House vs Senate

House vs Senate

US Constitution

  • Serving as the foundation of the US government, the US Constitution was ratified in 1788.
  • It outlines the division of government into three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive.
  • The Constitution employs a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch gains too much power.
  • Its characteristic feature – the Bill of Rights – outlines and guarantees civil liberties.
  • To date, there have been 27 amendments made to the Constitution, demonstrating its flexibility and ability to change with time.

Principles of the Constitution

  • Federalism is one principal feature of the Constitution, dividing power between federal and state governments.
  • The system of Separation of Powers ensures that no single branch controls too much power.
  • The principle of Checks and Balances allows each branch to limit or check the power of the others.
  • The notion of Popular Sovereignty ensures the authority of government comes from the people.

The Federal-state relationship

  • The Constitution defines responsibilities for both the Federal Government and the States.
  • It’s based on the principle of Federalism, where power is divided between state and federal government.
  • Issues not expressly covered in the constitution are assumed to fall under the governance of individual states – shown through the Tenth Amendment.
  • Some powers are shared between the federal and state governments - these are known as concurrent powers.

Federalism and its consequences

  • Federalism can allow for innovation and flexibility in policy-making at a state level.
  • It fosters competition and allows a degree of policy experimentation.
  • On the flip side, it can lead to inequalities and confusion due to lack of consistent policies across the states.
  • Federalism has also been a source of tension between State and Federal law, particularly in cases related to issues like immigration and drug policy.

Compare UK and US constitutions

  • Unlike the US, the UK has an unwritten constitution.
  • The US constitution is rigid and requires a special procedure for amendments, while in the UK, changes can be made through Parliament.
  • The US follows a federal system while the UK is unitary.
  • Separation of powers is more distinct in the US than in the UK, where the head of the government is also a member of parliament.

Congress: Structure and Composition

  • Consists of two houses – the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • House of Representatives has 435 members based on each state’s population, while the Senate has 100 members, with each state being represented by two Senators.
  • Terms for House members are two years, and for Senate members are six years.

Congress: Powers

  • Power to make laws is vested in Congress.
  • It has the power to impeach the President, declare war, and confirm or reject Presidential appointments.
  • The Senate has special functions not performed by the House, such as the ratification of treaties.

House vs Senate

  • The House is larger than the Senate and therefore seen as more representative of the population.
  • The Senate is sometimes called the ‘upper house’ and is considered a more prestigious body.
  • The House initiates all revenue bills, and impeachment proceedings are also launched there.
  • The Senate has ‘advice and consent’ powers, which include ratifying treaties and confirming important Presidential appointments.