Difference Between a Congressman and a Senator
There is widespread confusion regarding the difference between a congressman and a senator. While it’s clear that a senator is a member of the Senate, does the term “congressman” include senators, or does it refer exclusively to members of the House of Representatives? And what comprises the “Congress” of the United States?

The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 1, says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

Merriam-Webster defines “Congress” as “a particular congress; especially: the congress of the United States that includes the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

So, both the Senate and House of Representatives make up the U.S. Congress. Shouldn’t this mean that the term “congressman” applies equally to both a senator and a representative?

According to Merriam-Webster, a “congressman” is “someone (especially a man) who is a member of a congress and especially of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Unwritten Rules: The Difference Between a Congressman and a Senator

Herein lies the central confusion. It is technically correct to use the term “congressman” in relation to any elected representative from either House or Senate. However, it is also clear that when a person refers to a “congressman,” they are more often than not referring to a representative from the House.

This situation is further complicated by the gender-specific nature of the term “congressman.” In its place, it is possible to use the gender-neutral term “congressperson,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “a congressman or congresswoman.” The website for the U.S. House of Representatives affirms that the terms “congressman” and “congresswoman” are equally valid.

Having determined the appropriate designations for each type of elected representative, it is worth noting that there are some other basic differences between a senator and a member of the House of Representatives.

The guidelines for the election and apportionment of each are outlined in the United States Constitution, and by subsequent amendments to the Constitution.

Representatives and senators both are elected by popular vote in each state in the U.S. However, while each state elects exactly two senators per term, the number of representatives per state are apportioned according to the state’s population.

Representatives are elected for two-year terms, and senators are elected for six-year terms. To be eligible for appointment as a representative in the House, an individual must be at least 25 years old and have been a U.S. citizen for seven years. The eligibility requirements of senators are slightly stricter, as an individual must be at least 30 years old and have been a U.S. citizen for nine years to be elected as a senator. In either case, the individual must be a resident of the state in which they are running for office.

While the House has the power to vote on impeachment, the Senate has the power to conduct the trial of the impeached individual.

The Senate has exclusive powers, including the fact that treaties cannot be ratified without the Senate’s consent. Senators also confirm presidential appointments to office, such as appointments for justices of the Supreme Court.

Legislation, however, must be approved and ratified by both the House and the Senate before it can be enacted.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr