Difference between the Congress and the Senate

Updated on January 28, 2016

The United States Congress is the institution which is often mentioned in the media without further specifying which part of it exactly is being referred to. In this article, we will clarify the differences between the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate.

Definitions

Congress
The United States Capitol in Washington D.C., the home of Congress

The United States Congress is split into two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Congressmen continuously write legislation by sending a specific task to separate committees that have a specific area as their specialization. There are members of the U.S. Congress who are elected by their peers to be officers of these committees.

The two chambers, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives, make up Congress.

Congress serves two distinct purposes that seemingly overlap: local representation to the federal government of a specific district by representatives, and a national representation by senators.

The Senate side of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The Senate side of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The United States Senate is the “upper house” inside the U.S. Congress, owing its term to representing the individual states and having more restricted power than the “lower house” (the House of Representatives) the latter distinct as being elected directly by the people of the USA and thus representing public opinion.

The Senate has powers that the House doesn’t have. Among them is the power to approve international treaties and the “advice and consent” powers.

The houses similar in function to the U.S. Senate in other countries include the UK’s House of Lords and the Russian Federation’s Federation Council.

Congress vs Senate

What is the difference between the Congress and the Senate?

Historical graph of party control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Presidency
Historical graph of party control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Presidency
  • The Congress consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives; both are the legislative chambers of the bicameral legislature of the United States of America.
  • Sometimes the media in the news and analytical reviews refers to the House of Representatives as “Congress.” This is rarely the case with the Senate. The confusion can be traced back prior to the early 1900’s, when state legislatures elected two Senators, while the people elected the House representatives. It was natural to say that the Senate represented the states, while the House represented the people. Since nowadays people elect both chambers’ representatives, the reference to the House as “the Congress” doesn’t make sense. Also, the House members and the senators can be referred to as “congressmen.” However, in the media, the former are usually called congressman or congresswoman, while The Senate members are often referred to as “U.S. Senator.”

Comparison chart

The CongressThe Senate
Consists of the House of Representatives and the SenateIs one of the two chambers of the Congress
When mentioned in media, sometimes means “The House of Representatives”In the media, is rarely substituted for “The Congress”