Administrative Issues Related to a Change in Majority in the House of Representatives
CRS Report for Congress
Administrative Issues Related to a Change in
Majority in the House of Representatives
Updated November 20, 2006
R. Eric Petersen and Ida A. Brudnick
Analysts in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Jennifer E. Manning
Information Research Specialist
Knowledge Services Group
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Administrative Issues Related to a Change in Majority
in the House of Representatives
Majority control in the House of Representatives has changed only six times
over the past 75 years, and only once in the past half-century, following the midterm
elections of 1994. Earlier changes in 1931, 1947, 1949, 1953, and 1955 offer little
in the way of precedent relevant to the contemporary situation. Moreover, given the
rapid pace of institutional, procedural and technological change over the past decade,
even the transfer of power in 1995 provides only limited reference to present
circumstances. There does not appear to be a definitive roadmap to all of the issues
that could arise in the current majority transition, or those that might follow.
Generally, the transition to a new majority may raise a number of issues and
challenges affecting House rules, certain activities in Member offices, committees,
and administrative and legislative operations. Some of those administrative issues
may be addressed by the current majority and the incoming majority that assumes
control of House operations at the beginning of the 110th Congress.
During the period between the November elections and when the new Congress
convenes in early January, a new incoming majority lacks official institutional
authority to implement any changes beyond procedures governing the activities of its
conference or caucus. Matters relating to chamber rules, House officers, staff, office
space, administrative practices of the outgoing majority, or matters pending floor
consideration remain under the direction of the outgoing majority. Although there
can be some discussion between leaders of the outgoing and incoming majorities, the
outgoing majority is not bound to change current practices or to accommodate the
preferences of the incoming majority until the current Congress adjourns, and the
new Congress convenes.
Although a new incoming majority may lack formal authority to undertake the
administration of the House prior to the formal convening of the chamber, it appears
that many of the decisions related to a transition need to be made prior to the formal
assumption of majority status. This report provides discussion and analysis of some
of the immediate areas that a new incoming majority would likely need to consider
as it prepares to assume responsibility for the administration of the House. These
issues include (1) amendment and adoption of House Rules; (2) election of House
officers; (3) administration of committee organization and funding; (4) establishment
of House-wide staffing levels; and (5) publication of the Members’ Representational
Allowance. All these issues are based on various party, legislative, and
administrative decisions taken with majority involvement. These decisions may be
made at various times from the first meetings on early organization of the chamber
soon after the general election through the first several weeks of a new Congress.
In addition to the concerns typical of any transition to a new Congress, the
incoming leadership of the 110th Congress will likely also consider additional
administrative issues related to the appointment of a new Architect of the Capitol,
and the completion of the Capitol Visitor Center. This report will be updated as
In troduction ......................................................1
Election of Officers................................................6
Administrative Oversight Structure................................7
Areas of Influence and Recent Actions.............................7
Number of Staff ..............................................8
Staff Leaving House Service.....................................8
Structure and Jurisdiction......................................11
Paper and Electronic Records...................................11th
Interim Funding, 110 Congress.................................12
Member Office Assignment Lottery Process........................13
Members Representational Allowance............................14
Architect of the Capitol............................................14
Forthcoming Appointment Issues................................14
Capitol Visitor Center.........................................15
List of Tables
Table 1. Majority Changes in the House of Representatives, 1899-2005.......2
Administrative Issues Related to a Change
in Majority in the House of Representatives
The change in majority leadership in the House of Representatives could affect
House Rules, certain activities in Member offices, committees, and administrative
and legislative operations. The transition to a new majority may raise a number of
challenges and issues in the administration of those areas for the current majority,
and the incoming majority that will assume control of House operations at the
beginning of the 110th Congress. In addition to the concerns typical of any transitionth
to a new Congress, the incoming leadership of the 110 Congress will likely also
consider issues related to the appointment of a new Architect of the Capitol and1
address issues related to the completion of the Capitol Visitor Center.
In the 20th century, the majority in the House of Representatives has switched
eight times, most recently in 1995, at the beginning of the 104th Congress. Prior toth
ending a period in which the majority switched between the Republican and
Democratic parties in four out of five Congresses between 1947 and 1955. Table 1
summarizes House majority shifts in the 20th century.
In the past century, the House has grown from a relatively modest operation in
which Members, assisted by few staff, convened for short legislative sessions2 to a
complex institution featuring longer legislative sessions supported by large
professional staffs dedicated to highly specialized chamber legislative and
administrative activities,3 as well as committee and Member office operations.
Consequently, information from majority transitions in the House that occurred more
than five decades ago may not offer salient examples of many of the issues that could
arise in the transition to a Democratic majority in the 110th Congress, and will not be
1 Sections of this reports are based on materials previously provided in response to a
congressional request and used with the permission of that requester.
