Comparison of British Parliament and American Congress

8238 Words Aug 21st, 2010 33 Pages
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
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
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In the House of Commons, the Government’s legislative agenda is, consequently, the agenda of the House of Commons, and few major policy initiatives not formally sanctioned by the Government are considered by the House of Commons. In the U.S. House, the significant work of the session is the funding and continued maintenance of government programs, but individual Members and individual leaders can influence the House’s agenda to a degree unheard of in the Commons.

Terms of Office and Timing of Elections
Under the Parliament Act, 1911, the duration of a Parliament may not exceed five years from the date on which the current Parliament first convened. In recent decades, general elections have generally been held during the fourth year of a Parliament. The timing of elections is most often determined by the Government which announces the date on which a general election will be held, usually within 30 days of the announcement. The Government must also formally request the Crown to dissolve Parliament. On April 5, 2005, the Government announced May 5 as the date for the general election. The Queen formally dissolved Parliament on April 11.

This report was originally written by Paul S. Rundquist, formerly a Specialist in American National Government at CRS. Dr. Rundquist has retired, but the listed
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