United States House of Representatives

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
House of Representatives
seal Capitol Dome
logo Capitol Dome
Basic data
Seat: Washington, DC
Legislative period : 2 years
First session: April 1, 1789
MPs: 435
Current legislative period
Last choice: 3rd November 2020
Chair: Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D)
US House 222-0-211 (2V) .svg
Distribution of seats: Majority parliamentary group (222)
  • Democrats 222
  • Minority group (211)
  • Republican 211
  • vacant 2
  • Website

    The House of Representatives of the United States (also House of Representatives; English United States House of Representatives , often just the House ) is one of the two chambers of the United States Congress - next to the Senate . It is in the tradition of bicameral parliaments (bicameralism), which has its origins in the British Parliament . Each state is represented in the House of Representatives based on its proportion of the total population. The eligible citizens of the USA elect the MPs in November of the even years for two years in their respectiveCongressional constituency .

    In the US political system , the House of Representatives is heavily involved in legislation and has some control functions over the president . It has the sole right of initiative in tax and budget laws; in addition, only this House can initiate impeachment proceedings.

    The seat of the house is the south wing of the Capitol in Washington, DC The members are known as Congressmen or Congresswomen or Representatives .

    De facto flag of the House of Representatives

    The constitution does not determine the size of parliament. Since 1911, the House of Representatives has consisted of 435 MPs, each representing the constituency in which they were elected. The District of Columbia and some other non- state territories (such as the suburbs of the United States such as Puerto Rico and Guam ) send non-voting delegates to the House of Representatives.


    The United States Constitution provided for a House of Representatives when it was drawn up in 1787. Originally 65 members were planned. After the necessary ratification of the constitution by nine US states had come about in 1788 , the first elections to the House of Representatives were held. The constitution came into force on March 4, 1789; however, the quorum of the House was only established on April 1 of the same year due to the lack of personal presence in New York City (the then capital of the USA ). The first US Congress, of which the 65-member body became a part, passed the legal basis for the first census . In 1790 the House of Representatives, whose seat had meanwhile been moved to Philadelphia , was re-elected on the same basis (65 members who were distributed among the states according to the provisional distribution in Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution). The second Congress then passed a law based on the census results that were now available, which redistributed representation among the states. This provided for 120 seats to be distributed according to the Hare-Niemeyer method by Alexander Hamilton . President George Washington vetoed this bill, the first in US history. So then, Congress passed a new law, the 105 seats after the D'Hondt method of Thomas Jefferson distributed; this law also came into effect with the approval of the President and formed the basis for the elections to the third Congress in 1792, which met in 1793.

    According to the articles of confederation, Congress functioned as a unicameral system , with each state having one vote. However, this system proved inefficient, so the Philadelphia Convention was convened in 1787 , to which all states except Rhode Island sent delegates. The question of how the congress should be structured led to sharp disputes:

    Finally, the convention agreed on the Connecticut Compromise , according to which representation in proportion to the population in the House of Representatives was guaranteed, while each state was represented equally in the Senate.

    In the 19th century, different majorities often prevailed in the House of Representatives than in the Senate on issues that were assessed differently from region to region. Because of the larger population in the northern states , these were superior to the southern states in the House of Representatives . In the Senate, however, with its equal representation of the states, there was no comparable dominance of the North. Repeated conflicts between the two houses arose over the issue of slavery . One example is the Wilmot Proviso bill , which was intended to outlaw slavery in areas won in the Mexican-American war . This motion was accepted several times by the House of Representatives, but blocked by the Senate. The disagreements over slavery and other issues lasted until the Civil War (1861-1865). In the course of the war, the southern states, which had attempted secession , were defeated and slavery abolished. After all of the southern senators except Andrew Johnson resigned at the beginning of the war, the Senate lost its balance during the civil war between the northern and southern states.

