Difference between a Senator and a Representative

What are the roles and responsibilities that differentiate a senator from a congressman?


Senator vs Representative
Members of the US Senate

In the US, a senator is a member of the United States Senate, which along with the House of Representatives, makes up the US Congress. Senators hold office for 6 years, but the terms are staggered to allow about a third of the seats to be up for election every other year. This is to avoid having two candidates from the same state win both seats in the same general election.

A senator is bound by oath to abide by the constitution of the US and his state when formulating or updating laws that will help preserve freedom, provide education, maintain key infrastructures, allocate for welfare, and promote and build a fair and sound taxation system.

A truly effective senator is one who is constantly in touch with his constituents. He should be able to communicate with them so that he knows about their problems, suggestions, and concerns. Letters, phone calls, even social media are effective ways of knowing what the people want.

In addition to creating laws, members of the senate have powers that members of the House of Representatives don’t. These include consenting to international laws confirming appointments of federal judges and executive officials, Cabinet secretaries, and other federal officers. Senators can also hold trials of impeached federal officials.

Since 2009, senators have received annual pay of $174,000, not including allowances or bonuses.

Members of the House of Representatives

Members of the House of Representatives, (collectively called the House) can pass federal law that impacts the whole country but its bills must be approved by the Senate and the US president prior to becoming  law. The House wields exclusive powers as well, such as initiating revenue bills and impeaching federal officials. Representatives have the power to choose the US president in the event that there’s no majority in the Electoral College.

Every state in the US has a representative in the House proportionate to its population. California being the most populated state has 53 representatives, while Alaska, Montana, Delaware, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont each have only one representative.

A representative’s (as with a delegate’s) term is two years while the Resident commissioner’s term is four years. The House can also formally reprimand its members, and only needs a single majority to do so.

Informally referred to as the “lower” house, its representatives have earned $174,000 a year since 2009.

Senator vs Representative

What’s the difference between a senator and a representative?

A senator can be called a congressman, while a congressman cannot be called a senator.

Senators are considered a higher authority, the “upper house”, while representatives are called the “lower house”.

Members of the senate serve a staggered 6 years of service, while members of the House only get a 2-year term. There are 2 senators for each state, while the number of representatives for each state depends on the size of said state’s population. This means that senators have more constituents than representatives do.

Senators wield broader powers. They can approve international laws, trial impeached federal officials, appoint cabinet secretaries, and of course, approve laws. Representatives can impeach public officials and jumpstart revenue-generating bills. They can also choose the US president when there’s no majority in the Electoral College

Comparison chart

Senators Representatives
Have broad powers (e.g. approve and create laws, appoint federal officials, etc.) Pass laws, initiate revenue laws, impeach federal officials
Hold office for 6 years (staggered) Hold office for 2 years
Also called members of the “upper house” Also called members of the “lower house”
Senate has 100 members House of Representatives has 435 members


Here’s a very informative video showing the basic differences between the House and the US Senate.