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Congress vs. Parliament: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 13, 2023
Congress, typically found in republics, is a legislative body in the USA, while Parliament, often found in constitutional monarchies, is a supreme legislative body in countries like the UK.

Key Differences

Congress and Parliament are both legislative bodies, yet they operate within distinct frameworks and traditions. Congress, exemplified by the United States, consists of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives, which are responsible for making and passing federal legislation. On the contrary, Parliament, such as the United Kingdom’s, also engages in making and enacting laws but usually exists within a parliamentary system where the executive is drawn from the legislature.
It's noteworthy that the responsibilities and functioning of Congress and Parliament are deeply rooted in the historical and cultural contexts of the respective nations. Congress, in the USA, follows a bicameral structure where each house operates independently, and members are not typically beholden to party directives when voting. Conversely, in a Parliament, especially in a Westminster system, members usually vote along party lines, and the government is formed by the political party (or coalition) that has a majority in the lower house.
An aspect that distinctively separates Congress from Parliament is the relationship with the executive branch. In the USA, Congress and the President (executive branch) are separate entities, with the President not being a member of Congress. Contrastingly, in parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister, who is the head of government, is usually a member of the Parliament and is typically the leader of the majority party in the lower house, ensuring a close-knit relationship between the executive and the legislature.
Elections and terms also unfold differently within Congress and Parliament. Members of Congress are elected for fixed terms (two years for the House of Representatives and six for the Senate) with no limits on re-election. Whereas, members of Parliament may have variable terms, and elections might be called under certain circumstances before the end of a term, reflecting the dynamic nature of parliamentary governance.
The mechanism for law-making and policy-setting is another differing element between Congress and Parliament. In Congress, a proposed law (bill) can originate from either house and must be approved by both houses to become law. Parliament, depending upon the specific national rules, may have varying approaches, yet commonly the lower house is the predominant player in legislating, while the upper house reviews and suggests amendments.

Comparison Chart

System of Government

Found in a presidential system
Found in a parliamentary system

Relationship with Executive

Separate from the executive branch
The executive is derived from it

Election and Term Duration

Fixed-term elections for members
Variable; may have early elections

Legislative Process

Both houses independently initiate and pass bills
Often lower house initiates, upper house revises

Executive Membership

The head of state/government is not a member
The head of government is usually a member

Congress and Parliament Definitions


Congress is a bicameral legislative body of the United States government.
Congress passed a bill to increase funding for education.


Parliament members usually participate in forming the executive branch in parliamentary systems.
The Prime Minister, a member of Parliament, announced a new housing policy.


Congress functions independently of the U.S. President, possessing distinct powers and responsibilities.
Congress has the authority to declare war, separate from the President’s military powers.


Parliament often encompasses two houses, generally known as the lower and upper chambers.
The bill was approved by both houses of Parliament.


Congress consists of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Both houses of Congress must approve a bill before it becomes law.


Parliament may call for elections and form governments based on majority or coalition rule.
Parliament was dissolved, prompting a general election.


Congress has representatives elected for fixed terms, separate from the presidential term.
Members of Congress may serve numerous terms if repeatedly re-elected by their constituents.


Parliament often operates under a system where legislative and executive functions are intertwined.
The opposition in Parliament can challenge the ruling party, impacting governmental stability.


Congress engages in legislative processes, including making laws, confirming appointments, and declaring war.
Congress often investigates issues through committees to inform their legislative decisions.


Parliament is a supreme legislative body in certain countries, like the UK.
The Parliament is discussing new environmental regulations this week.


A formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.


A representative body having supreme legislative powers within a state or multinational organization.


The national legislative body of a nation, especially a republic.


Parliament The national legislature of the United Kingdom, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.


How are members of Congress elected?

Members of Congress are directly elected by the people through elections.

Is Parliament present in all democratic countries?

No, the specific legislative body varies, with some nations having a Congress, Parliament, or alternative forms.

What is the significance of committees in Congress?

Committees in Congress specialize in specific areas, conducting investigations and shaping legislation.

Can anyone propose legislation in Congress?

Generally, only members of Congress can propose legislation, but there are specific exceptions.

How many members does the U.S. Congress have?

The U.S. Congress consists of 535 members: 100 Senators and 435 Representatives.

Can a member of Parliament also be a government minister?

Yes, in parliamentary systems, government ministers, including the Prime Minister, are often members of Parliament.

Is the Speaker of the Parliament also the head of government?

Not necessarily; for example, in the UK, the Speaker is neutral, and the Prime Minister is the head of government.

How often are elections held for Parliament?

The frequency can vary by country, with some parliaments having fixed terms and others not.

What are some of the functions of Parliament?

Parliament is responsible for making laws, scrutinizing the government, and representing the electorate.

Is Congress involved in U.S. budgetary matters?

Yes, Congress plays a pivotal role in determining and approving the federal budget.

Can the public attend Congress sessions?

Yes, the public can generally attend Congress sessions, though there may be exceptions.

Who leads the Parliament in the UK?

The Prime Minister, usually the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons, leads Parliament.

Can Congress override a presidential veto?

Yes, Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses.

What is a parliamentary system?

A parliamentary system intertwines the executive and legislative branches, often with the executive being members of the legislature.

Can Parliament alter the constitution?

Depending on the country, parliaments might have the power to amend the constitution, often requiring special procedures.

What is the primary role of Congress?

Congress is responsible for making federal laws in the United States.

Is the UK Parliament the only form of Parliament?

No, various countries have their own parliaments, each with unique structures and roles.

What is the role of the opposition in Parliament?

The opposition in Parliament scrutinizes and challenges the policies and actions of the ruling party/government.

Who is the leader of the U.S. Congress?

Congress doesn’t have a single leader; each house has its own leadership, with the Vice President being the President of the Senate and the Speaker leading the House of Representatives.

How does Congress impact U.S. foreign policy?

Congress has several foreign policy powers, including approving treaties and declaring war.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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