    Distribution of seats according to party strength (Republicans: red, Democrats: blue) from 1789 to 2017

    In the following years of the Reconstruction there were significant majorities for the Republican Party , which brought a large part of the population to the victory of the Union states in the civil war. Reconstruction lasted until around 1877. The following era, known as the Gilded Age , was marked by tough political conflicts. Both the Democrats and Republicans temporarily held majorities in the House of Representatives.

    Around 1890, during the tenure of Republican Thomas Brackett Reed as Speaker of the House of Representatives , the power of the Speaker (that is, the chairman, elected by the majority party and usually from among its MPs) of the House of Representatives began to grow dramatically. “ Tsar Reed,” as his nickname was, tried to put his point of view into practice: the best system is to let one party rule and let the other watch. (“The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch.”) In 1899 the positions of majority and minority leaders (“Majority Leader” and “Minority Leader”) were created. The minority leader headed the party that was in the minority, but the majority leader remained subordinate to the spokesman. During the term of office of the Republican Joseph Gurney Cannon from 1903 to 1911, the office of speaker reached its highest importance. His powers included chairing the influential Rules Committee and appointing additional committee members. These powers were curtailed in the "1910 Revolution" by Democrats and disaffected Republicans who opposed Cannon's authoritarian rule.

    Development of majorities in the House of Representatives from 1855 to 2010

    During the tenure of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–1945), the Democrats often had more than a two-thirds majority . In the following ten years there were varying majorities before the Democrats again held the majority from 1954 to 1995. In the 1970s, reforms strengthened the powers of subcommittees, while committee chairmen lost their power and could now be appointed by party leaders. This was intended to limit the obstruction policy of some long-term members. After the 1994 election , Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives. The new spokesman, Newt Gingrich , introduced an ambitious reform program (“Contract with America”) and shortened the term of office of committee chairmen to three times two years. However, much of his proposed reforms failed in Congress or because of President Bill Clinton's veto, or underwent major changes in negotiations with Clinton. However, Gingrich cut the funding for committee staff by a third and concentrated the funding on the leadership position of the spokesman, which, according to Bill Pascrell, had a long-term impact on legislative work, as lobbyists and party leaders increasingly set the political agenda and the specialist politicians have less influence.

    In the 2006 election , the Republicans lost the leadership of the House of Representatives to the Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi . The 2010 election gave Republicans a majority back and maintained it until the 2018 mid-term elections , in which the Democrats regained a majority.


    The Capitol in Washington, DC

    Like the Senate, the House of Representatives also meets in the Capitol in Washington. The lectern and the speaker's seat are located at the front of the plenary chamber . Administrative staff sit in front of the speaker, who, among other things, keep the minutes and, if necessary, determine the presence. The seats of the deputies are arranged in several rows in a semicircle and separated by a wide path in the middle. Traditionally, Democrats sit on the right of center from the speaker's point of view and Republicans on the left. The seating arrangements within the parliamentary groups are essentially based on seniority , i. H. Senior MPs are first entitled to a seat. The parliamentary group leadership is in any case in the front.

    The Chamber is decorated with a large US flag just behind the speaker's seat and portraits of George Washington and the Marquis de La Fayette . Until the Second World War, the hall was also used for funeral services when members of parliament had died during their term in office.

    Since the 20th century, the MPs have had offices in separate office buildings to relieve the Capitol building. These are the Cannon House Office Building (opened 1908), the Longworth House Office Building (opened 1933) and the Rayburn House Office Building (opened 1965). The Ford House Office Building , which Congress bought from the FBI in the 1980s , does not contain any House of Representatives offices, but rather offices of other House employees and employees.

    Members of the House of Representatives


    The election for the House of Representatives takes place in years with even years (i.e. every 2 years) on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. On this election day , the elections for a third of the Senate and every four years the elections for the US presidency take place at the same time . The deputies are elected according to the principles of general, free, equal and secret elections . The choice is immediate; H. voters directly elect their MPs. Thus, the congressional election is in contrast to, for example, the US presidential election, in which the voters choose electors who in turn elect the president.

