Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
Click here to view the Clerk's new site
Skip to Content

Member Faqs


Members


1. Who is a Member of Congress?

A Member of Congress is a U.S. Representative, who serves in the House of Representatives, or a U.S. Senator, who serves in the Senate. A Member of the House also is called a Congresswoman or Congressman. (Delegates and the Resident Commissioner are nonvoting members of the House.)

For lists of current Members of the House, visit the Member Information page.
For lists of current Senators, visit the U.S. Senate website.


2. What are Delegates and the Resident Commissioner? How long do they serve, and what do they do?

The office of Delegate was established by ordinance of the Continental Congress (1774–1789) and confirmed by a law of the U.S. Congress. From the beginning of the Republic, the U.S. House of Representatives has admitted Delegates from territories or districts organized by law. There are currently five Delegates, including one from the District of Columbia, and one from each of the following territories:

  • American Samoa
  • Guam
  • The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • The Virgin Islands.

Congress created the post of Resident Commissioner in 1900 to apply to Puerto Rico. Congress granted a Resident Commissioner to the Philippines several years later. Since 1946, when the Philippines became independent, only Puerto Rico has had a Resident Commissioner.

Delegates and Representatives serve a two-year term, and the Resident Commissioner serves a four-year term. In most respects, Delegates and the Resident Commissioner have most of the authority that Members have. On the House Floor, they can speak, introduce bills, and offer amendments. They can serve on House Committees and possess most of the authority that other Committee members have.

Delegates and the Resident Commissioner also may offer amendments while the House is conducting business as the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union. However, unlike Members, they may not vote while the House is conducting business as the Committee of the Whole or vote on the final passage of legislation when the House is meeting.

For current lists of the Members, Delegates, and Resident Commissioner, visit the Member Information page.


3. Do Members take an Oath of Office when they enter the House?

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution requires that Members of the U.S. Congress be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. Members-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives typically take the Oath of Office on the House Floor on the first day of a new Congress, immediately after the Speaker of the House has been elected and sworn in.

The Speaker administers this oath:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

If elected in special elections during the course of a Congress, Representatives, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner generally take the Oath on the Floor, once the Clerk of the House has received a certificate of election from the appropriate election commission.

On rare occasions, because of illness or other such circumstances, a Member-elect has been authorized to take the Oath at a location other than the House, and the Speaker’s designee administers the Oath.

For information on Members who have taken the Oath of Office, visit the Member Information page.


4. What are the requirements for becoming a Member of the House?

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:

"No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."

These requirements cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment.


5. When are House elections held?

General elections for the U.S. House of Representatives are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, in even-numbered years.

For election results and resources, visit the Election Information page.


6. How are Representatives, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner nominated and elected?

In most states, territories, and the District of Columbia, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives who are members of major political parties are nominated in a primary election. Some states also provide for a party convention to nominate candidates or to endorse candidates before a primary. In many states, no primary election is held for a particular office if a candidate is unopposed. Minor-party candidates are nominated according to individual party rules and procedures, while Independent candidates are nominated by self-declaration.

States automatically place major-party candidates on the primary ballot. Minor-party and Independent candidates must meet state-specific requirements—such as submitting a petition with the signatures of registered voters—to be placed on the ballot.

House Members are elected by plurality vote (the largest number of votes received) in the congressional district in which they are candidates. Special cases include:

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas, which require that a candidate receive a majority (more than half) of popular votes to be nominated. In these states, a runoff primary election between the top two candidates is held if no candidate receives a majority in the first primary.
  • Louisiana, which requires that all candidates compete in an “open primary,” an all-party primary election. The candidate who wins the majority (more than half) of the votes is declared elected. The election is held on general election day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November). If necessary, a runoff election between the top two finishers will follow several weeks later.

For election results and resources, visit the Election Information page.


7. What is the size of the House Membership, and how is it determined?

The current size of the U.S. House–435 Representatives–was established by Public Law 62-5 on August 8, 1911, and the law took effect in 1913. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates the minimum and maximum numbers of Members in the House. Learn More about Congressional Apportionment and view a chart of apportionment by state..

Additional information on apportionment is available on the website of the U.S. Census Bureau, on the Congressional Affairs Office page or on the Congressional Apportionment page.


8. How many Representatives does each state have in the House?

Under Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, each state, territory, or district is entitled to at least one representative. Additional seats are apportioned based on population.

The U.S. Congress fixes the size of the U.S. House of Representatives and the procedure of apportioning the number of Representatives among the states. State legislatures pass laws that determine the physical boundaries of congressional districts, within certain constraints established by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court (through reapportionment and redistricting rulings). The number of Members for each state is apportioned according to the results of the decennial census conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau.

