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Difference Between Congress and Parliament

Congress vs Parliament

Congress and parliament are two words that have come to represent two major forms of democracies in different parts of the world. While Westminster form of parliamentary democracy is found in Britain and many other commonwealth countries that were ruled by Britain at one point of time and are now free and independent, congressional form of democracy where the President is the head of the executive is opted by mainly US and some other countries. The main purpose of both congress as well as parliament is to make, pass, and amend laws providing representation to states or provinces that collectively make up the nation. However, there are also differences that will be highlighted in this article.

At a superficial level, it seems hard to find out differences between a congress and a parliament as both are made up of popularly elected representatives of people having got majority votes of the people in their constituency. However, there are differences in both how members get elected and what their roles and functions are once they are members of the house. The first and foremost difference between the two lies in the meanings of the two words themselves. While congress comes from a Latin word meaning to come together, parliament comes from a French word meaning to talk.

The same difference in meaning almost defines differences in the election procedure of congressmen and parliamentarians. In case of a congress, people select their candidate based upon his profile, career, and his plans for future of his constituency. In sharp contrast, members of parliament are chosen by political parties, though they get votes from people to get elected. These are people who are expected to toe the party line all the time. This simply means that a member has more individuality in case of congress than in the casse of a parliament.

The process of government formation is also very different in case of congress than in parliament. In the case of a parliament, the majority party elects its Prime Minister who makes his cabinet from his party members who have come into parliament. This simply means that party members who are also members of parliament have got to support the government’s policies and programs all the time or else government will fall on the floor of the house. In the case of a congress, members have more freedom and not required to toe the party line as they cannot harm the government in the same way as parliamentarians.

If we compare (or try to compare) the US congress with UK parliament, though it seems that the executive (US President) is more powerful in US than UK (Prime Minister), it is equally true that UK PM has more control over the legislative process than US President.

Both congress as well as parliament is bicameral with Senate and House of Representatives in congress, and upper and lower houses in a parliament. Senate has members that have a lengthy term and are close to members of the upper house in the sense that they are less concerned with public opinion than members of the lower house and House of Representatives as they have to campaign to fight for the next election.

Passage of a bill is a lengthy process in a congress, and it requires pretty heavy support, while a simple majority is enough for a legislation to be passed in a parliament.

What is the difference between Congress and Parliament?

· Both congress and parliament serve the same purpose of making legislation, though there are differences in how members get elected and what they do after getting elected in the two types of legislative bodies.

· Members of parties toe the party line in parliament, while there is more freedom to members in a congress.

· Passage of legislation is lengthier in congress than in parliament.

· Executive is more powerful in congress, though he is more in control as far as legislation process is concerned in parliament.


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