    Relative majority voting applies : the voter chooses a candidate in his constituency and no parties, there are no party lists. In principle, the candidate with the most votes wins his constituency; an absolute majority is not necessary. However, since the states determine the exact voting procedures, there may be deviations from this rule. In Louisiana, for example, an absolute majority is necessary; if none of the candidates achieve this, there will be runoff elections. The rules by which smaller parties (third parties) can nominate vary from state to state. In order to prevent several candidates from one party from stealing votes from each other in a constituency, the major parties hold primaries so that only one candidate each runs in the actual election.

    According to the first article of the constitution, the seats in the House of Representatives are to be allocated to the states in proportion to their population. The calculation is based on the census carried out every ten years . However, every state has at least one MP.


    The 435 congressional electoral districts

    In total, the Americans vote in 435 single-electoral districts, with exactly one representative sent to parliament per district. States that have multiple seats must be divided into multiple constituencies to vote. In most states, these are usually determined by the state parliaments after each census; however, you can do this more often. When determining the districts, the principle of equal voting must be observed; the vote of a voter in one constituency must have as much influence on the outcome of the general election as that of a voter in any other constituency of the state. The Supreme Court ruled in the Wesberry v. Sanders found that gross differences in the number of voters between constituencies in the same state are unconstitutional. In addition, the Voting Rights Act prohibits constituencies from being drawn in a way that reduces the influence of ethnic minorities.

    Despite these regulations, the boundaries of electoral districts are often drawn very arbitrarily, without paying attention to geography, history or administrative structure. In this way, parties can achieve, for example, that their supporters vote in one district or that the supporters of the opposing party are distributed over several districts. This practice is known as gerrymandering after former Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry . As long as no ethnic minorities are disadvantaged, the manipulation of electoral district borders for political purposes is not prohibited and is practiced in many countries. One result is that in congressional elections less than 10% of the seats have a realistic chance of switching between parties. Another is that the percentage composition of the delegations of individual states often in no way corresponds to the total votes cast in the state for representatives of the various parties. A third is that the party composition of the House of Representatives does not necessarily reflect the absolute total votes cast in the country. This was most recently the case in the November 2012 election: although the Democrats won the majority of votes cast for Congressmen nationwide with 59,645,387 and the Republicans clearly distanced themselves with 58,283,036 votes, they only got 201 seats, while the Republicans got 234 could achieve. (Three of these seats became vacant after the election due to resignations or deaths.) After 1914, 1942, and 1952, this was the fourth time in the last 100 years that a party won a majority of the vote for its candidates and yet not a majority of the seats could win.

    Distribution of seats according to states

    Distribution of seats by state since 2012 and changes over the past decade

    The allocation of seats to the individual states is based on the Hill-Huntington procedure and is redefined every ten years. In order to keep the number of seats manageable, Congress has set limits for the total number of seats over the years. Since 1911 it has been 435. The only exception was in 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii became states after the elections, each sending an additional MP to the House of Representatives.

    The District of Columbia and the Territories do not have voting rights in the House of Representatives under the Constitution. However, Congress has passed laws that allow these areas to send non-voting delegates. Delegates have the same speaking rights as members of parliament and may vote in committees, but not in plenary . The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico , American Samoa , Guam , Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands are currently sending delegates. The delegate of Puerto Rico, the so-called Resident Commissioner, is elected by the residents as the only delegate not for two years, but for four years.

    Seats for the 2012-2020 elections

    Country Seats Country Seats Country Seats Country Seats Country Seats
    AL 7th AK 1 AZ 9 AR 4th CA 53
    CO 7th CT 5 DE 1 FL 27 GA 14th
    HI 2 ID 2 IL 18th IN 9 IA 4th
    KS 4th KY 6th LA 6th ME 2 MD 8th
    MA 9 MI 14th MN 8th MS 4th MO 8th
    MT 1 NE 3 NV 4th NH 2 NJ 12th
    NM 3 NY 27 NC 13th ND 1 OH 16
    OK 5 OR 5 PA 18th RI 2 SC 7th
    SD 1 TN 9 TX 36 UT 4th VT 1
    VA 11 WA 10 WV 3 WI 8th WY 1

    Active and passive right to vote

    Any adult US citizen who has their (main) residence in one of the 50 US states or is abroad can vote . In the latter case, he is eligible to vote in the state of his last US residence.