2 In the 56th - 59th Congresses (1899-1905), Congress was in session an average of 288 days.
In the 106th - 108th Congresses (1999-2004), it met for an average 655 days. Source: U.S.th
Congress, Joint Committee on Printing, Official Congressional Directory, 109 Congress,
S.Pub. 109-12 (Washington: GPO, 2005), pp. 516, 525-526.
3 The growth of Congress as an institution is discussed in Nelson Polsby, “The
Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives,” American Political Science
Review, vol. 62, 1968, pp. 144-168.
Table 1. Majority Changes in the House of Representatives,
CongressNew Majority Party
Source: U.S. Congress, Official Congressional Directory, 109th
Congress, p. 547.
a. Although a Republican majority was elected to the 72nd
Congress, several Representatives-elect died before
Congress convened, leaving a Democratic majority to
organize the House.
Although the House has undergone significant institutional evolution in the 12
years since the 1995 transition,4 it is more likely that some of the issues addressed at
that time would arise in the current transition and those that might occur in the
relatively near future. Some of those issues will be used in this report as examples.
At the same time, however, since majority transitions have in the past 50 years been
infrequent events that featured political, social, and institutional characteristics
unique to the circumstances of each transition, it is also likely that the 1995 transition
would not provide a definitive roadmap to all of the issues that could arise in the
current majority transition, or those that might follow. The experiences of one
participant in the early days of the 1995 transition may be instructive on this point.
4 This evolution includes the development of routine, professionalized management of
House administrative activities through the Chief Administrative Officer, an officer firstth
appointed at the beginning of the 104 Congress; the integration of advanced information
technology systems in administrative, committee, and Member office operations; and an
enhanced focus on congressional security and emergency planning. In addition, the House
has arguably been shaped by external forces that could affect some of its activities. These
include closer scrutiny by media and the public due to the relative ease with which they can
gather information about congressional activities. Relatedly, the routine use of e-mail,
congressional web pages and other modes of communication arguably has created an
enhanced capacity for the public to contact their elected officials, and also necessitate the
dedication of staff and other resources to manage and respond to those communications.
Referring to various administrative policies that were considered at that time, the
participant reportedly noted: “We’re making up an awful lot of this as we go along.”5
It should also be noted that during the period between the November elections
and when the new Congress convenes in early January, a new incoming majority
lacks official institutional authority to implement any changes beyond procedures
governing the activities of its conference or caucus. Matters relating to chamber
rules, House officers, staff, office space, administrative practices of the outgoing
majority, or matters pending floor consideration (if, as is the case in the 109th
Congress, there is a lame duck session) would remain under the direction of the
outgoing majority. While there can be some discussion between leaders of the
outgoing and incoming majorities, the outgoing majority would not be bound to
change current practices or to accommodate the preferences of the incoming majority
until the current Congress adjourns, and the new Congress convenes. As a practical
matter, however, the outgoing majority may need to take into account the preferences
of the incoming majority, which may prevent the outgoing majority from taking a
particular course of action. For example, in the 103rd Congress, Representative
Norman Mineta, during a brief lame duck session, introduced H.Res. 588, to provide
severance pay for some committee staff who were to be terminated as part of the
majority transition. In remarks on the House floor, Representative Benjamin Cardin
noted that the House was unable to secure unanimous consent to bring up the
measure because they “were unable to get the clearance from the Republicans.”6 In
the 104th Congress, the House adopted provisions to provide payment for accrued
leave to House committee, administrative, and personal staff.7
Similarly, it has been reported that in 1994, soon after the elections, the
incoming majority reminded the outgoing majority of its obligations to preserve
committee and other House records in paper and electronic formats.8 There were
claims thereafter that suggested that while the outgoing majority did provide the
incoming majority with access to records, it may not have complied with requests to
preserve some electronic records.9 Additionally, the incoming majority in the last
5 Juliet Eilperin, “In Switch, GOP to Grant Leave For Fired Personal Staff of 103rd,” Roll
Call, Jan. 16, 1995.
6 Quote from “Treatment of Professional Staff During the Transition,” Congressional
Record (daily edition), Nov. 29, 1994, p. H 11542. See also Kenneth J. Cooper, “GOP to
Fire 1,500 on House Staff, Without Severance,” Washington Post, Dec. 2, 1994; Jill
Zuckman, “House GOP Won’t Pay Severance for Job Losses after Vote,” Boston Globe,
Dec. 2, 1994; and Bill Straub, “House GOP Leaders Refuse Exit Pay for Lame-Duck Staff,”
South Bend Tribune, Dec. 4, 1994.
7 H.Res. 35, 104th Congress, adopted Jan. 17, 1995. See Timothy J. Burger and Tim Curran,
“All Staffers Now Eligible For Accrued Vacation Pay,” Roll Call, Jan. 12, 1995; and Julietrd
Eilperin, “In Switch, GOP to Grant Leave For Fired Personal Staff of 103,” Roll Call, Jan.
