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Bicameral System Definition

What Is a Bicameral System?

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A bicameral system describes a authorities that has a two-house legislative system, such because the Home of Representatives and the Senate that make up the U.S. Congress. The phrase bicameral is derived from the Latin: “bi” (which means two) and “digicam” (which means chamber). The British Parliament, a bicameral system, has been the mannequin for many parliamentary programs around the globe.

A bicameral system could be contrasted with a unicameral system, during which all members of the legislature deliberate and vote as a single group. The legislative department of the U.S. federal authorities makes use of a bicameral system, along with all the U.S. states, except Nebraska. U.S. cities, against this, generally use the unicameral system.

Key Takeaways

  • A bicameral system is a authorities type with two separate divisions inside the legislative department of presidency.
  • The U.S. bicameral system is split into the Home of Representatives and the Senate.
  • Nearly all of worldwide governments use the unicameral system—with a roughly 60/40 cut up between unicameral and bicameral.
  • Every home of the legislative department has differing powers to make sure there are checks and balances inside the system. 
  • The extra populous Home of Representatives department has much less stringent necessities for members in the case of age and citizenship size in comparison with the Senate.

How a Bicameral System Works

In a bicameral system, the 2 chambers of the legislative physique can have totally different organizations, guidelines, strategies of choosing members, and designated powers concerning the laws and oversight of the opposite branches of the federal government. Within the U.S., the opposite branches of the federal government are the manager department and the judiciary department.

There are each sensible and historic causes to have two homes of the legislature. A sensible motive for a bicameral system is to operate as a part of the bigger system of checks and balances that stability the ability of various components of a authorities or a society. By dividing energy inside the legislative department, bicameralism helps stop the legislative department from having an excessive amount of energy—a type of intrabranch verify. Throughout the legislative physique, bicameralism has traditionally functioned to stability the ability of various social lessons or teams inside a society.

The bicameral system arose in medieval Europe. Sharp class distinctions between the the Aristocracy, the clergy, and the commoners meant that these lessons have been represented by separate teams of representatives, which have been charged with advising the king on issues associated to and representing the pursuits of their respective social spheres. In England, these teams ultimately developed into the Home of Lords and the Home of Commons. Within the trendy U.Ok., the Home of Lords remains to be thought of a extra elite physique, whereas the Home of Commons represents a bigger, extra frequent class.

The U.S. bicameral system arose from a need to have a balanced system inside the legislative department and to handle a disagreement over how states could be allotted illustration.

Historical past of Bicameralism within the U.S.

The bicameral system within the U.S. consists of the Home of Representatives and the Senate—collectively generally known as the U.S. Congress. Article 1, Part 1 of the U.S. Structure establishes that the U.S. Congress consists of the Senate and the Home of Representatives.

Throughout the Constitutional Conference, America’s founders couldn’t agree on whether or not the states ought to every have the identical variety of representatives or whether or not the variety of representatives must be based mostly on the inhabitants dimension. In an settlement generally known as the Nice Compromise, the founders determined to include each components: the bicameral system was established.

Like the 2 homes of the English Parliament, the 2 chambers inside the U.S. legislative have been additionally meant to signify totally different stakeholders inside the U.S. The Senate was designed to signify the pursuits of the States (Senators have been initially appointed by the state legislatures, not elected), and the Home of Representatives was meant to be elected by and signify the pursuits of the frequent individuals. That is additionally mirrored within the powers delegated to every home by the Structure, with the Senate given a extra deliberative, advisory, and oversight position, whereas the Home of Representatives was given main authority over the taxation of their constituents.

Members of the U.S. Home of Representatives serve two-year phrases. Two-year phrases are supposed to preserve representatives aware of voters’ wants. There are 435 representatives in complete, with the quantity from every state being in proportion to that state’s inhabitants. This method is known as proportional illustration. Alabama, for instance, has seven representatives, whereas California has 53. The seven least-populous states—Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—have just one consultant every.


The primary occasion of British bicameralism occurred in 1341. When the Commons met individually from the the Aristocracy and clergy for the primary time, an Higher Chamber and a Decrease Chamber have been successfully created. The U.S. adopted a bicameral system after its founding.

State Governments

Every state additionally has two Senators (a system referred to as equal illustration) who’re immediately elected by voters and serve six-year phrases. Earlier than the Seventeenth Modification to the Structure was ratified in 1913, the state legislatures acquired to decide on Senators. These positions tended to be held by the elites.

Every home has totally different necessities to serve. To be a U.S. consultant, you have to be at the very least 25 years outdated, a U.S. citizen for at the very least seven years, and a resident of the state you need to signify. To be a U.S. Senator, you have to be at the very least 30 years outdated, a U.S. citizen for at the very least 9 years, and a resident of the state you need to signify.

Every home additionally has distinctive powers. Solely members of the Home of Representatives can criminally indict (impeach) the President and different federal officers; the Senate then critiques the case. The Home additionally decides presidential elections if no candidate wins a majority of electoral school votes. And any invoice that will increase taxes originates within the Home, which is why the Home of Representatives is claimed to have the “energy of the purse.” The Senate votes to verify the appointment of greater than 1,000 govt officers, and it may ratify treaties with a two-thirds vote.

Bicameralism vs. Unicameralism 

Worldwide, about 41% of governments are bicameral and about 59% are unicameral. Different nations which have a bicameral system embrace Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, the U.Ok., Eire, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

The scale, time period of workplace, and methodology of election (immediately elected, not directly elected, appointed, or different) for every chamber of a bicameral system will differ by nation. Unicameral programs turned extra standard through the twentieth century, and a few nations, together with Greece, New Zealand, and Peru, switched programs from bicameral to unicameral.

What Does Bicameral Imply?

Bicameral actually means “two chambers,” and in observe refers to a authorities construction involving two homes, or two legislative our bodies, which can be separate in deliberation from each other.

Why Did the U.S. Structure Set up a Bicameral Legislature?

The Founders of the U.S. established a bicameral legislature with a purpose to create a separation of powers. On the constitutional conference, bigger states (principally within the South) and smaller states (within the North) started to quarrel over which ought to wield extra energy on the federal stage. As a compromise (referred to as “The Nice Compromise,” Roger Sherman, a delegate from the colony of Connecticut, proposed bicameralism. This fashion, smaller states acquired equal illustration with bigger states with every having two senators. On the identical time, the home of representatives assigns members of congress proportional to the inhabitants.

Which U.S. States Do Not Have a Bicameral Legislature?

All states within the U.S. however one are bicameral with each a home and a senate. The one exception is Nebraska, which has only a one-chamber legislature.

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