    Since Washington DC is a federal district , i.e. not a state of the USA, the Americans living there are not eligible to vote and are only represented in the House of Representatives by a delegate with limited voting rights. This fact has long displeased the city's residents. Efforts to change this situation have so far failed.

    Pursuant to Article 1, Section 2, Section 2 of the Constitution, any US citizen who has reached the age of 25, has been an American citizen for at least 7 years and is living in the state in which he is running at the time of the election can be elected.

    According to the 14th Amendment , MPs who swore an oath on the constitution and later rebelled against the United States are no longer entitled to sit in the House of Representatives. The passage was introduced after the Civil War to exclude confederate supporters .

    The final decision as to whether a future MP is entitled to sit in the House rests with the House of Representatives, which can accept a MP with a two-thirds majority even if he does not objectively meet the criteria.


    Members of parliament are generally referred to as Congressman or Congresswoman or also as Representative . Senators, though also members of Congress, are not addressed as Congressman . MEPs may use the prefix The Honorable in front of their name.

    All MPs receive an annual salary of $ 165,200, with the speaker, majority and minority leaders receiving higher salaries. The Congress itself determines the salaries of its members. According to the 27th amendment to the constitution , it can only change it for the next legislative period and not for the current one.

    MPs and delegates (with the exception of Puerto Rico) serve for two years. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico serves for four years.

    Loss of mandate

    After the election, MPs retain their seats for the remainder of the legislature or until they resign or die. The House of Representatives can also resolve by a two-thirds majority to expel a member. In the history of the United States of America, only five MPs lost their seats in this way. Three lost their seats before the Civil War because of their support for the secessionists and two ( Michael Myers 1980 and James Traficant 2002) because of corruption. The House can officially reprimand its members, but this has no further formal impact on the MP.


    The House of Representatives is usually viewed as more partisan than the Senate. In the original concept, the Senate (whose members were not directly elected until 1912, but by the parliaments of the individual states ) should act as control of the House of Representatives, just as it should act as control of the Senate. However, both chambers have special rights. Only the House can control laws contribute or the president accuse of abuse of office .


    All common federal laws in the USA must be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate with the same wording, so there is no distinction between laws that require approval and those that do not require approval, similar to Switzerland, but unlike in Germany. Even the US president has to approve or at least not contradict the law; if he exercises his veto , the law can only come into force if both houses pass it again in a roll-call vote with a two-thirds majority.

    In the event that the Senate and the House of Representatives have different opinions about a law, there is a mediation committee, the so-called Conference Committee, similar to Germany and Switzerland .

    All financial laws - that is, laws that affect government spending or taxes, especially the annual US federal budget - may only be introduced in the House of Representatives; they will only be dealt with in the Senate after they have been passed. The Senate has already tried several times to challenge or de facto ignore this regulation, but so far it has successfully defended the House. For details, see the main article Legislative Procedure (United States) .

    Control functions

    The House of Representatives has fewer control functions in the system of checks and balances than the Senate. On the other hand, only the House of Representatives can initiate impeachment proceedings , which the Senate then decides on.

