The United States Congress consists of two legislative bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are many similarities between these institutions. Representatives and Senators are directly elected by the public (see Capitol Visitor Center essay “Who Elects Our Senators?”). Passing legislation requires the agreement of both the House and Senate. There are chambers for both in the U.S. Capitol. Given these commonalities, are there really differences between the House and Senate?
Committees improve the organization of the Senate and House of Representatives. Members of Congress can’t be experts on all issues. For this reason, the Senate and House of Representatives developed committees that focus on particular subjects. Committees look at the way that government functions; identify issues that require review; gather and evaluate information; and make legislative
recommendations to the full House or Senate.
The 116th U.S Congress that began its two-year session in January 2019 is historic for a few reasons. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is not only the first woman to hold the position, but also is the first person to return to the Speaker’s office in the House since Sam Rayburn in 1955. On another historical note, 102 women were elected to the House of Representatives and 25 serve in the Senate — the most women ever elected to Congress. With next year marking one hundred years since ratification of the 19th Amendment, this Women’s History Month is about more than just looking back. In this resource, find a list of compelling questions, student activities, and resources and lesson ideas.
The United States Senate consists of how many members? The answer is fairly simple: with two members apiece representing each of the fifty states, the total is one hundred. How about the House of Representatives? The answer is much more complicated. There are currently 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. How did this number come about and how is the number of Representatives per state determined?
A three part media-based lesson about exploring the differences between the House and the Senate. Students will present their findings in a 1-3 minute video.
In 1804, the 12th Amendment was passed to require separate balloting for president and vice president. In spite of the 12th Amendment, deadlocks can occur. Such was the case in the election of 1824, and the House of Representatives once again was forced to choose.
Together, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S Senate are called Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. Congress has many powers including writing the nation’s laws, approving treaties, and declaring war.
This activity is designed to help students understand the debates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that shaped America’s legislative branch of government. The primary goal is for students to discover how a compromise balanced the needs of large states and small states and how this led to the
creation of the current House of Representatives and Senate. In contrast to the real convention, this activity is simplified and focused to come to a conclusion in a class period.
Use this information graphic to easily understand the House of Representatives and Senate and the articles and amendments in the Constitution.
In an activity paired with our episode, students examine a House Resolution from the 116th Congress and follow its path through legislation. Students will learn about committees, lobbying, filibuster, and presidential actions.