Comparison of British Parliament and American Congress

Topics: House of Lords, Parliament of the United Kingdom, Member of Parliament Pages: 23 (8224 words) Published: August 7, 2010
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...

References: and Sources
A report of this type is necessarily catalectic. Interested readers may wish to consult some additional sources that treat the British Parliament in a more comprehensive or authoritative manner. The standard reference work for British parliamentary practice, which is also used as a precedent guide for many British Commonwealth parliaments, is Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. The 23rd edition, edited by Donald Limon, W.R. McKay, and others, was published in 2004. J.A.G. Griffith and Michael Ryle are the authors (1989) of Parliament: Functions, Practice and Procedures. A second edition, prepared by Robert Blackburn and Andrew Kennon, was published in 2002. A shorter and less technical work is How Parliament Works, fifth edition, 2004, by Paul Silk and Rhodri Walters. The monumental comparative study, Parliament and Congress, by Kenneth Bradshaw and David Pring, last revised in 1981, is now out of print and significantly dated in its treatment of both legislatures. The British Parliament also has an extensive amount of educational materials on its website, [http://www.parliament.uk]. The best one-volume official American parliamentary manuals comparable to Erskine May are Wm. Holmes Brown and Charles W. Johnson, House Practice (2003) and Alan Frumin, rev., Riddick’s Senate Procedure (1992). The most widely used survey of American legislative procedures is Walter Oleszek, Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process, sixth edition, 2004. The U.S. Congress’s website, [http://www.congress.gov] (available only to Members of Congress and their staff), and Thomas [http://thomas.loc.gov/], have a substantial amount of educational material, in particular the collection of reports on parliamentary procedures at the House Rules Committee’s website, [http://www.house.gov/rules/].
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