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017 What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
Answer: The Senate and House (of Representatives)

In the United States, the word Congress is used to refer to (or talk about) the legislative (or lawmaking) part of American government. Most people know this
meaning of the word. But did you know that there is another meaning of the word congress? Congress also means a meeting of legislators (or the people who make laws). In the U.S. government, you will hear both meanings of this word used. In fact, a new congress—meaning a new meeting—starts every two years. The first congress was held in 1774. The current congress, then, is the 110th Congress, which first convened (or met) on January 4, 2007.

When the first congress was held in 1774, Congress was still unicameral, meaning that it had only one part or group of legislators. However, the leaders of the country very quickly realized (or noticed) that the new American government was not very efficient (or didn’t do things very quickly or very well), so they wanted to change the system.

One of the major disputes (or disagreements) about Congress was how the 50 states would be represented in the federal (or national) government. People from small states thought that each state should be represented equally (or in the same way). People from large states thought that states with a higher population (or more people living there) should have more power to make decisions. The solution (or the way to fix the problem) was to write a new constitution (or document that creates the government for a country) and make the Congress become bicameral (or with two parts).

How does a bicameral Congress allow people in large and small states to have better representation? The answer is in how the Congress works. The two parts of the Congress are the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has equal representation, which means that each state has two representatives. The House of Representatives is different: larger states have more representatives and smaller states have fewer. The Senate and the House of Representatives have to work together to make new laws. This way, neither big nor small states have more power than other states. With this solution, both sides of the dispute were satisfied (or pleased).


Congress – the legislative (lawmaking) part of the U.S. government; the group of elected national representatives
* How many new laws did Congress make last year?

legislator – a person who makes laws
* Do you think that legislators really understand how that law will affect everyone in the country?

to convene – to have everyone meet in a group; to create a meeting and to invite the members or other people to come
* Let’s convene the meeting at 8:15 on Monday.

unicameral – with only one part or group; an organization with only one major part
* Do you know if Denmark has a unicameral parliament?

dispute – disagreement; argument
* Kiki's parents had a big dispute about whether she should be allowed to stay out later than 11:30 p.m.

equally – in the same way; fairly
* The six children cut the cake into six pieces to share it equally.

solution – a way to fix a problem; an answer to a problem
* When Pierre's glasses broke, his temporary solution was to tape the two pieces together.

bicameral – with two chambers or parts; an organization with two major parts
* Laws are made more slowly in bicameral governments, because they have to be approved by two separate groups of people.

representation – having someone officially make decisions and vote for another person or for a group of people
* The students say that they don't have enough representation in the administration's

satisfied – pleased; content
* Were you satisfied with the service you received while you were staying at the hotel?