Comparison of British Parliament and American Congress

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Order Code RL32206

CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web

Parliament and Congress: A Brief Comparison of the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives

Updated May 19, 2005

R. Eric Petersen Analyst in American National Government Government and Finance Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Parliament and Congress: A Brief Comparison of the House of Commons and the House of Representatives Summary
Although the United States Congress can trace its origins to British Parliament, the two institutions have evolved in significantly different directions over the past two centuries. This report provides a brief overview of the parliamentary practices in the House of Representatives and the British House of Commons focusing on such issues as membership and qualifications, the role of the Speaker and party or Government leaders, the role of committees, floor consideration, and second chambers. In a report of this length, many nuances of procedure and many rarely used parliamentary practices or traditions, both in the House of Commons and in the House of Representatives, are necessarily omitted or treated only in a cursory manner. This report will be updated as events warrant.

Contents
Terms of Office and Timing of Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Sizes and Constituencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Parties and Their Roles in the Chamber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Speaker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Quorums and Voting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Sessional Agendas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Committee Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Standing Committees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Select Committees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Grand Committees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Committee of the Whole House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Typical Floor Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Amendment Rules and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Ordinary Limitations on Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Allocation of Time Orders and Rules from the Rules Committee . . . . . . . . 13 Adjournment Debates and Special Order/One-Minute Speeches . . . . . . . . 14 Parliamentary Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Second Chambers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 References and Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Parliament and Congress: A Brief Comparison of the British House of Commons and the House of Representatives Although the U.S. House of Representatives, along with many other national and state legislatures, developed its initial parliamentary practices based on the model of the British House of Commons, the House of Representatives and the House of Commons have long evolved along quite divergent lines. This report1 briefly summarizes key features in the legislative procedures of both chambers, although a systematic comparison would require a substantially longer document. The fundamental purposes of the chambers are different: the House of Commons serves as the forum for the formation and maintenance of the Government which, in turn, is comprised primarily of ministers and...
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