The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
This report focuses on the floor activities of the House during its first formal session in a new
Congress, and serves as a guide for those participating in or watching these proceedings.
The House is not a continuing body. It ends at the conclusion of each two-year Congress and must
reconstitute itself at the beginning of the next Congress. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution
sets terms for Members of the House at two years. The House must choose its Speaker and
officers and determine the chamber’s internal rules every two years.
The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless it has earlier
passed a law designating a different day. Although no officers have been elected when the House
first convenes, some officers from the previous Congress perform certain functions.
The House follows a well-established first day routine of electing and swearing in the Speaker,
administering the oath of office to its Members, electing and swearing in its administrative
officers, and adopting its rules of procedure. It also establishes its daily hour of meeting.
On opening day, the House usually adopts resolutions assigning its Members to serve on
committees. This process often extends for several more weeks. The committee assignment
process occurs primarily within the party groups—the Republican Conference and the
Democratic Caucus. Assignments cannot be considered on the House floor until both of these
groups have adopted rules governing committee assignments.
Other routine organizational business may also be taken up on the House floor on the first day.
The Speaker usually announces his/her policies on certain floor practices; a resolution is adopted
providing for a joint session of Congress to receive the President’s State of the Union Message;
and often a resolution is adopted to allow a judge or a Member of Congress to administer the oath
of office to Members-elect who are absent due to illness or other reasons.
Some resolutions on opening day are dependent on specific circumstances and do not occur at the
beginning of each new Congress. In inaugural years, the House must adopt a resolution to
authorize the use of the Capitol for the inauguration activities. At the outset of a new Congress
following a presidential election, the House must also adopt a resolution providing for the
counting of electoral votes for the President and Vice President of the United States by the new
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
The House Convenes.......................................................................................................................1
Election of the Speaker....................................................................................................................2
Swearing in of the Speaker..............................................................................................................4
Oath of Office..................................................................................................................................4
Announcement of Party Leaders.....................................................................................................5
Election of Officers.........................................................................................................................6
Notification to Other Body and to President...................................................................................6
Adoption of House Rules of Procedure...........................................................................................6
Daily Meeting Time for the House..................................................................................................8
Other First-Day Floor Actions.........................................................................................................8
Appendix. Selected Rules Changes, 104th through 109th Congresses............................................9
Author Contact Information...........................................................................................................11
The House of Representatives follows a well-established routine on the opening day of a new
Congress. The proceedings include electing and swearing in the Speaker, swearing in its
Members, electing and swearing in its administrative officers, and adopting its rules of procedure.
Also, resolutions assigning Members to committees may be adopted.
The House must take these actions at the beginning of each new Congress because it is not a
continuing body. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets terms for Members of the House at
two years. Thus, the House ends at the conclusion of each two-year Congress and must 1
reconstitute itself at the beginning of a new Congress.
The Constitution mandates that a new Congress convene at noon on January 3 each odd
numbered year unless it has earlier passed a law designating a different day. For example, the th2thth
January 4, 2005, and January 4, 2007, respectively. In fact, with the exception of the 107
Congress which convened on January 3, 2001, all Congresses in the past 14 years have convened
on days other than January 3. Although no officers have been elected when the House first
convenes, some officers from the previous Congress perform certain functions. The previous
Clerk of the House calls the House to order and presides over the chamber until the Speaker is 3
sworn in. In the absence of the Clerk, the Sergeant at Arms performs this duty.
The chaplain offers a prayer, and the Members-elect and their guests recite the Pledge of
Allegiance. The Clerk then directs a reading clerk to call the roll of all Members-elect to establish 4
that a quorum is present. In current practice, the roll is not actually called by a clerk; the
Members-elect record their presence by inserting their official voting cards (obtained prior to
opening day) in the chamber’s electronic voting machines. Once the call of the roll is completed, 5
a majority having registered their names, a quorum (218) is proved present. This action fulfills
the requirements of Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution that no business be conducted by the
House without a quorum being present. The Clerk then announces the election of the Resident
1 For information on convening of the House, see William Holmes Brown, “Assembly of Congress,” in House
Practice, A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House of Representatives (Washington: GPO, 2003),
pp. 157-165. For information on organizational meetings held prior to the formal start of a new Congress, see CRS
Report RS21339, Congress' Early Organization Meetings, by Judy Schneider.
