Last time I checked the U.S. Congress was made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. That being the case why are House members always referred to as “congressmen” and Senators as “senators” ? A Senator is also a congressman.
Why not call House members “Representatives” ? Since Senators are also representatives of the people in their state I think the capital and small r’s would distinguish between the two and stop any confusion. The way it is now it seems to me that the House members, Representatives, are getting the short end of the stick by being called congressmen.

Off the top of my head, I’d venture that the members of the Senate got tagged with “Senator” instead of “Representative” since they weren’t originally representatives of the people of their state, but rather of the state government. Now that’s changed, but tradition in naming carries a lot of weight.

As far as calling members of the House* “Representative,” apparently “Congressman” has a better ring to it. It’s certainly more convenient to say “Congressman” than “Member of the House of Representatives.”

*That’s another query for you: Since the Congress is composed of two houses. Guess which one’s meanty by “The House.”

Most U.S. newspapers refer to members of the House of Representatives with the title “U.S. Rep.” on first reference. Incidentally, under the rules of the House of Representatives, the delegates to the House from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam are granted the privilege to be addressed as “delegate,” “congressman,” or “congresswoman,” but not as “representative.”

The U.S. Senate is the upper house of Congress, but the word “house” is not included in the name “Senate.” So it’s not surprising that “House of Representatives” is abbreviated without confusion to “the House.”

“Congressman” isn’t quite a misnomer, since they are indeed members of Congress after all. , but I agree that a congressman should be either referred to as Senator or Representative, for accuracy’s sake, and “congressman” should refer to either senators or representatives.

Wow, that last sentence of mine was really awkward. I’m impressed with myself.

“Representative” sounds kind of vague, and I agree with Monty that “Congressman” has a better ring to it.

What would be better? “Houseperson”? Sounds like a butler. “House member?” A serviceable alternative – except when “member” is used as a euphemism for the male organ of generation, which is a euphemism for cock (or wang, if you prefer).

Remember during Clinton’s impeachment trial, when the Senate spent a week trying to decide what to call themselves? Were they jurors? Judges? Members of the Justice League? The settled on “triers of fact,” which is a juror by another name.

I like “Congresscritter” myself - it’s even gender-neutral.

Seriously, it’s just one of many annoying terminological inconsistencies we all learn to deal with. “Represenative” has problems of its own, in that it tends to get abbreviated as “Rep”, and you sometimes get confused as to whether somebody is referring to an individual’s title or their party affiliation.

The other problem is, “Representative” is awkward as a stand alone title. Compare

“Hello, Congressman. How are you today?”


“Hello, Representative. How are you today?”

I would not suggest adressing one of your U.S. senators as “Congressman”, he or she will not appreciate it.

In the Senate’s mind, it is the Upper House. In the view of the House, the Senate is “the other house”.

If the present Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, became a senator from Illinois, he would not view at as a “promotion”.

I disagree with that, BobT, I think most everyone views the Senate as more prestigeous, and given a choice would rather be a Senator than a Representative. For one, there are fewer of them (100 vs. 430-something) and also they have more Constitutional powers (they get to approve cabinet apointments and federal judges, for example.)


Now you’ve broached the subject of the delegates. AFAIC, there shouldn’t be any territorial delegates to either house of Congress. The Constitution specifies Senators and Representatives.

Well, the Constitution doesn’t say there can’t any delegates. Congress is considered to have a quite of bit of leeway in organising itself. The Constitution doesn’t say anything about organising Congress along party lines, either. It doesn’t say anything about whips or leaders or committees or chairmen. It doesn’t say anything about voting on cabinet appointees (it only says important positions will be filled with the “advice and consent” of the Senate) or holding hearings.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s wrong for any people living on land under the sovereignty of the United States not to have full status as citizens of a state with full voting representation in the Senate and the House. I don’t think there should be any “territories.” Either you’re a state of the United States or you’re part of some other sovereign nation.

If there is no political will to grant full statehood to the five territories, I think the least we can do is give them non-voting representation in the House.

To be precise, I didn’t say I view the House and Senate as being equally prestigious. I was saying that House members think that they are on equal footing with the Senate.

But it’s likely that more people know the names of their two senators than their local representative because Senate campaigns are much bigger deals because they are statewide and the races tend to be more competitive. The number of competitive House seats every two years is pretty small.

Actually, as far as the Constitution not saying anything about not having delegates, IMHO, that’s completely irrelevant. The Constitution is the establishing document for the governemnt and thus what it prescribes in it is what’s established as said government. It prescribed representatives, senators, judges, and the president. Delegates is a end-run attempt around the Constitution. Although delegates can’t vote on any issue on the floor of either the House or the Senate, they can (if I’m not mistaken) both speak on the floor of both and actually can vote in committees to which they’re assigned. The regions for which they’re delegates aren’t states; they shouldn’t be treated as such.

From the Constitution (bolding mine):

and (again, bolding mine):

This last has been amended thus (more bolding mine):

I see that the Constitution clearly dictates exactly what the composition of the House of Representatives shall be: only Representatives from the States; and the Senate shall be composed of only Senators from the States. Delegates aren’t part of it. IMHO, delegates from the territories and the district are unconstitutional.

There’s a joke in the House of Representatives that says that if a Representative gets elected to the Senate, that improves the average intelligence in both bodies.

Captain Amazing: The joke you just mentioned reminds me of how the members of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom refer to the House of Commons: “That other place.”

I love politics due to how silly the serious business is done in the legislatures.

The term “Congressman” can be used to differentiate a member of the Federal House of Representatives from a member of a state House of Representatives. In Massachusetts or Connecticut, for example, your “representative” may be a person representating you at the state level, while your “congressman” (or woman) represents you at the national level.

There’s a similar practice in both the U.K. and Canada. Members of the Houses of Commons are referred to as a “Member of Parliament” or “M.P.” Members of the House of Lords and the Canadian Senate, although obviously part of Parliament (as is the Queen) are not referred to as members of Parliament.

It wasn’t until the 1990s, that a House or Senate member could refer to the other body as something other than “the other body”.

You could not say “Senate” in the House and vice versa.

As for the delegates, it doesn’t appear that there has ever been any challenge to their constitutionality. Since the delegates (or the Resident Commissioner as the Puerto Rican one is titled) can’t vote on legislation, except in committee, they’re hasn’t been any need to bother with them. And Congress does have the right to make laws regarding DC and the territories, so that is probably the argument some lawyer would make if the situation came up.