In what ways are the Senate and the House of Representatives similar and different?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The United States Senate and House of Representatives are similar in that they are both elective bodies of a legislature established in Article I of the U.S. Constitution.  Both are structured around committees and subcommittees established according to areas of specialization (e.g., agriculture, armed services, foreign affairs, Indian affairs, etc.) and in conformance with the Legislative Branch's rules regarding budgeting matters.  Both have Budget Committees that allocate dollar amounts for the various functions of the federal government, after which the aforementioned committees of specialization allocate dollar amounts for various functions of each federal agency (e.g., Departments of Agriculture, Defense, State, Interior, etc.).  Both committees comply, in theory if not always in practice, with rules regarding distinctions between budget authorities and budget appropriations (i.e., authorizing committees "authorize" federal agencies to spend money on different functions; appropriations committees write the checks to cover expenditures authorized by the authorizations committees.)  

Beyond these similarities, the two chambers of Congress are vastly different in their everyday operations.  Senators, per the Constitution, serve six-year terms; Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms.  House members represent individual congressional districts within particular states; Senators represent the entire states that elect them.  The most important differences, however, have to do with the rules and procedures that guide them.  The House of Representatives is a far more autocratic institution.  The majority party, currently the Republican Party, holds sway over the institution's proceedings, with the minority party, the Democrats, only as effective as their ability to persuade moderates from across the aisle to side with them in certain votes.  The majority party is far more powerful in the House than the minority party.

The Senate, in contrast to the House, is ruled much more loosely.  The minority party in the Senate, currently, as of the most recent elections, the Democratic Party, may have fewer members than the majority party, the Republicans, but an individual Democratic senator can have far greater influence on Senate procedures than his or her number would seem to warrant.  Senate rules regarding filibusters and "holds" on nominations or on proposals to debate or vote on legislation provide individual senators or small groups of senators power over the process far out of proportion to their number.  Consequently, with the exception of the senior leadership of the majority party of the House, an individual senator has far more power than an individual member of the House.

These are the main similarities and differences between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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lil903's profile pic

lil903 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Article one Sec 3 will give you the qualifications for the Senate seat and Article One Sec 2 will give you the qualifications for the House. The House is reelected every two years. The Senate only one third is reelected every two years.

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