2 See P.L. 110-420, signed on Oct. 15, 2008.
3 See House Rule II, clause 2, Sec. 641, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives,
110th Cong., H. Doc. 109-157 (Washington: GPO, 2007).
4 “All Members-elect whose credentials have been received by the Clerk are included in the first roll call on opening
day to establish a quorum.” See William Holmes Brown, “Status and Rights of Members-elect,” in House Practice, A
Guide to the Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives, p. 161.
5 A quorum is the minimum number of Members required to be present for the transaction of business. Under the
Constitution , a quorum in each House is a majority of its members: 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate when there
are no vacancies. For more information, see Congressional Research Service, “Congressional Quarterly’s American
Congressional Dictionary,”http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/glossary/q.shtml, visited Sept. 30, 2008.
Commissioner from Puerto Rico (when applicable) and the Delegates (one each) from the District 6
of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, and reports any deaths or 7
resignations since the election.
A quorum being present, the first order of official business is the election of the presiding officer, 8
the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The candidates for Speaker are nominated from the floor by the leaders of their respective parties.
Traditionally, there is one candidate from the majority party and one from the minority party,
selected by the Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus at their early organizational 910
meetings. Debate on the nomination of candidates for Speaker is allowed but not customary.
Instead, the nominations are followed immediately by a viva voce roll call vote—that is, a vote in
which the Members-elect respond orally to the calling of their names. In this vote, the Members-
elect call out the last names of their choices for Speaker when their names are called by the Clerk.
The Clerk appoints Members-elect to serve as majority and minority tellers, usually two each, to 11
ascertain the vote. The majority party is able to assure the election of its candidate because the 12
vote is usually along straight party lines. The candidates themselves, however, often vote 13
The following excerpts are the proceedings for the election of the Speaker in the 110th Congress.
6 The Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico serves a four-year term.
7 At the beginning of the 109th Congress, the Clerk announced the death of Rep. Robert Matsui of California since the
last regular election for Representatives to the 109th Congress. See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Announcement by th
the Clerk,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, p. H2. In the 107 Congress, the Clerk th
announced the death of Rep. Julian Dixon of California since the last regular election for Representatives to the 107
Congress. See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Announcement by the Clerk,” Congressional Record, vol . 147, Jan. 3, th
2001, p. 20. In the 106 Congress, the Clerk announced that he had received a letter from Rep. Newt Gingrich, who
announced that he would not seek reelection as Speaker of the House or take his seat as a Member from the Sixth
District of Georgia. See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Resignation As Member of the House of Representatives,”
Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 42.
8 For more information on the Speaker, see CRS Report RL30857, Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2007, by
Richard S. Beth and James V. Saturno. See also House Rule I.
9 Although the Speaker has always been a Member of the House, this is not a requirement. For example, at the
commencement of the 105th Congress, two former Members, in addition to the two party nominees and another thth
incumbent Member, received votes for Speaker. In the 107 -109 Congresses, one incumbent Member other than the
two party nominees received a vote for Speaker.
10 At the commencement of the 105th Congress, the chair of the Democratic Caucus rose to “a question of the highest
constitutional privilege” to offer a resolution calling for the postponement of the election of the Speaker until the
completion of a pending investigation. His resolution proposed the election of an interim Speaker, but the motion was
tabled. See Rep. Vic Fazio, remarks in the House, Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, pp. 115-116.
11 Tellers are Members or clerks who count votes cast on the House floor. Vote totals are announced but not the votes
of individual Members.
12 Note that the Independent Members usually vote for the candidate of the party with which they have chosen to
13 In the 110th Congress, both party nominees for Speaker voted for themselves. See “Election of Speaker,
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4, 2007, pp. H2-H3.
ELECTION OF SPEAKER14
The CLERK. Pursuant to law and precedent, the next order of business is the election of the th
Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 110 Congress.
Nominations are now in order.
The Clerk recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. EMANUEL).
