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Congress vs. Parliament: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Congress often refers to a legislative body in a presidential system, like the U.S., while Parliament denotes a legislative body in a parliamentary system, like the U.K.
Congress vs. Parliament

Key Differences

Congress, as in the United States, consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, functioning in a presidential system. Parliament, as in the United Kingdom, is a bicameral body comprising the House of Commons and the House of Lords, operating in a parliamentary system.
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Members of Congress are elected and have separate powers from the executive branch. In contrast, a Parliament includes members who are elected or appointed, with some members typically forming the government.
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The U.S. Congress has a fixed term unless dissolved under special circumstances, whereas a Parliament can be dissolved by the head of state, leading to new elections.
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In Congress, the separation of powers is key, with no overlap between the legislature and executive. Parliament, however, often has members who are also part of the executive, blurring the lines between legislative and executive powers.
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The role of Congress includes making laws, declaring war, and overseeing the budget. Parliament has similar roles but also includes the critical function of selecting and supporting the government.
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Comparison Chart

System

Part of a presidential system
Part of a parliamentary system
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Houses

Two houses: Senate and House of Representatives
Two houses: Common and Lords
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Member's Role

Separate from the executive
Often part of the executive
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Term

Fixed term
Can be dissolved for new elections
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Power Structure

Clear separation of powers
Overlapping of legislative and executive powers
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Congress and Parliament Definitions

Congress

Congress is a national legislative body in a federal system, particularly in the United States.
The U.S. Congress passed a new healthcare bill.
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Parliament

Historically, Parliament refers to the highest legislative authority in a monarchy.
The medieval Parliament was a council of nobles advising the king.
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Congress

In historical contexts, Congress may refer to a diplomatic assembly.
The Congress of Vienna played a key role in reshaping Europe after the Napoleonic Wars.
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Parliament

Parliament can also describe a way of decision-making in non-political contexts.
The board used a parliamentary style of debate to reach its decision.
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Congress

The term Congress can also refer to a formal meeting or assembly.
The international environmental congress will convene next month.
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Parliament

Parliament is the supreme legislative body in a parliamentary system, like in the U.K. or Canada.
The Parliament debated the new trade legislation extensively.
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Congress

Congress can also signify the act of coming together for a meeting or assembly.
Various industry leaders will congress next week to discuss economic trends.
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Parliament

In some countries, Parliament refers to a period during which the legislative body meets.
During this session of Parliament, several key bills were passed.
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Congress

A formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.
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Oct 19, 2023

Parliament

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

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

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

The national legislative body of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
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Parliament

A formal council summoned (especially by a monarch) to discuss important issues.
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Congress

The two-year session of this legislature between elections of the House of Representatives.
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Parliament

In many countries, the legislative branch of government, a deliberative assembly or set of assemblies whose elected or appointed members meet to debate the major political issues of the day, make, amend, and repeal laws, authorize the executive branch of government to spend money, and in some cases exercise judicial powers; a legislature.
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Congress

The act of coming together or meeting.
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Parliament

A particular assembly of the members of such a legislature, as convened for a specific purpose or period of time (commonly designated with an ordinal number – for example, first parliament or 12th parliament – or a descriptive adjective – for example, Long Parliament, Short Parliament and Rump Parliament).
Following the general election, Jane Doe took her oath of office as a member of the nation's fifth parliament.
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Congress

A single meeting, as of a political party or other group.
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Parliament

A gathering of birds, especially rooks or owls.
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Congress

Sexual intercourse.
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Parliament

(historical) Parliament cake, a type of gingerbread.
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Congress

(archaic) A coming together of two or more people; a meeting.
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Parliament

A parleying; a discussion; a conference.
But first they held their parliament.
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Congress

A formal gathering or assembly; a conference held to discuss or decide on a specific question.
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Parliament

A formal conference on public affairs; a general council;
They made request that it might be lawful for them to summon a parliament of Gauls.
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Congress

A legislative body of a state, originally the bicameral legislature of the United States of America.
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Parliament