For more information on current congressional districts, visit the Congressional District Profiles page on the U.S. Census Bureau's website.


9. Where are the Members’, Delegates’, and Resident Commissioner’s offices?

Member offices are located in Washington, DC, in the Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn House office buildings south of the U.S. Capitol, along Independence Avenue.

In addition, House Committee offices and support services are located in the buildings and the Ford House Office Building. House leadership offices are located in the House wing of the Capitol.

Visit the Architect of the Capitol website for more information on the location and history of the House office buildings.

For specific Member contact information, visit the Member Information page.

Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner also maintain offices in their states, territories, and districts. For a list of district office websites, visit the House website.

For information on historic room assignments in House office buildings, visit the History, Art & Archives website.


10. Do Members of the House have assigned seating in the House Chamber?

Assigned seating for Members was abolished during the 63rd Congress, in 1913. Today, Members may sit where they please. Generally, Democrats occupy the east side of the Chamber to the right of the Speaker of the House, and Republicans sit across the aisle on the Speaker's left. The tables on either side of the aisle are reserved for party leaders and for Committee leaders during debate on bills their Committees bring to the House Floor.

For information on the locations of historic desks in the Old House Chamber, visit the History, Art & Archives website.


11. How is a vacancy filled in the event of a House Member’s death, resignation, declination (refusal to serve), or expulsion?

Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution requires that all vacancies in the U.S. House of Representatives be filled by election.

  • During the first session of a Congress, all states, territories, and districts require special elections to fill any vacant House seats.
  • During the second session of a Congress, procedures governing vacancies that have occurred during the session differ depending on the state, territory, or district and are largely dependent on the amount of time between the vacancy and the next general election.

View the list of current congressional vacancies and vacancies listed in overviews of previous Congresses.


12. What is meant by “Member at Large”?

A Member at Large is a Representative, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner of the U.S. House of Representatives who has been elected by the voters of a state, district, or territory—not by the voters from a specific congressional district.

The U.S. Congress enacted a law in 1967 that prohibits states with more than one Representative from holding Member at Large elections (2 U.S.C. §2c).

For information on current Members’ “at Large” and district designations, view the following official lists on the Member Information page:

  • “Official Alphabetical List of Members”
  • “Official List of Members by State”
  • “Official Member Telephone Directory.”

13. What is the proper way to address a letter to a Member of the House?

Acceptable forms of address for Members of the U.S. House of Representatives include “the Honorable” and “Representative.” Address correspondence according to the following samples:

The Honorable J.Q. Smith
U.S. House of Representatives
123 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
or
Representative J.Q. Smith
U.S. House of Representatives
123 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

For information on how to contact Members, visit the Member Information page.


14. How much are House Members paid?

For current and historical information on Members’ salaries, visit the Congressional Research Service website.


15. How many women are serving in Congress?

For the number of women currently serving in the U.S. Congress–and other information about women in Congress–visit the History, Art & Archives website


16. How many Members of the House are in each party?

For data on the party divisions in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, visit the Congressional Profile page.



House Leadership & Officers


1. What is the role of the Speaker of the House? Who has served as Speaker?

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives customarily has the following roles:

  • Institutional, as presiding officer and administrative head of the House
  • Representative, as an elected Member of the House
  • Party leader, as leader of the majority party in the House.

By statute, the Speaker is second in line, after the Vice President of the United States, to succeed the President (3 U.S.C. §19).

View the list of the Speakers of the House, 1789–present.

For more information on the current Speaker, visit the Speaker’s website.


2. How is the Speaker of the House elected?

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers."

Although the Constitution does not require the Speaker to be a Member of the House, all Speakers have been Members.

When a Congress convenes for the first time, each major party conference or caucus nominates a candidate for Speaker. Members customarily elect the Speaker by roll call vote. A Member usually votes for the candidate from his or her own party conference or caucus but can vote for anyone, whether that person has been nominated or not.

To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast—which may be less than a majority of the full House because of vacancies, absentee Members, or Members who vote "present." If no candidate receives the majority of votes, the roll call is repeated until a majority is reached and the Speaker is elected.

View historical facts about Speakers of the House.

For more information on the current Speaker, visit the Speaker’s website.


3. What are the duties of the Speaker of the House?

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives:

  • Presides over the House
  • Administers the Oath of Office to House Members
  • Communicates with the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate
  • Leads his or her party conference or caucus
  • Chairs his or her party’s steering committee, which is involved in the selection of party members for standing committees
  • Nominates chairs and members of the Committee on Rules and the Committee on House Administration.