Mr. EMANUEL. Madam Clerk, ... as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I am directed by
the unanimous vote of that caucus to present for election to the office of the Speaker of the th
House of Representatives of the 110 Congress the name of the Honorable NANCY
PELOSI, a Member-elect from the State of California.
The CLERK. The Clerk now recognizes the gentleman from Florida (Mr. PUTNAM).
Mr. PUTNAM. Madam Clerk, ... as chairman of the Republican Conference, I am directed
by the unanimous vote of that conference to present for election to the office of the Speaker th
of the House of Representatives for the 110 Congress the name of the Honorable JOHN A.
BOEHNER from the State of Ohio.
The CLERK. The Honorable NANCY PELOSI, a Member-elect from the State of
California, and the Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER, a Member-elect from the State of Ohio,
have been placed in nomination.
Are there any further nominations?
There being no further nominations, the Clerk will appoint tellers.
The Clerk appoints the gentlewoman from California (Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD),
the gentleman from Michigan (MR. EHLERS), the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms.
KAPTUR), and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN).
The tellers will come forward and take their seats at the desk in front of the Speaker’s
The roll will now be called, and those responding to their names will indicate by surname the
nominee of their choice.
The Reading Clerk will now call the roll.
The tellers having taken their places, the House proceeded to vote for the Speaker.15
The CLERK. The tellers agree in their tallies that the total number of votes cast is 435, of
which the Honorable NANCY PELOSI of the State of California has received 233 and the
Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER of the State of Ohio has received 202.
14 All excerpts are taken from the Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan 4, 2007, pp. H2-H3.
15 Prior to the voting for Speaker in the 106th Congress, a parliamentary inquiry was made by the Resident
Commissioner from Puerto Rico and another Member-elect about the Delegates in the House being allowed to cast
ballots for Speaker. The Clerk announced, however, that “Representatives-elect are the only individuals qualified to
vote in the election of the Speaker.” See “Election of Speaker, ‘Parliamentary Inquiry,’” Congressional Record, vol.
145, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 43.
Therefore, the Honorable NANCY PELOSI of the State of California is duly elected Speaker th
of the House of Representatives for the 110 Congress, having received a majority of the
Next, the newly elected Speaker, escorted by leaders of both parties and often Representatives-
elect from his/her home state, is introduced to the chamber by the minority leader, who first
delivers a short statement from the chair. The Speaker often responds with a statement of his/her 16
own and then takes the oath of office. By precedent, the “dean” of the House, the most senior
(longest-serving) Member (regardless of party), administers the oath to the Speaker on the dais. 17
That oath is identical to that of the other Members.
After taking the oath, the Speaker administers the following oath of office to all Members of the
House, en masse, including the nonvoting Delegates and Resident Commissioner. The oath,
which follows, is in the form of a question, to which the newly elected Members respond in the
I 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.
This oath is mandated by Article VI of the Constitution, and its text is set by statute (5 U.S.C.
3331). As the Members-elect raise their right hand, they are not required to hold anything in their
left hand. Many have held a family bible or other scripture in their left hand, but there is no
requirement that anything be held when the oath is taken. The same is true for Representatives
who re-enact the event with their families and the Speaker in the Speaker’s office after the formal
ceremony. Photographers are present, and many Members choose to hold something meaningful
in their left hand. These objects have often been, but are not limited to, a family heirloom or
something else of special significance. Nothing, however, is required. It is up to those being 18
photographed to determine what, if anything, a Member holds in his/her left hand.
16 In the 106th Congress, the Speaker broke with tradition and delivered his remarks from the floor of the House rather
than the dais. See Rep. Dennis Hastert, remarks in the House, Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, pp. 44-45.
17 Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) is the dean of the House in the 110th Congress and would be the dean in the 111th Congress
if he is reelected to the House.
18 In the 110th Congress, for example, the first Muslim elected to Congress used a Quran when he re-enacted his
swearing-in with the Speaker. See “First Muslim Lawmaker Takes Oath With Quran,” USA Today, Jan. 5, 2007, p. 3;
and Gail Feinberg and the Library of Congress, “Members Borrow Historic Books from the Library,” The Gazette, vol.