8 Timothy J. Burger, “Gingrich Asks Dems Not to Destroy Papers,” Roll Call, Nov. 10,
9 Timothy J. Burger, “Thomas Backs off HIS Lockup,” Roll Call, Nov. 21, 1994.
weeks of 1994 reportedly informed managers of several House administrative and
support offices that they were dismissed.10 Similarly, nearly all House support staff
were informed during the same period that they were to be terminated, and provided
information on the procedures under which they might be rehired.11 No public record
of the effective date of these terminations was identified. No objections to these
activities by the outgoing majority were identified. Nevertheless, it is arguable that
the incoming majority lacked authority to assume responsibility for House staff prior
to assuming formal control of the chamber in January 1995.
While a new incoming majority may lack formal authority to undertake the
administration of the House prior to the formal convening of the chamber, it appears
that many decisions related to a transition need to be made prior to the formal
assumption of majority status. The following sections discuss and analyze some
areas in which a new incoming majority would likely need to consider as it prepared
to assume responsibility for administration of the House. Many of these activities,
however, including the adoption of the rules and election of officers, are routine
activities carried out on the first day of a new Congress,12 regardless of which party
commands a majority to organize the House. The rules themselves, as well as the
slate of officers put before the House, are debated and approved within the incoming
majority conference or caucus before they are laid before the chamber. Similarly,
administration of committee organization and funding, establishment of house wide
staffing levels, and publication of the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA),
are based on various party, legislative, and administrative decisions taken with
majority involvement. These decisions may be made at various times from the first
meetings on early organization of the chamber soon after the general election through
the first several weeks of a new Congress.
The principal means of asserting control over the House are the rules that govern
floor, committee, and administrative activities, as well as certain Member actions.
The majority that organizes the House routinely takes adoption of the rules for the
new Congress as one of its first actions. The package of rules the House adopts
typically are those rules of the previous Congress, with certain amendments to
previous practices and procedures. Amendments to the rules, which are generally
known in advance of their formal adoption on the first day of a new Congress, may
come from a number of sources, including the conference or caucus of the incoming
majority (which formally agrees to the changes prior to their introduction on the first
10 Juliet Eilperin, “First Firings Claim Top Managers, Including Heads of Food Service,
OFEP, Post Office, Finance Office,” Roll Call, Dec. 22, 1994.
11 Diane Duston, “GOP Leaders Tell House Employees to Re-Apply for Their Jobs,”
Associated Press Washington Dateline, Dec. 1, 1994; and Cindy Loose, “GOP Layoffs
Spread Holiday Fear Among House’s Nonpolitical Workers,” Washington Post, Dec. 3,
12 See CRS Report RL30725 The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on
the House Floor, by Mildred Amer.
day of a new Congress), specially appointed study groups of Members, or outside
experts. In some circumstances, rules may be amended, or new rules adopted, in
response to widely publicized events or activities that could affect House
Adoption of a resolution embodying the rules of the House for the incoming
Congress is a feature of the first day of every new Congress.14 The Rules adopted at
the beginning of the 104th Congress made significant changes based on a Republican
frame of reference that was built over many years as the minority party, and that
became part of House Rules as a result of the majority transition. In the 104th
Congress, the House took a number of steps authorized by amended rules:
!affecting floor proceedings, including matters related to the
consideration of budget measures;
!affecting committee structure, procedure, and staff; and
!consolidating management responsibility for financial security and
legislative operations, through the reorganization of house officers.15
13 For example, at the beginning of the 108th Congress (2003-2004), House Rules were
amended to require the Speaker to deliver to the Clerk of the House a ranked list of
Representatives to serve as Speaker pro tempore in the event of a vacancy in the Office of
Speaker. At the same time, the Rules were amended to allow the Speaker to convene the
House in a place at the seat of government other than the Hall of the House, whenever, in
his opinion, the public interest shall warrant it. These Rules changes were part of a broader
congressional response to the events of September 11, 2001 and subsequent incidents that
temporarily interrupted House operations.
The Rules of the House are most typically considered at the beginning of a newth
Congress, but they may be amended at any time. During the 109 Congress, the House on
February 1, 2006 adopted H.Res. 648 under suspension of the Rules, by a vote of 379 - 50,
1 present. H.Res. 648 amended House Rule IV to deny floor privileges to former
Representatives, House officers, parliamentarians or former minority party employees
nominated as an elected officer of the House if they are a registered lobbyist or agent of a
foreign principal; have any direct personal or pecuniary interest in any legislative measure
pending before the House or reported by a committee; or are employed or represent any
entity for the purpose of influencing, the passage, defeat, or amendment of any legislative
proposal. See CRS Report RL33293, Lobbying and Related Reform Proposals:th
Consideration of Selected Measures, 109 Congress, by R. Eric Petersen.
14 See CRS Report RL32772, House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Procedures in the 109th
Congress, by Thomas P. Carr and Elizabeth Rybicki; CRS Report RS22021, House Rulesth
Changes Affecting the Congressional Budget Process in the 109 Congress (H.Res. 5), by
Bill Heniff Jr.; and CRS Report RL33610, A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Sinceth
the 104 Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider.