    Impeachment proceedings are possible against federal officials (including the US President) who have committed “treason, corruption or any other crime against the state” (Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors) . The possible punishment is limited to the loss of the office, possible further punishments can only be pronounced by regular courts. There have been 17 such cases in US history. To get it off to a successful start and refer it to the Senate, a simple majority in the House of Representatives is necessary. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required for a conviction. If a President is charged, the President of the Supreme Court conducts the trial. In 1868 Andrew Johnson was charged with trying to defy the Tenure of Office Act . The Senate lacked a vote to condemn him. US President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 when, after extensive investigations, it became clear that his attempts to cover up the Watergate affair would give the necessary majorities for indictment in the House of Representatives and for conviction in the Senate. The 1999 attempt to prosecute Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice after a sexual affair was discovered failed to achieve the required majorities. The other cases involved lower-level government officials, with the incumbent convicted seven times and one resigning before the trial was over. In 2019, proceedings were initiated against US President Donald Trump for his role in the Ukraine affair. The indictment was sent to the Senate, but did not receive the necessary approval.

    Likewise, in the event that no candidate wins an absolute majority of the electoral vote in a US presidential election , the House of Representatives may elect the president from among the three candidates with the most votes. In contrast to all other votes, votes are taken by state, the delegation from each state has one vote. This has happened twice so far: in the election years 1800 ( Thomas Jefferson ) and 1824 ( John Quincy Adams ). If, in the event of a stalemate in the electoral body, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate can agree on a President by January 20 of the following year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives would become Acting President.

    In addition, since the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of 1967, the House of Representatives, like the Senate, must approve the appointment of a Vice President if that office becomes vacant before the end of the electoral term. Before 1967, the office of vice president could only be filled by the presidential elections, which take place every four years. If a vice president died, resigned or became president, the second highest post in the state remained vacant until the end of the current term of office. Just a few years after its entry into force, the 25th Amendment came into effect: In December 1973, Gerald Ford was confirmed as Richard Nixon's new Vice President by both chambers of Congress . He succeeded Spiro Agnew , who resigned about two months earlier on allegations of corruption . After President Nixon himself was forced to resign in the wake of the Watergate affair in August 1974, Ford took over the presidency. Ford in turn appointed Nelson Rockefeller as the new Vice President, which the Senate and House confirmed in December 1974. Both Ford and Rockefeller faced extensive hearings from Senators and MPs before the vote. Both are the only vice-presidents so far who were not elected by electors chosen by the people, but who came into office afterwards.

    Organization of the MPs

    Representatives are more involved in the hierarchical organization of parliament and groups than in the Senate, but group discipline is still less pronounced than in most European parliaments. While the individual senators can almost arbitrarily determined by various regulations, the agenda and the debates in the House are much stronger powers to the speaker of the House, the group guides and the influential Rules Committee ( House Committee on Rules ) .


    Nancy Pelosi ,
    Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011 and since 2019

    The party with the largest number of seats in the House of Representatives is referred to as the majority party , and the party with the next highest number of seats is referred to as the minority party . The majority party sets the Speaker of the House ( Speaker of the United States House of Representatives , currently this is Nancy Pelosi ), the chairmen of all committees and some other items.

    The constitution provides that the House of Representatives elect its speaker. Although the constitution does not require it, every speaker has also been a member of parliament. In the succession of the President , the Speaker comes second after the Vice-President .

    The spokesman determines, among other things, which committees process any bills and appoints the members of the Rules Committee and the Conference Committee . When the president and spokesman belong to different parties, the spokesman often becomes the general leader of the opposition.

    The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a dramatic increase in the speaker's powers. The speaker's rise began in the 1890s during the tenure of Republican Thomas Brackett Reed . The importance of the speaker reached its peak during the tenure of Republican Joseph Gurney Cannon (1903-1911). At that point the post included the leadership of the powerful Rules Committee and the authority to appoint the members of all other committees. This great influence was put to an end in 1910 by the Democrats and some dissatisfied Republicans.

    Although the Speaker chairs the House of Representatives, he does not lead every debate. He usually delegates this task to other MPs. The chairman has extensive powers during a debate. For example, he can determine the order in which MPs are allowed to speak. Resolutions and motions can only be introduced if the spokesperson acknowledges them. In addition, the speaker interprets the rules of procedure independently, but can be overruled by the plenary.