18, Jan. 12, 2007, pp 3-5. In 2008, the second Muslim elected to Congress used a copy of the House Manual for his th
mock ceremony after he was sworn in following election to a vacant seat in the 110 Congress. See Emily Heil and
Anna Palmer, “Carson’s Jeffersonian Moment,” Roll Call, Mar. 17, 2008, p. 19.
Occasionally, the swearing in of a Member-elect is delayed because of illness or other similar
circumstances. When this happens, the Member-elect is sworn in at a later date in the House
chamber or elsewhere by someone designated by the Speaker. It is usually administered by other
Members or judges. The locations have often been at other sites in Washington, DC or other parts 19
of the country.
If the swearing in of a Member is challenged, the Speaker, pursuant to House precedents, will ask
this Member-elect to remain seated while the others are sworn in. The House then determines the 20
disposition of the challenge.
After the Speaker administers the oath of office, he receives reports from the chairmen of the two
party organizations, the Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus, who announce their
parties’ choices for majority and minority leaders.
Mr. EMANUEL. Madam Speaker, as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I have been directed to
report to the House that the Democratic Members have selected as majority leader the gentleman
from Maryland, the Honorable STENY H. HOYER.
Mr. PUTNAM. Madam Speaker, as chairman of the Republican Conference, I am directed by that
conference to notify the House officially that the Republican Members have selected as minority
leader the gentleman from Ohio, the Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER.
19 In the 105th Congress, the swearing in of Rep.-elect Frank Tejeda of Texas and Rep.-elect Julia Carson of Indiana
was delayed because of illness. Rep. Tejeda was sworn in Jan. 8, 1997, and Rep. Carson on Jan. 9, 1997. Both were
sworn in by federal judges outside Washington, DC. See Rep. Richard Gephardt, “Authorizing the Speaker or His
Deputy to Administer the Oath to the Honorable Frank Tejeda and the Honorable Julia Carson,” Congressional Record, th
vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, p.143-144. In the 106 Congress, two ill Members, Reps.-elect George Miller, and Sam Farr,
were sworn in at their California homes by judges on Jan. 7, 1999, and Jan. 8, 1999, respectively. See Rep. Robert
Menendez, “Authorizing the Speaker or His Deputy to Administer the Oath of Office to the Honorable George Miller th
and the Honorable Sam Farr of California,” Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 246. In the 108
Congress, Rep.-elect Darlene Hooley of Oregon took the oath of office on Jan. 27, 2003, in the House chamber. See
The Speaker [J. Dennis Hastert], “Swearing in of Member-Elect,” Congressional Record, vol. 149, Jan. 27, 2003, p. th
1759. In the 109 Congress, Reps.-elect Mike Honda, Tom Osborne, Luis Gutierrez, and Chris Cannon took the oath of
office on Jan. 25, 2005, in the House chamber. See The Speaker [J. Dennis Hastert], “Swearing in of Members-Elect,”
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 25, 2005, p. H171.
20 This last occurred on Jan. 3, 1985, when the seating of Rep.-elect Richard McIntyre of the Eighth Congressional
District of Indiana was challenged. In that incident, the House adopted a resolution referring the challenge to the House
Administration Committee for further examination. The Member-elect’s opponent, Frank McCloskey, was ultimately
seated. See William Holmes Brown, “Election Contests and Disputes,” in House Practice, A Guide to the Rules and
Procedures of the House of Representatives, pp. 475-480, and Rep. James Wright, “Referring Election of a Member
from the Eighth Congressional District of Indiana to the Committee on House Administration,” Congressional Record,
vol. 131, Jan. 3, 1985, pp. 381-388.
21 The excerpts are taken from the Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4, 2007, pp. H5-H6.
The chairmen then announce the names of those elected to serve as majority and minority whips.
The whips are the assistant floor leaders.
Next, the House turns to the election of its administrative officers: Chief Administrative Officer, 22
Chaplain, Clerk, and Sergeant at Arms. The resolution nominating the slate of candidates is
offered by the chairman of the conference of the majority party. The minority party proposes its
own roster of candidates as an amendment to the majority party’s resolution. By tradition, neither
the resolution nor the amendment is debated, although the slate can be divided with a separate 23
vote on any or all officers. Again, however, because of its numerical advantage, the majority is
able to defeat the minority substitute, and to adopt the resolution naming its chosen candidates.