15 Details of Rules changes adopted by the 104th Congress are based on several CRS
products prepared in 1994 and 1995. Those products are archived, but are available upon
request from the authors of this report.
Election of Officers
Officers and other officials of the House are currently elected or appointed inth16
accordance with House Rule II of the 109 Congress. These positions have
developed over time and in accord with various changes to the Rules adopted by the
chamber. While some positions, like that of the Clerk, have existed since the first
Congress, others (the Chief Administrative Officer) are newer creations or were17
recently reappointed after a period of vacancy (the Historian).
Officers elected by the House currently include the Clerk, Sergeant at Arms,
Chief Administrative Officer, and the Chaplain. These Officers are elected by the
House at the beginning of each Congress to serve until their successors are chosen.
In recent practice, the election process has entailed the offering of one resolution
containing the majority slate of officers. This has then been followed by a request
from the minority for a division of the question and separate vote on the Chaplain,
a position that has generally been uncontested during the opening proceedings. The
Chaplain’s election has been followed by an amendment to the remainder of the
resolution offered by a member of the minority party, offering a separate slate of
candidates for the other positions.18 The amendment is generally then rejected and
the remainder of the resolution is agreed to. Either the House or the Speaker, may
remove the Clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms, or the Chief Administrative Officer. The
Speaker has the power to make a temporary appointment if there is a vacancy in any
of the offices, which lasts until a person is chosen by the House.
The Parliamentarian, General Counsel, Legislative Counsel, Law Revision
Counsel, and Historian are each appointed by the Speaker. The Inspector General is
jointly appointed by the Speaker and Majority and Minority Leaders. Although some
of these positions have been characterized by the lengthy tenure of the incumbents,
others have experienced more frequent turnover, but they all serve at the pleasure of
their appointing authority.
16 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of
Representatives of the United States, One Hundred Ninth Congress, compiled by John V.thnd
Sullivan, Parliamentarian, 108 Cong., 2 sess., H. Doc. 108-241 (Washington: GPO,
17 For more information on the history and role of each of the elected and appointed
officials, see CRS Report RL33220, Support Offices in the House of Representatives: Roles
and Authorities, by Ida Brudnick.
18 Although the election for Chaplain at the opening of the Congress has generally been
uncontested, discussion has resulted over the selection of a replacement upon the resignation
of an incumbent as well as periodic proposals for eliminating the position. For more
information, see CRS Report RS20427, House and Senate Chaplains, by Mildred Amer;
CRS Report RS20456, Chaplain of the House: Selection and Related Procedures, by Paul
S. Rundquist and Richard S. Beth; and the House Chaplain’s website, available at
Administrative Oversight Structure
A number of entities share responsibility for administration of the House side
of the Capitol. The House Office Building Commission has authority in statute over
the use and occupancy of House office buildings and the House side of the Capitol.
The House Office Building Commission consists of the Speaker and two other
appointees, traditionally the Majority Leader and Minority Leader. The House Office
Building Commission was first authorized by an act approved on March 4, 1907.19
This was soon followed by a joint resolution governing the room assignment process
in the House, approved on May 28, 1908.20 The Committee on House Administration
has legislative jurisdiction over the assignment of office space for Members,
Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees under House Rule X, clause
1(j) of the 109th Congress.21 The House Appropriations Committee, through its
responsibility for consideration of the annual spending measure for the legislative
branch, has also included provisions affecting the administration of the House side
of the Capitol in this legislation.22 The House Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch was eliminated in a reorganization plan
announced February 9, 2005, and the legislative branch appropriations bill and all
accompanying report language and directives currently are considered by the full
House Appropriations Committee. Press accounts also indicate that during the
majority transition in 1994, the incoming majority variously considered proposals for
limiting or altering the use of House space or privatizing certain House services.23
Areas of Influence and Recent Actions
The House Office Building Commission may issue rules and regulations that
govern the use and occupancy of all rooms in the House Office Buildings. For
example, the Commission recently issued amendments to the smoking policy
governing all public areas of the House Office Buildings. The amendments were
announced in a “Dear Colleague” letter issued by the Committee on House
Administration on June 22, 2006.24 Smoking has also been addressed recently by the
House Appropriations Committee, which adopted a committee amendment offered
19 Mar. 4, 1907, ch. 2918, 34 Stat. 1365; 2 U.S.C. 2001 et seq.
20 May 28, 1908, No. 30, 35 Stat. 578; 2 U.S.C. 200 et seq.
21 H.Res. 5, adopted Jan. 4, 2005. This is a responsibility first noted in the language creating
the committee in 1946 (P.L. 79-601, Aug. 2, 1946, 60 Stat. 826).
22 The Senate by tradition does not consider appropriations for House office buildings,
which are contained in the budget of the Architect of the Capitol, although the House figure,
as passed by the House, is counted in the Senate bill.
