive is critical because it is very powerful; it controls most public institutions.

As you are well aware, this law-making part is also called the Congress. Note that it is divided into two important chambers: the House of Representative and the Senate. The US is currently composed of 50 states. So, every state is entitled to 2 senators, making a total of 100 lawmakers. How about the House? Well, you will get to learn all that and more as you continue reading this well-researched article entitled difference between house and senate. Enjoy your reading!!

Definition of House of Representatives

The House of Representative (HOR or House) is one of the two chambers of the law-enacting institutions of the United States. Founded in April 1789, the HOR, as it is fondly called, is led by a Speaker, who is elected by the members. But then, the members who elect the Speaker are determined by those with the most votes. Essentially, HOR has 435 voting and 6 non-voting members. More importantly, it’s considered as the lowest tier because the country runs a bicameral legislature, meaning that there are two sections of government in that branch. When elected, through an electoral process known as Midterms, the representatives are expected to serve for two years.

All the facts stated here are crucial to understand the difference between Senate and House of Representatives. Moving on, there is a reason why the reps have up to 435 members. Without wasting time, it is the population of the states. For instance, with a population of 39.56 million (US Census Bureau, 2018), California has 53 reps. Similarly, 7 states each have 1 rep.

Established by Article One of the US Constitution, the HOR enacts laws by passing bills. A bill is a legal document that is under the scrutiny of the legislature. After being read, it will then be transformed into law. However, the president, who is the leader of the country and head of the Executive, will eventually have to sign the bill in order for it to become law. Interestingly, the Constitution also gives them the power to initiate the process that will lead to the removal of the commander-in-chief. However, this process is only feasible if it’s established that the president has been involved in activities that undermine his office. It’s usually a lengthy process.

Definition of Senate

Again, to help you grasp the difference between the House and Senate, it is critical that we walk you through what the latter is. So, this part of the guide will put that into perspective.

The Senate is the higher segment of the Congress in the Union. Just like HOR members, senators are also fondly called Congressmen and Congresswomen. With an expansive dome on the Capitol Hill, it shares the building with the HOR. An elected member can choose to become a senator forever as there is no term limit for 6-year elections. Although it has 100 seats, there is a provision made for the US Vice President (VP). Although the VP has the constitutional authority to preside over Senate’s legislative business, he or she can only vote under certain conditions. The caveat is when a casting vote is necessary. A casting vote occurs when there is an impasse and further votes are required to resolve it.  

In the past (1789-1913), state legislators appointed the senators but not anymore. Today, they are elected by popular votes. For every member of Congress elected, he or she will spend six years in office. The superior unit has the legal power to confirm the appointment at both the Executive and Judiciary levels. For instance, before the appointment of an ambassador is approved, the higher tier has to confirm the appointment. However, the US leader makes the initial appointment and forwards the name of the appointee for confirmation.

When the HOR indicts a public official, it is known as impeachment. The Senate continues where the brotherly segment has ended by judging the guilty party. The process results in removal from office. The perception is that the Senate is more respected. The reason is that it is smaller in size, and its members have longer terms of office.

Main Differences Between House of Representatives vs Senate

  HOR Senate
Head Speaker (of the House) The US Vice President
Appointment confirmation Has no statutory power to confirm appointments  Confirms the appointment of public servants appointed into public offices  
Signing of treaties It cannot sign treaties The commander-in-chief consults with the leadership of the Senate before signing treaties. These treaties are approved by a 2/3 majority votes
Expiration of a single term The term expires in 2 years    The term expires in 6 years
Number of elected members There are 435 elected members There are 100 senators and the Vice President
Representation It speaks on behalf of the total US districts of about 711,000 citizens It represents each of the 50 states that compose the Union
Spending Bills (such as raising taxes) They originate and deliberate on all expenditure bills and forward them to the upper chamber It doesn’t originate spending bills. Focuses on key areas of legislative businesses
Committee There are rule committees that deliberate on bills and other issues It does not have any rule committee
Selecting a president It can select the president when the Electoral College is tied It doesn’t have such powers

Difference Between House vs Senate: Summary

In this guide, you have learned the difference between Senate and House. From the above, it is safe to deduce that the two components complement each other. We have been able to establish that their functions don’t overlap. Experts say that the founding fathers initiated the idea of the bicameral system to create transparency. Overall, there are functions that one tier is allowed to perform, which will be way outside the scope of the other.

Given that the HOR initiates most bills, their terms are shortened to two years so that new persons can come in and inject fresh ideas and laws into that branch of government. On the other hand, the Senate finalizes the bill and forwards it to the commander-in-chief for signature and enactment. With the Congress always watching the Executive, there are checks and balances. Indeed, the Congress has helped to deepen democracy in the United States in more ways than one. Today, other countries are copying and implementing this system.