Then, the Speaker administers the oath to the newly elected officers.
The House then considers resolutions which formally notify the Senate and the President that it
has elected its leaders, is assembled, and is ready to receive messages from them. Subsequently,
the majority and minority leaders and clerk of the House, as well as two Senators (usually the
majority and minority leaders), appointed by the Vice President, telephone the President with the
news that Congress is ready to begin its work.
The next order of business is the adoption of the rules of the House. Although the rules of one
Congress are not binding on the next, the House usually approves its rules by adopting en bloc the
rules of the previous Congress with amendments. Normally, prior to the first day of a new
Congress, task forces of both the majority and the minority party have worked on any changes
they wish to implement in the House’s standing rules. In modern times, the majority party’s rules
package has always prevailed.
The proposed rules are offered in the form of a House resolution. Since there are then no existing
House rules, the resolution is considered under “general parliamentary law,” which the House 24
interprets to mean the rules in force in the preceding Congress. Debate is normally limited to
one hour, and the majority party manager traditionally yields half the time to the minority
manager “for purposes of debate only” to discuss an alternative proposal. Because of that
stipulation, no Member can offer an amendment to the rules proposal, and the minority substitute
is not formally considered.
22 In the 102nd Congress, the office of postmaster was abolished, and that of doorkeeper was abolished in the 104th
Congress. Their duties have been assumed by other officers.
23 Rep. Larson, “Election of Clerk of the House, Sergeant at Arms, Chief Administrative Officer, and Chaplain,”
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4, 2005, p. H6.
24 For a summary of the procedures the House follows in the brief period of time it is in session prior to the formal
adoption of its own rules, see William Holmes Brown, “Assembly of Congress,” in House Practice, A Guide to the
Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives, pp. 163-164.
At the end of debate time, the majority manager moves the previous question. The majority
party’s numerical advantage assures the adoption of this motion. The effect is to force an
immediate vote on the question of final approval of the majority’s own pending rules package. 25
Therefore, any opportunity for the minority to offer an amendment is precluded. If that motion
were defeated, the minority would be entitled to offer an amendment to the majority’s rules
package. Normally, this does not happen, and the rules are usually adopted on a party-line roll-26
call vote. If the rules package were to be defeated, the House would continue to operate under
general parliamentary law until another rules package was adopted.
On the opening day of the 110th Congress, the House adopted rules to prohibit Members and staff 27
from receiving most gifts from lobbyists, foreign agents, and their private clients. These ethics th
rules were adopted as part of the 110 Congress rules package which also place more restrictions
and requirements on the acceptance of travel expenses from outside sources, and require the
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to offer annual ethics training to Members and
Other 110th Congress rules changes rename several committees;28 prohibit the Speaker from
holding votes open for longer than the scheduled time for the sole purpose of changing the
outcome of the vote; and require committees of jurisdiction (and conference committees) to
publish lists of earmarks and tax and tariff benefits contained in all bills (reported and 29
unreported), manager’s amendments, and conference reports that come to the House floor.
Selected rules changes for the openings of the 104th through 109th Congresses are described in the
25 Given that the rules of the House in the last Congress apply generally, the minority party is given the right to offer a
motion to commit the rules package to committee for further examination. While this motion traditionally loses, it does
give the minority party the opportunity to include “instructions” to the committee for changes in the text of the
proposed rules. These instructions are, in essence, an amendment, which typically contains selected portions of the
minority’s rules package. The outcome, however, remains certain: the majority party’s rules package prevails.
26 In 1971, the “previous question” motion to end debate on H.Res. 5 was defeated by a bipartisan coalition which
sought to drop from the rules package a proposal permitting the automatic discharge of a measure from the Rules
Committee if that committee had not acted on it within 31 days. This coalition voted against ordering the “previous
question” motion. Thereafter, the 31-day rule was removed from the rules package by floor amendment, and the rules
package passed overwhelmingly. It should be noted that the consideration of H.Res. 5 was delayed by one day by
unanimous consent, and the House operated under “general parliamentary law” for most of the two session days. See
“Rules of the House,”Congressional Record, vol. 117, Jan. 21, 1971, pp. 13-15; and “Rules of the
House,”Congressional Record, vol. 117, Jan. 22, 1971, pp. 132-144.