23 Timothy J. Burger, “GOP to Sell O’Neill Annex?,” Roll Call, Dec. 22, 1994; Juliet
Eilperin, “Cox Proposal Would Put Members Into Suites Now Occupied by Staff,” Roll
Call, Jan. 5, 1995.
24 Available on the website of the Committee on House Administration,
[http://cha.house.gov/ services/dear_col.aspx?News ID=1358].
by Representative Jim Moran prohibiting the use of funds for establishment or
operation of a smoking area in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building
during the mark up of H.R. 5521, the FY2007 bill, on May 25, 2006. This measure
was included in the bill that passed the House on June 7.
The House Office Building Commission also has a role in the approval of new
House space. This is evident in references to the chamber’s emergency preparedness
planning in the Department of Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations
for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States Act, 2002.
The act stipulates that
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in order to respond to an emergency
situation, the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives may
acquire buildings and facilities for the use of the House of Representatives by
lease, purchase, or such other arrangement as the Chief Administrative Officer
considers appropriate (including a memorandum of understanding with the head
of an executive agency, as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code,
in the case of a building or facility under the control of such Agency), subject to
the approval of the House Office Building Commission.25
Number of Staff
Congressional leadership has long influenced the size of the House workforce.
This number of staffers has both grown and shrunk over the years. For example, the
FY1994 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act mandated a 4% decrease in full-time
equivalent employees in various entities of the legislative branch (defined in the act
as the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol
(including the Botanic Garden), the Capitol Police, the Congressional Budget Office,
the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, the General Accounting Office, the Government
Printing Office, the Library of Congress, and the Office of Technology Assessment),
while in 1995 the new majority implemented a plan to further reduce the total
number of staff of House committees by at least one-third.26 In a new Congress,
leaders may provide overall direction in this area, although this authority would not
necessarily be related to a change in majority.
Staff Leaving House Service
Members and committees determine annual and sick leave policies for their own
employees, subject to applicable House Rules and federal laws. The Office of
Employee Services has stated that “It is the responsibility of your employing
authority to determine whether you are eligible to receive a lump sum payment for
leave. The employing authority may provide a lump sum payment for accrued annual
leave only if such leave was accrued in accordance with written personnel policies
25 P.L. 107-117, Jan. 10, 2002, 115 Stat. 2317; 40 U.S.C. 175a.
26 P.L. 103-69, Aug. 11, 1993, 107 Stat. 709.
established prior to the accrual of such leave.”27 Regulations concerning sick leave,
annual leave, the transferability of leave to other federal positions, eligibility for
unemployment compensation, and post-employment health insurance options, are
also provided by that office (B-215 Longworth House Office Building;
The provision of benefits for staff leaving House service became an issue of
particular interest after the most recent partisan changeover. Topics discussed
included the impact of involuntary separation on those employees close to retirement,
as well as payment for unused leave that departing employees were unable to utilize
before the new Congress. Although the incoming majority initially cited cost
concerns and stated that leave not used prior to the new Congress would not be
compensated, this policy was changed early in the 104th Congress to provide payment
to separated administrative and legislative staff and made retroactive to those
employees employed through the end of the 103rd Congress.28
Each of the House Officers and officials employs a cadre of support staff.
Overall figures or direction for the offices may be directed by leadership or other
concerns, including those voiced by the House Committee on Appropriations and the
Committee on House Administration.29
Most of the positions in these offices are filled by professionals, and
Congressional Quarterly has written that “the only jobs remaining under patronage
are those that do not require specialized skills or technical knowledge.”30 Any change
in partisan control could potentially have an impact on the staff of the administrative
offices, although the effects may be more significant for some staff than others. In
late December 1994, according to news sources, the new majority “fired virtually the
House’s entire middle management,” or approximately 50 people.31 Other employees
27 Information provided by the Office of Employee Services in the 110th Congressional
Transition portion of the House website. House access only, at [http://housenet.house.gov].
Also, see CRS Report RS22527, Closing a Congressional Office: Overview and Guide toth
House and Senate Resources, 109 Congress, by R. Eric Petersen.
28 Juliet Eilperin, “In Switch, GOP to Grant Leave For Fired Personal Staff of 103rd,” Roll
Call, Jan. 16, 1995; Editorials, “A Welcome Flip-Flop,” Roll Call, Jan. 16, 1995; Timothy
J. Burger and Tim Curran, “All Staffers Now Eligible For Accrued Vacation Pay,” Roll
Call, Jan. 12, 1995; Gabriel Kahn, “GOP Retreats on Vacation Pay For Administrative Staff
Only,” Roll Call, Dec. 8, 1994.
29 For support office staffing figures, see CRS Report RL30996, Legislative Branch
Employment: Trends in Staffing, 1960-2000, by Paul E. Dwyer and R. Eric Petersen.