The Speaker also appoints:

  • Speakers pro tempore
  • The chair who presides over the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union
  • Members to House-Senate conference committees
  • A Member to the Committee on the Budget
  • Select committees
  • Certain House staff

The Speaker recognizes Members to speak on the House Floor or make motions during Floor proceedings. The Speaker makes many important rulings and decisions in the House. The Speaker may debate or vote, but typically only occasionally does so. The Speaker also serves as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

For more information on the current Speaker, visit the Speaker’s website.


4. What are the duties of the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader? Who has served in these positions?

The Majority Leader helps plan daily, weekly, and annual legislative agendas for the U.S. House of Representatives and customarily schedules legislative business on the House Floor. The Majority Leader works closely with the Speaker of the House, and communicates and consults with House Members to advance the majority party’s legislative goals.

The Minority Leader leads and serves as a spokesperson for the minority party. The Minority Leader chairs the party’s steering committee, which is involved in the selection of party members for standing committees, and nominates or appoints the party’s members to certain standing committees. The Minority Leader also serves as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Minority Leader directs the party’s legislative strategies and operations, in consultation with party colleagues.

The Majority Leader and Minority Leader—also called party Floor leaders—are selected by the party conference and the party caucus.

View the lists of Majority Leaders and Minority Leaders, 1899–present.

For more information on the current leaders, visit the Majority Leader’s website and the Minority Leader’s website.


5. How are the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader selected?

Every two years, before the U.S. House of Representatives convenes for the first time at the start of a new Congress, the members of the House Republican Conference and House Democratic Caucus separately meet and elect their respective Floor leader.

For more information on the current leaders, visit the Majority Leader’s website and the Minority Leader’s website.

Visit the House Republican Conference’s website and House Democratic Caucus website.


6. What are House whips? Who has served as a whip?

In addition to the Majority Leader and Minority Leader, each party in the U.S. House of Representatives elects a whip. Other whip positions vary by party and can include one or more chief deputy whips as well as deputy whips, assistant whips, regional whips, and other whips. The Whips are elected or appointed at organizational meetings before the start of a two-year Congress.

Whips maintain communication between party leadership and party members, build the members’ support for the leadership’s priorities, and inform and mobilize members on voting on key legislation.

View the list of House Republican Whips, 1897–present and the list of House Democratic Whips, 1899–present.

Visit the current Majority Whip’s website and Minority Whip’s website.


7. What are House party conferences and party caucuses?

A party conference or party caucus is an organizational body of all of a party’s members in the U.S. House of Representatives. The terms “conference” or “caucus” also can refer to some Congressional Member Organizations, or refer to a meeting that includes all of a party’s members in the House.

House Republicans call their organization the House Republican Conference; House Democrats call their organization the House Democratic Caucus. The House Republican Conference and House Democratic Caucus officially elect the parties’ leaders. The organizations elect their chairs before the start of a new Congress. Typically, each establishes a steering committee or steering and policy committee, which approves assignments of party members to standing committees, as well as establishes task forces.

For information on the organizations, visit the House Republican Conference website and the House Democratic Caucus website.

View the list of House Republican Conference Chairmen, 1863–present and the list of House Democratic Caucus Chairmen, 1849–present.


8. What is a Congressional Member Organization?

Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) in the U.S. House of Representatives are voluntary informal groups of House Members that register with the Committee on House Administration (CHA). Each CMO pursues legislative objectives shared by a group of Members, and many CMOs meet regularly to exchange information.

View the list of current and past Congressional Member Organizations on the CHA website.


9. Who are the House Officers, and what are their duties?

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Members to choose the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and other Officers.

The other Officers elected at the beginning of each Congress, per Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, include:

  • The Clerk of the House, who supports the legislative and preservation functions of the House and keeps the public informed about its activities.

    View the history of the office and list of Clerks of the House, 1789–present.

    View the About the Clerk’s Office page.

  • The Sergeant at Arms, who is the chief law enforcement officer for the House and is responsible for maintaining security, order, and decorum in the House Chamber, the House wing of the U.S. Capitol, and House office buildings.

  • The Chief Administrative Officer, who is responsible for administrative functions for the House, including operating budgets, financial management, procurement, payroll and benefits, information technology, food services, office equipment and furnishings, cybersecurity, and broadcast services.

    Visit the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer website.

  • The Chaplain, who opens each meeting of Congress with a formal prayer—a custom since the First Congress—and provides pastoral counseling to Members, their families, and congressional staff. Guest chaplains of various denominations regularly offer the opening prayer.

    Visit the Office of the Chaplain website.


Office of the Clerk - U.S. Capitol, Room H154, Washington, DC 20515-6601 | (202) 225-7000

For general inquiries: info.clerkweb@mail.house.gov
For general technical support: techsupport.clerkweb@mail.house.gov