27 Rep. Slaughter, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vo. 152, Jan. 4, 2007, pp. H6-H39. See
also CRS Report RS22566, Acceptance of Gifts by Members and Employees of the House of Representatives Under
New Ethics Rules of the 110th Congress, by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RL34149, House Rules Changes Affecting the
Congressional Budget Process Made at the Beginning of the 110th Congress, by Bill Heniff Jr., and CRS Report
RS22580, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 110th Congress, by Judy Schneider.
28 The Committee on Education and Workforce became the Committee on Education and Labor, the Committee on
International Relations became the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Government Reform became the
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Committee on Resources became the Committee on Natural
29 The lists of earmarks are to be electronically available to the public through committee prints or in the Congressional
Record. If a measure does not contain any earmarks, committees are required to publish a statement noting this.
The House establishes its daily hour of meeting by a resolution which must be renewed each
session of Congress. The resolution is normally offered by the chairman of the House Rules
The committee assignment process occurs largely within the party groups—the Republican
Conference and the Democratic Caucus. The only action visible on the chamber floor is the
adoption of resolutions which implement the committee nominations agreed upon by the
conference and the caucus. The adoption of both resolutions is routine and occurs without
amendment, because of the tacit understanding that each party has a right to establish its own
internal distribution of work without amendment from the other.
Committee assignments may not be considered on the House floor until both the Republican
Conference and the Democratic Caucus have adopted their own rules governing committee
assignments. The House takes up some of the assignment resolutions on opening day, but their
consideration extends throughout January and often for several additional weeks.
Other routine organizational business may be taken up on the House floor on the first day. For
example, the Speaker customarily announces his/her policies with respect to certain floor
practices for the duration of the Congress. Resolutions are often adopted designating certain
minority party employees to special pay status, providing for a joint session of Congress to
receive the President’s State of the Union message, and providing for conditional adjournments of
the House. Resolutions of condolence on the death of any Member that occurred subsequent to
the adjournment of the last Congress may also be considered.
Some resolutions are dependent on specific circumstances and do not occur on the first day of
every new Congress. For example, following a presidential election, the House must adopt a
resolution providing for the counting of electoral votes for the President and Vice President by the
new Congress, continue the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and 30
authorize the use of the Capitol for inaugural activities.
After the House has completed its initial organizational proceedings, it may then turn to the
routine business which normally completes its legislative day. This includes the introduction of
bills and resolutions, the receipt of messages from the President, and one-minute and special
30 Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, pp. H32-H33.
In the 104th Congress, with a change in party control for the first time in some 40 years, there 31
were major changes in the House rules. These included term limits for the Speaker (no more
than four consecutive Congresses) as well as for committee and subcommittee chairs (no more
than three consecutive Congresses). A ban on proxy voting in committees and subcommittees was
also adopted. In addition, the House modified its sunshine rules to provide for more open
committee sessions; voted to require a three-fifths majority vote for all tax increases; mandated a
comprehensive House audit and other administrative reforms; and abolished some committees, 32
renamed others, and consolidated jurisdictions.
In the 105th Congress, the House approved a more modest rules package.33 Included was a
provision allowing the incumbent members of the House Committee on Standards of Official
Conduct to finish a pending investigation by serving on a temporary Select Committee on Ethics
through January 21, 1997. The new rules also prohibited the distribution of campaign
contributions on the House floor, provided for the development of a system of drug testing for
Members, officers, and employees, clarified voting on increases in income tax rates, and required
non-governmental agencies testifying before House committees to provide a list of federal grants
and contracts received in the past three years. In addition, the name of the Committee on
Economic and Educational Opportunities was changed to the Committee on Education and the 34
At the commencement of the 106th Congress, the House adopted its rules in a recodified, 35
substantially revised format. This was the first comprehensive revision of its rules since 1880,
and the number of rules was cut nearly in half. Included in the rules changes were provisions to
encourage committees to plan oversight activities before the convening of a new Congress,
establishment of a limit of six subcommittees for committees that maintain an oversight
committee, and two ethics-related changes. One requires committee consultants to abide by the
Code of Official Conduct, and the other conforms House rules to a Supreme Court decision
allowing designated House officers and employees to earn limited honoraria if the subject matter 36
is unrelated to official duties.