    See also: List of United States House Speakers

    Role of the parties

    In the USA, a two-party system was formed early on , which has been dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party since the mid-19th century . The structures of the House of Representatives are tailored to this constellation. There are only two factions in the House Democratic Caucus and the House Republican Conference , one of which includes the members of the House of Representatives.

    Both parties appoint parliamentary group leaders who are known as majority and minority leaders (Majority Leader and Minority Leader) . The majority leader is also clearly second behind the speaker of the House of Representatives within his party, while the minority leader manages the affairs of his parliamentary group.

    Both the Republicans and the Democrats elect a Republican and a Democratic Whip , which is supposed to ensure factional discipline and which is called Majority Whip in the majority party and Minority Whip in the minority party. There are several assistants at the Whip's side. Further posts in the parliamentary group leadership are, in order of importance for the Democrats, the Democratic Caucus Chairman , the Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman , the Assistant to the House Minority (Majority) Leader and the Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman , for the Republicans the Republican Conference Chair , the Republican Conference Vice-Chair , the Republican Conference Secretary , the Republican Policy Committee Chairman, and the Republican Campaign Committee Chairman.

    Because of their large number and their short term in office, MPs are often significantly more dependent on their party than senators. In general, the atmosphere in the House of Representatives is seen as significantly more partisan.


    Most of the work of the House of Representatives is done in the committees and subcommittees. This includes, above all, the content-related discussion of draft laws as well as detailed supervision of the government and federal authorities. Sub-committees are each assigned to a specific committee.

    The distribution of seats in the committees depends on the strength of the parties throughout the House. Committee members are formally appointed by the entire House of Representatives, but in fact each party determines its individual members. The parliamentary groups are guided by the preferences of the members, with members of higher seniority generally having priority.

    Committee chairmen are always appointed by the majority party; the minority party provides the ranking member who, after the chairman, has the greatest powers in the committee. The committee chair sets the agenda and can prevent certain bills from even being put up for debate. While the chairmen often used these rights intensively in the past, they have generally become more reluctant to do so in recent decades.

    Until 1975, the post of committee chairman was assigned solely on the basis of seniority; it was only from 1975 that the majority party was able to determine it, which brought the group leadership a considerable increase in power. The purpose of these reforms was to circumvent the powerful influence of seasoned members. In 1995, Newt Gingrich's Republicans limited the term of a committee chairman to three consecutive two-year terms, thereby expanding the power of the House and party leadership over individual committee chairs.

    Committee of the Whole

    The "committee of the whole" ( Committee of the Whole ) occupies a special position. It consists of all members of the House of Representatives and meets in the plenary hall. In contrast to the plenary, it cannot finally decide on laws and places less demanding conditions on the quorum of the body, just as in practice the debates are often less strictly regulated than in the plenary. Normally it is used when an important law is to be discussed in front of the entire House of Representatives without it being ready for a binding vote on it. Since the delegate from Washington DC has the right to vote in the committee in contrast to the plenary and the city has been voting reliably democratically for decades, the Committee of the Whole meets more often when the Democrats have a majority and can convene the committee.

    Standing committees

    Most of the work in the House of Representatives is done by the standing committees . Everyone is responsible for a specific policy area. They have extensive legislative powers: the committees debate any law that falls within their competence, can amend it or reject it entirely, so that it never comes to a vote in plenary. They control ministries and federal authorities that fall within their area of ​​responsibility and have the right to question witnesses or to collect evidence in this context who deal with possible misconduct by the authorities.