30 Congressional Quarterly, CQ’s Guide to Congress, 5th ed., 2 vols. (Washington: CQ Press,
31 Juliet Eilperin, “Just in Time, Republicans Install New Managers To Replace Internal
Officials Fired in December,” Roll Call, Jan. 5, 1995.
were given the opportunity to compete for the positions they held at the time, but
guarantees of continued employment were not made.32
A majority transition could have significant effects on committee organization
and operations. The Rules of the House, particularly Rules X-XIII, govern the
authority and operations of its committees and subcommittees. The House allows
each of its committees to decide how to conduct business, subject to various
requirements and prohibitions.33
In any transition to a new Congress, the majority could consider amendments
to rules governing the activities of committees. In practice, when a new Congress
convenes, leaders typically address three areas of chamber organization and
administration directly related to committee activities. These areas are:
!negotiation of individual committee sizes and ratios between party
!assignment of chairman, ranking minority members and other
Members to committees by party caucus or conference, according to
the polices of those entities;34 and
!adoption of a resolution authorizing the funding of expenses of35
committees several weeks after the House convenes.
It appears unlikely that a change of majority would significantly alter the need
to address these issues during early organization meetings, or soon after the new
Congress convenes, although the form and approach used in the past to address these
concerns could be amended. In addition to those matters, however, the prospect of
a majority transition raises questions related to committee structure and jurisdiction,
staffing levels,36 office space, and the preservation of committee records, in paper and
electronic form. In a majority transition, any of the elements of existing committee
practice could be subject to review and revision.
32 Diane Duston, “GOP Leaders Tell House Employees to Re-Apply for Their Jobs,”
Associated Press, Dec. 1, 1994; Gabriel Kahn, “GOP Retreats on Vacation Pay For
Administrative Staff Only,” Roll Call, Dec. 8, 1994.
33 See CRS Report 97-357, House Rules Affecting Committees, by Christopher M. Davis.
34 See CRS Report 98-367, House Committees: Assignment Process, by Judy Schneider.
35 See CRS Report RL32793 House Committee Funding Legislation, 109th Congress, by R.
Eric Petersen; and CRS Report RL32794, House Committee Funding Requests andthth
Authorizations, 104-109 Congresses, by R. Eric Petersen.
36 See “Staffing” section, above.
Structure and Jurisdiction
At the beginning of the 104th Congress, the new majority made extensive
changes to the House committee system. These changes included the abolition of
some panels; a reduction in the number of committees and subcommittees on which
a Member may serve; reassignment of jurisdiction over certain policy areas among
committees; and changes to committee names and the structure of subcommittees.
In addition, committee procedures were changed and staff levels reduced.37
In the 104th Congress, the majority transition in both chambers reportedly
triggered the most extensive office shuffle in congressional history.38 In addition to
the relocation of Member offices typical in any new Congress, the majority transition
necessitated the relocation of committee staff between facilities occupied by the
majority and minority on those panels. The costs of moving committee staff between
majority and minority facilities in the event of a majority transition potentially could
be met from the interim funds authorized for committees to use prior to March 30 of
the first session of a new Congress. In the event that funds were unavailable,
unobligated funds from other House accounts could be transferred, or the costs of
moves could be incorporated into committee expense requests when the House39
considers committee funding. In addition to funding issues, a majority transition
could raise questions related to parity in the distribution of committee office space
between the majority and minority.
Paper and Electronic Records
House Rule VII governs the archiving and availability of certain records of the
House, and requires the chairman of each committee to transfer any noncurrent
committee records to the Clerk for transfer to the National Archives and Records40
Administration. Additional guidelines regarding records are included in Rule XI,
which requires committees to keep a complete record of all committee action,
including substantially verbatim accounts of the remarks made during meetings or
hearings, and a record of the votes taken on any question for which a recorded vote
is demanded. The rule notes that “all committee hearings, records, data, charts, and
files” are the property of the House.41 Custody of committee records resides with the
majority. During a majority transition, an incoming majority might establish
37 See CRS Report 95-187, Committee System: Rules Changes in the House, 104th Congress,
by Judy Schneider.
38 Alice A. Love, “The Mother of all Moves: Price Tag for Massive Office Shuffle is $1.4
Million,” Roll Call, Nov. 14, 1994.
39 See CRS Report RL32793, House Committee Funding Legislation, 109th Congress, by R.
40 House Rule VII. Also, see U.S. Congress, House, Office of the Clerk, Records
Management Manual for Committees, Publication C-1 (Washington: Oct. 2004).