In addition, the names of three committees were changed. The House Oversight Committee was
renamed the Committee on House Administration; the Committee on Government Reform and
Oversight was renamed the Committee on Government Reform; and the Committee on National 37
Security was renamed the Committee on Armed Services.
31 Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 141, Jan. 4, 1995, pp. 462-530.
32 For more information, see CRS Report 95-187, Committee System: Rules Changes in the House, 104th Congress, by
33 Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, pp. 121-141.
34For more information, see CRS Report 97-138, Committee System: Rules Changes in the House, 105th Congress, by
35 Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, pp. 47-235.
36 See House Rule XXV(1) and United States v. National Treasury Employees Union, 513 U.S. 454 (1995).
37 For more information, see CRS Report RS20017, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 106th Congress,
With the adoption of the rules for the 107th Congress, the House abolished the Committee on
Banking and Financial Services and replaced it with a new Committee on Financial Services;
renamed the Committee on Commerce the Committee on Energy and Commerce; required
enhanced oversight planning by committees; repealed the automatic public debt measure rule
(Rule 23) to now require a vote on any measure to change the public debt limit; and amended the 38
House gift rule to clarify that it applies to all House employees.
The rules adopted for the 108th Congress included changes that resulted from the terrorist attacks 39
of September 11, 2001. Rule I, clause 8(b) was amended to require the Speaker to submit to the
clerk of the House a list of Members to assume his responsibilities in the event of a vacancy; Rule
I, clause 12 was amended to permit the Speaker to declare an emergency recess in the event of an
impending threat to the safety of Congress; a Select Committee on Homeland Security was
established; and under a new provision of Rule XX, clause 5, the Speaker, without appeal, can
adjust the number of Members present needed for a quorum.
In the 108th Congress, the House also repealed the term limit on the Speaker; adjusted its rules
regarding the motion to instruct conferees and the admission of electronic devices on the floor;
and reinstated as Rule 27 the automatic public debt rule (the so-called Gephardt rule) to no longer
require a separate vote on any measure to change the public debt limit.
The rules package for the 109th Congress included several changes to the House Ethics rules and 40
floor procedures as well the establishment of the standing Committee on Homeland Security.
The ethics changes provide for limited use of campaign funds for official expenses, tighter
restrictions on sending franked mailings before an election, and an expansion of the rule for 41
governing companions on officially connected travel.
Other 109th Congress modifications were: adding Wednesdays to the permissible days for
considering suspensions motions, repeal of the corrections calendar, amending the rules of
decorum and debate to allow references to the Senate, and new procedures for reducing the
number of Members of the House needed for a quorum in case of a catastrophic event.
by Judy Schneider.
38 Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 147, Jan. 3, 2001, pp. 24-37. For more information,
see CRS Report RS20769, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 107th Congress, by Judy Schneider, by
39 Rep. Delay, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 149, Jan. 7, 2003, pp. 7-21. See also CRS Report
RS21388, House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Proceedings in the 108th Congress, by Elizabeth Rybicki; CRS
Report RS21382, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 108th Congress, by Judy Schneider; and CRS Report
RS21439, House Ethics Rules Changes in the 108th Congress, by Mildred Amer.
40 Rep. Delay, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, pp. H7-H31. See also
CRS Report RL32772, House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Procedures in the 109th Congress, by Thomas P. Carr
and Elizabeth Rybicki; CRS Report RS22018, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 109th Congress, by
Judy Schneider; and CRS Report RS22021, House Rules Changes Affecting the Congressional Budget Process in the
109th Congress (H.Res. 5), by Bill Heniff Jr..
41 For more information, see CRS Report RS22034, House Ethics Rules Changes in the 109th Congress, by Mildred
Specialist on the Congress