    Committee Remarks
    Agriculture Also has certain rights regarding US immigration as many immigrants work in agriculture.
    Appropriations (investments) Influential committee as it is instrumental in determining how US funds are used.
    Armed Services Controls the activities of the armed forces and is one of the most influential committees due to the size of the budget.
    Budget Influential committee. Examines and resolves on all issues affecting the US budget.
    Education and the Workforce Takes care of school and university education, professional development and retirement arrangements.
    Energy and Commerce Has the broadest mandate alongside the tax-related committees. Partly oversees the work of five ministries and seven government organizations.
    Ethics (ethical standards) Establishes ethical standards for MPs and investigates possible violations of them.
    Financial Services In addition to controlling private banks and insurance companies, he is also responsible for the Federal Reserve System .
    Foreign Affairs (International Relations) Less powerful than its sister committee in the Senate, as the House of Representatives has fewer foreign policy rights than it does.
    Homeland Security Founded in 2002 in connection with a major reorganization of the US security agencies as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
    House Administration Management of the House of Representatives, including employment contracts, building maintenance, expenses, etc.
    Judiciary (justice) Control of the Ministry of Justice and the federal courts. Can start impeachment proceedings.
    Natural Resources Control of the development and use of natural resources.
    Oversight and Government Reform Monitors the use of taxpayers' money and the efficiency of the administrative apparatus.
    Rules of Procedure Determines largely the rules of procedure and agenda of the House of Representatives. One of the most influential committees.
    Science Control over the federal scientific authorities including NASA .
    Small Business and Entrepreneurship Legislation and oversight of the US Government's Small Business Administration.
    Transportation and Infrastructure Mainly distributes funds for public works contracts.
    Veterans' Affairs Founded after the Second World War.
    Ways and Means Responsible for taxes, customs duties and various social programs such as Social Security and Medicare , one of the most influential committees due to the large budget.

    Temporary and special committees

    The House may convene temporary committees to respond to special events. These can function in a similar way to the standing committees or, as in the case of the Katrina Committee, resemble a committee of inquiry in the German Bundestag. An originally non-permanent committee can also establish itself as a permanent one, as happened in 1945 with the Committee for Un-American Activities , which lasted until 1975. The Special Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming existed from 2007 to 2011; then the Republicans won back the majority and abolished it.

    Committee Remarks
    United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Responsible for the US intelligence services .

    Joint committees

    In contrast to other committees, joint committees with the Senate do not have the right to discuss bills. In some cases, they serve to oversee certain government organizations such as the Library of Congress or take on an advisory role such as the Joint Committee on Taxation . The chair rotates between the senior senator and the member of the House of Representatives of the majority party, while the seniority of the ranking member is calculated based on the total time in both chambers of the congress.

    Committee Remarks
    Joint Economic Committee Provides reports and recommendations regarding the state of the US economy.
    Joint Committee on the Library Manages the Library of Congress .
    Joint Committee on Printing Manages the United States Government Printing Office .
    Joint Committee on Taxation Supervision of the Internal Revenue Service . Advisory voice on all important tax laws.
    Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies Special committee that is formed every four years for the inauguration of the President .

    Rules of Procedure

    House of Representatives Chamber

    The way of working in the House of Representatives is based on the Rules of the House , Jefferson's Manual , a manual written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 to supplement the rules, and traditions, precedents, and informal conventions. In many cases, the plenum repeals stricter rules by unanimous decision. Every MP can prevent such deviations, but this rarely happens. The chairman is responsible for following the rules of procedure and warns MPs who fail to comply.

    Capacity to act

    The constitution stipulates that the House of Representatives has a quorum if at least half of its members are present. The quorum is assumed until a MP requests that it be reviewed. Although the required majorities for debates are seldom present, the quorum is rarely checked.


    MPs may only participate in debates with the consent of the speaker. The speaker has the right to determine who is allowed to participate and when. Lectures must be addressed to the speaker and, according to the protocol, may not be addressed to other members. When MPs speak, they do not refer to other MPs by name but by their seat. B. "the honored gentleman from Virginia" or "the honored lady from Massachusetts".

    Before a draft law comes before the plenary, the Rules Committee determines the procedure according to which the draft must be discussed. For example, the committee can limit the type and number of proposed changes. Debates are usually limited to one hour, half of the time reserved for the majority party and half for the minority party. This time limit is divided between specific MPs by both parties in order to structure the debate effectively. In some cases, this can result in some members only getting a minute or less to speak.

