April 13, 2009

Congress vs. Parliament: What's The Difference?

Just to continuing on my theme of understanding the meaning of words. Why do we have a Congress and most other representative governments have a Parliament?
How many people stop to wonder that? I do, because I am a KOOK. There is a difference and it is substantial. First off, our Congress has forgotten that it is a Congress and is behaving like a Parliament.
Read the definitions:

Congress n
1. A formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.
2. The national legislative body of a nation, especially a republic.
a. The act of coming together or meeting.
b. A single meeting, as of a political party or other group.

Parliament n
1. A national representative body having supreme legislative powers within the state.
2. Parliament The national legislature of various countries, especially that of the United Kingdom, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

See the difference? If you see the difference, then congratulations; if you do not, allow me to explain.

Both are made up of Representatives so that is good. But notice one has “supreme legislative powers” and the other is the “national legislative body”. See the difference? Congress is not supposed to be the supreme legislative body. It has specific roles and powers.

Also notice that “Congress” is used by “especially a republic” Why is that? Congress is used in republics because it is made up of Representatives from other States. Representatives of most parliamentary systems are representatives of a Party. Not representatives of the people. There again, our representatives have forgotten this. Ever watch C-span? Probably not unless you are nuts like me. What do they always say? “My esteemed colleague and good friend from Missouri” They belong to a party but they represent a bunch of people from a State.
In most Parliaments you vote for the party and you get who you get. It very much removes the individual aspect. They are “Representative so and so from the Labour Party. They might have a district, but they are identified as members of a Party, not a representative of certain people. I hope I am making clear the difference.
Our representatives are supposed to be representatives of a state first and party members second and should vote what their constituents tell them to vote for. A parliamentary representative is a member of a party. It is a matter of Loyalties. Congressmen should be loyal to their constituents; Parliamentarians are representative of their Party.
This was even truer before we started electing senators by popular election. Back in the day Senators were chosen by State Legislatures (and many conservatives including yours truly believe that is the way it should still be) so they were very much viewed and acted like an ambassador from a state, not a party official.

So after this discussion, do we have a Congress or do we have a Parliament? Are our representatives listening to their constituents? Do they vote the party line 99.9% of the time?

THINK about it.

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