41 House Rule XI(e)(1)(A).
procedures to assure the orderly transfer of current committee and other official
records from the custody of the outgoing majority. Since it lacks authority to enforce
such a policy until it formally assumes the majority when the next Congress
convenes, however, the leadership of the incoming majority may need to negotiate
with the leadership of the outgoing majority to establish an effective system to
preserve committee and other official records of the House. During the 104th
Congress transition, it was reported that Representative Newt Gingrich, who became
Speaker in the 104th Congress, requested that Speaker Tom Foley cooperate in
“making sure that official documents will not be removed or destroyed.”42 Similar
requests were reportedly made by incoming majority transition leaders and
prospective committee chairs.43 No official information regarding the effectiveness
of committee record preservation efforts during the 104th Congress majority transition
Interim Funding, 110th Congress
Under House Rule X, clause 7, committees have interim funding authority
through March 31 of the first session of a new Congress. Committee expenses
incurred under the budget authority of H.Res.224 (109th Congress), providing for the
expenses of House committees, other than Appropriations Committee, for the 109th
Congress and the interim period at the beginning of the 110th Congress, are the
responsibility of the outgoing chairman, and must be authorized by that chairman for
reimbursement. From noon on January 3, when the 110th Congress convenes, until
the election by the House of the committee concerned, the outgoing chairman, if a
Member of the 110th Congress, has the authority to sign vouchers for the payment of
expenses for the committee until the new chairman is elected. If the outgoing
chairman is not a Member of the 110th Congress, then the outgoing ranking member
of the committee, as it was constituted at expiration of the 109th Congress, and who
is a member of the majority party in the 110th Congress, may authorize payments.44
A majority transition is unlikely to significantly affect Member office activities
in the first few weeks of a new Congress. The House, under the aegis of a new
majority, could consider changes to current practices related to the funding of
Member office operations, authorized staffing levels, and procedures related to
chamber support of Member office operations.
42 Timothy J. Burger, “Gingrich Asks Dems Not to Destroy Papers,” Roll Call, Nov. 10,
43 Jennifer Senior, “Shredder Cuts Committee Paperwork Burden,” The Hill, Mar. 29, 1995.
44 U. S. House, Chief Administrative Officer, Office of Finance and Procurement, “Financial
Counseling Committee and Leadership Transition Rules,” Nov. 2006, available in the 110th
Congressional Transition portion of the House website. House access only, at
The U.S. Constitution establishes qualifications for Representatives and
Senators, but is silent about the roles and duties of an individual Member of
Congress.45 House Rule III, section 1, requires only that Members be present and vote
on each question placed before the House. Members of the House are supported by
personal offices in which staff perform legislative research, prepare background and
briefing material for Members to study, provide constituency service, manage
constituency correspondence, handle media relations, and perform administrative and
clerical functions. House staff and office facilities are provided through funds
appropriated annually, and allocated to Representatives according to the formulas
established under the Member’s Representational Allowance.46 The precise duties
and tasks carried out in a Member office vary with the Member’s personal
preferences, which are typically informed by seniority, committee assignment, policy
focus, district or state priorities, institutional leadership, and electoral
considerations.47 In hiring staff, Members of Congress must comply with the
requirements of the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA), which applies 12 civil
rights, labor, and workplace safety laws to Congress and its associated agencies.48
Member Office Assignment Lottery Process
The 110th Congress Transition page of the House internal website provides
details regarding the Member office lottery and subsequent move process.49 The
office space lottery began on November 9 and continued through November 17.
Costs associated with the move are charged to the individual 2006 Members’
Representational Allowance (MRA) accounts.
The lottery is conducted according to a policy first addressed in an act approved
on May 28, 1908.50 For anyone wishing to change rooms, the act requires a Member
or Member-elect to file a written request for a vacant room. Unoccupied space is
assigned by the Architect of the Capitol under the direction of the House Office
Building Commission.51 The Superintendent of House Office Buildings, an
employee of the Architect, supervises office moves and officiates at the office lottery.
Speakers of the House, as chair of the House Office Building Commission, have
periodically issued updates to the regulations initially promulgated in 1908, for
example, adding the requirement that departing House Members must vacate their
45 Art. I, Sec. 2 of the Constitution requires that Members of the House of Representatives
be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and a resident
of the state from which they are elected at the time they are elected.
46 See CRS Report RL30064, Congressional Salaries and Allowances, by Paul Dwyer.
47 See CRS Report RL33686, Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress, by R. Eric
48 P.L. 104-1, Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 1301. The CAA does not
impose uniform workplace practices, such as work schedules, job duties, salaries, vacation
and leave policies, holidays, fringe benefits, or procedures for hiring and firing staff.
49 House access only, [http://housenet.house.gov].
50 May 28, 1908, 35 Stat. 578; 2 U.S.C. 2004 et seq.
51 Mar. 3, 1921, ch. 124, 41 Stat. 1291.
offices by December 1 following the election. Members with equal lengths of service
draw numbers to determine order of office selection.
Current regulations reflect a ban on personal office moves during a session of
Congress which was first contained in an amendment to the FY1994 Legislative
Branch Appropriations Act.52 The ban became permanent with a provision in the
Legislative Branch Act for FY1996 and subsequently included in the House Office
Building Commission’s regulations issued October 7, 1996.53 Members subsequently
elected to vacant seats have occupied their predecessors’ offices until the regular
lottery following the next general election.