The assembly of the three estates of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, viz., the lords spiritual, lords temporal, and the representatives of the commons, sitting in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, constituting the legislature, when summoned by the royal authority to consult on the affairs of the nation, and to enact and repeal laws.
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Congress

An association, especially one consisting of other associations or representatives of interest groups.
The National Congress of American Indians
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Parliament

In France, before the Revolution of 1789, one of the several principal judicial courts.
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Congress

(dated) Coitus; sexual intercourse.
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Parliament

A legislative assembly in certain countries (e.g., Great Britain)
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Congress

(intransitive) To assemble together.
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Parliament

A card game in which you play your sevens and other cards in sequence in the same suit as their sevens; you win if you are the first to use all your cards
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Congress

To meet in a congress.
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Parliament

In a colloquial sense, Parliament can signify a group's decision-making process.
The students' union held a parliament to discuss campus issues.
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Congress

A meeting of individuals, whether friendly or hostile; an encounter.
Here Pallas urges on, and Lausus there;Their congress in the field great Jove withstands.
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Congress

A sudden encounter; a collision; a shock; - said of things.
From these laws may be deduced the rules of the congresses and reflections of two bodies.
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Oct 19, 2023

Congress

The coming together of a male and female in sexual commerce; the act of coition.
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Oct 19, 2023

Congress

A gathering or assembly; a conference.
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Congress

A formal assembly, as of princes, deputies, representatives, envoys, or commissioners; esp., a meeting of the representatives of several governments or societies to consider and determine matters of common interest.
The European powers strove to . . . accommodate their differences at the congress of Vienna.
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Congress

The collective body of senators and representatives of the people of a nation, esp. of a republic, constituting the chief legislative body of the nation.
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Congress

The lower house of the Spanish Cortes, the members of which are elected for three years.
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Congress

The legislature of the United States government
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Congress

A meeting of elected or appointed representatives
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Congress

A national legislative assembly
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Congress

The act of sexual procreation between a man and a woman; the man's penis is inserted into the woman's vagina and excited until orgasm and ejaculation occur
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Congress

Congress is sometimes used to describe a group representing a particular profession or interest.
The annual Congress of Neurologists will address recent research advancements.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is Congress?

Congress is a national legislative body, especially in a federal system like the U.S.
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How is Congress structured?

The U.S. Congress is bicameral, comprising the Senate and House of Representatives.
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What are the parts of Parliament?

A Parliament typically has two houses; for example, the U.K.'s House of Commons and House of Lords.
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Do members of Congress have roles in the executive?

No, there's a clear separation of powers in the U.S. system.
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What is Parliament?

Parliament is the supreme legislative body in a parliamentary system, such as in the U.K.
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What powers does Congress have?

Congress makes laws, approves budgets, and declares war, among other powers.
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How are members of Congress elected?

Members are directly elected by the public in their respective districts or states.
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How are members of Parliament chosen?

Members are either elected by the public or appointed in some systems.
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Is the U.S. system a Congress or Parliament?

The U.S. has a Congress in its federal system.
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How long is a term in Congress?

Congressional terms are fixed, with the House serving two years and the Senate six years.
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Nov 16, 2023

Can Parliament be in session year-round?

It depends on the country, but usually, there are designated sessions.
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What's the history of Congress in the U.S.?

It was established by the Constitution in 1789 as the legislative body.
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Can members of Parliament be part of the government?

Yes, in many parliamentary systems, some members form the government.
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What are the functions of Parliament?

Parliament makes laws, oversees the government, and has budgetary authority.
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Can Parliament be dissolved?

Yes, Parliaments can be dissolved, leading to new elections.
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Can Congress override a presidential veto?

Yes, with a two-thirds majority in both houses.
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How does Parliament check the executive?

In many systems, Parliament can vote to remove the government or its members.
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What's the historical role of Parliament in the U.K.?

It has evolved over centuries as the central legislative authority.
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Do all countries have a Congress or Parliament?

Most countries have a legislative body, but the name and structure vary.
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Are there non-political uses of the term Congress?

Yes, it can refer to any meeting or assembly of delegates.
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Nov 16, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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