    Debates are generally public. They usually only take place on weekdays and the TV station C-SPAN broadcasts them live. In the event that the House is concerned with sensitive issues or US security, the House of Representatives can hold a closed session. In the entire history of the body, however, this has only occurred five times.


    Once the debate is over, the chair will ask for a vote. In most cases, the plenary votes with a vote. This means that the chairman puts the decision to the vote, all MPs who want to vote say “Aye” and then all MPs who want to vote against say “Nay”. The outcome of the vote depends on which side sounded stronger to the Chairman's ears. If the result of the vote is controversial, one fifth of the MPs can question the vote and demand a counted vote; even if a presidential veto is to be overruled, a counted vote must take place. In the counted vote, an employee reads the list of MPs and asks each one individually for his or her position. The result is recorded here for each member in the archive.

    In addition to voting by voice, technical solutions are also increasingly being used. To do this, the MPs use their electronic voting card and announce their vote at one of the 44 ballot boxes. Votes usually last around 15 minutes, but the counted vote can take hours if all MPs are present. Occasionally, the voting time is extended in order to use the time to influence MPs in their position. The vote on the new drug insurance in 2003 took three hours.

    The chairman can vote like any other member. If there is a stalemate, the submission is deemed to have failed.

    The House of Representatives in the 117th Congress

    Distribution of seats in the House of Representatives of the 117th Congress according to constituencies. Strong colors: takeover or gain by the respective party.
    ... and the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives at the 116th Congress by constituency for comparison
    ... and the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives at the 115th Congress by constituency for comparison
    ... and the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives at the 114th Congress by constituency for comparison

    After the elections on November 3, 2020, the House of Representatives of the 117th Congress met for the first time on January 3, 2021 and will meet until January 3, 2023.

    Political party MPs Seat share
    Democratic Party 222 51.3%
    Republican Party 211 48.7%
    total 433 99%
    position Surname Political party Country since
         Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Democrats 12th Congressional District California January 2019

    Leadership of the majority party

    Office Surname Constituency since
    Majority leader Steny Hoyer 5. Congressional electoral district of Maryland 2019
    Majority whip Jim Clyburn 6. South Carolina Congressional District 2019

    Leadership of the minority party

    Office Surname Constituency since
    Minority leader Kevin McCarthy 22 constituency of California 2019
    Minority whip Steve Scalise 1st Louisiana Congressional District 2019

    See also: List of Members of the House of Representatives in the 117th United States Congress


    • Peter Lösche , Hartmut Wasser: Political System of the USA (= information on political education . Issue 283). Franzis, Munich 2004.
    • Nelson W. Polsby: How Congress Evolves. Social Bases of Institutional Change. Oxford Uersity Press, Oxford et al. 2003, ISBN 0-19-516195-5 , p. 257.
    • Keith T. Poole, Howard Rosenthal: Congress. A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting. Oxford University Press, New York et al. 1997, ISBN 0-19-505577-2 .
    • Robert V. Remini: The House. The History of the House of Representatives. Smithsonian Books et al., New York 2006, ISBN 0-06-088434-7 (standard work on history).
    • Julien E. Zelizer (Ed.): The American Congress. The Building of Democracy. Houghton Mifflin, Boston et al. 2004, ISBN 0-618-17906-2 (overview-like collection of articles by various researchers).

    Web links

    Commons : United States House of Representatives  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. Short story (English) of the distribution of seats in the US House of Representatives .
    2. John A. Lawrence, How the 'Watergate Babies' Broke American Politics. In: Politico , May 26, 2018.
    3. Bill Pascrell Jr .: Why is Congress so dumb? In: The Washington Post , January 11, 2019.
    4. Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2013, p. A15.
    5. ^ Jack Maskell: Qualifications of Members of Congress. Congressional Research Service , January 15, 2015 (PDF) .
    This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 6, 2006 .