Members Representational Allowance
The Committee on House Administration issued an order on August 3, 1995
creating the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), effective September 1,
1995.54 This allowance governs the spending authority of each Member office. The
1995 creation of the MRA combined formerly separate allowances providing for
clerk hire, official expenses, and official mail. The MRA is still computed by the
committee based on these three components. The clerk hire allowance is the same
for all Members, while the official expense and official mail component are based on
a formula that takes into account the distance between the Capitol and a Member’s
district, the varying costs of office space in each district, and the number of non-
business addresses. The allocation for each office is generally printed in the Chief
Administrative Officer’s Statement of Disbursements of the House.
Architect of the Capitol
Forthcoming Appointment Issues
From 1793, when the design of the Capitol was selected by President George
Washington, until 1989, the Architect of the Capitol was chosen by the President for
an unlimited term without any direct action by Congress. A provision in the FY1990
Legislative Branch Appropriations Act revised the selection process, enabling the
President to nominate the Architect for a 10-year term, subject to the advice and
consent of the Senate. This act ensures further congressional involvement in the
selection process through the creation of a commission charged with recommending
individuals to the President for appointment to this office.
The original membership of the commission included the Speaker of the House
of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the majority and
52 P.L.103-69, Sec. 312, Aug. 11, 1993, 107 Stat 712. See also Rule 3, “Rules and
Procedures Governing the Selection and Assignment of Suites in the House Office
Buildings,” House Office Building Commission, Oct. 7, 1996, contained in letter from
Superintendent of House Office Buildings Robert R. Miley to Members on Nov. 7, 1996.
53 P.L.104-53, Sec. 307, Nov. 19, 1995, 109 Stat 537.
54 Order No. 41, which is reprinted within the notes for 2 U.S.C. 57.
minority leaders of the House and the Senate, and the chairmen and the ranking
minority members of the Committee on House Administration of the House of
Representatives and the Committee on Rules and Administration of the Senate. In
1995, the commission was expanded to include the chairmen and ranking minority
members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
The 1989 legislation required the incumbent to either be reconfirmed or retire
no later than November 21, 1995, the sixth anniversary of the enactment of the act.
Then-Architect George White, who had been appointed by President Richard Nixon
on January 27, 1971, chose to retire on the anniversary rather than seek
reappointment. Alan Hantman, FAIA, the current Architect, was one of five
prospective candidates suggested to President Bill Clinton by the search committee.
President Clinton subsequently nominated Hantman on January 6, 1997, and he was
confirmed by the Senate on January 30, 1997. In the period between White’s and
Hantman’s tenure, William L. Ensign, a former Assistant Architect of the Capitol,
served as the acting Architect of the Capitol.
Earlier this year, Hantman indicated that he would not seek reappointment to the
position of the Architect.55 Various scenarios for 2007 are possible — including
filling the position with a new or current employee on an acting or contract basis.
Press accounts, as well as a statement by Senator Wayne Allard, chairman of the
Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, have
examined what, if any, effect this turnover may have on the completion of the Capitol
Capitol Visitor Center57
Issues related to the new Capitol Visitor Center have been raised during
hearings before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees over the past few
years. Specific areas of interest have included the use of the expansion space in the
center, the total final cost, construction and safety challenges and delays, and the
estimated date of completion and opening for congressional and public use. In
analysis provided at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch on November 15, 2006, the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) estimated a current completion date “of October 26,
2007,” while noting that “further delays are possible” and that the additional six week
delay since the last estimate “was attributable to problems with the project’s most
critical activity — the fire protection system.”58 This estimate does not include time
55 Daphne Retter, “Beleaguered Architect of Capitol Ready to Go,” CQ Today, Aug. 1, 2006.
56 John McArdle, “Visitor Center Faces Management Overhaul,” Roll Call, Sept. 26, 2006;
Jackie Kucinich, “Hantman departure won’t change CVC schedule, spokesman says,” The
Hill, Aug. 2, 2006, p.4; Daphne Retter, “Door May Be Open for Hantman in 2007,” CQ
Today, Sept. 25, 2006.
57 For more information, see CRS Report RL31121, The Capitol Visitor Center: An
Overview, by Stephen W. Stathis.
58 Statement of Bernard L. Ungar, Director, and Bradley M. James, Assistant Director,
for the installation of historic artifacts and the start of operations. GAO has also
estimated that the “total cost of the entire CVC project at completion is likely to be
about $592 million without an allowance for risks and uncertainties,” and in response
to questions during the hearing, indicated that the final figure could exceed $600
Physical Infrastructure Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Update on Status
of Project’s Schedule and Cost As of November 15, 2006,” submitted to U.S. Congress,
Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Committee on Appropriations, Nov. 15, 2006,thnd
59 Ibid., p 23; John McArdle, “CVC Debut Delayed to ’08, Cost Nears $600M,” Roll Call,
Nov. 16, 2006, p. 1.