Quorum Requirements in the House: Committee and Chamber

Quorum Requirements in the House:
Committee and Chamber
Christopher M. Davis
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
Quorum Requirements in Committee
House Rule XI, clause 2 establishes minimum quorum requirements for eight areas
of committee activity. The following summary table of these requirements is from Wm.
Holmes Brown and Charles W. Johnson’s House Practice; A Guide to the Rules,
Precedents, and Procedures of the House (Washington: GPO, 2003).
See [http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/guidehome.shtml] for more information
on legislative process.
ActionMinimum QuorumRule XI, Clause 2
To report a measure orA majority of committee,(h)(1)
recommendation“actually present”
To authorize and issue aA majority of the committee(m)(3)
To meet in executive sessionA majority of the committee(g)(1)
To make public evidenceA majority of the committee(k)(7)
taken in executive session
To take evidence or testimonyA majority of the committee(k)(5)
in open session after assertion
that it defames, degrades or
To take testimony or receiveTwo members(h)(2)
evidence at a hearing
To close a hearing whereA majority of the committee(k)(5)
assertion of defamatory
testimony or evidence is made
To take any action “other thanOne-third of membership(h)(3)


Committees have some discretion in adjusting the minimum quorum requirements
mandated in House Rule XI under the provision in the same rule that committee rules
“shall not be inconsistent with the Rules of the House.” For example, rules of the Budget
Committee state that all business shall be conducted by a majority of the committee.
(House rules require a majority to report measures, but a one-third quorum to conduct
most other business.)
Quorums in the House
Rules and practices for quorums in the House derive from Article I of the
Constitution. Clause 1 of Section 5 states in part that “a Majority of each [House] shall
constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day,
and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and
under such Penalties as each House provide.” Thus, the quorum for conducting business
in the House is 218 Representatives.
House Rule XX provides the authority for quorum calls in the House. The rule
permits the Speaker at her discretion to recognize a motion for a call of the House at any
time, and to require in the absence of a quorum the attendance of absent Members. Under
Rule XX, a quorum call is also mandated whenever objection is raised to a vote taken in
the absence of a quorum. This type of quorum call is considered an “automatic” call since
it does not require a motion.
Much of the House’s legislative business, including almost all amending procedures,
is conducted in the Committee of the Whole rather than in the full House. House Rule
XVIII, clause 6 establishes that a quorum in the Committee of the Whole shall consist of
100 Members. Although all Representatives are members of the Committee of the
Whole, it is technically a committee of the House, and therefore subject to rules
established by the House, not the Constitution.
When a vote is taken by either voice or division, a quorum is presumed to be present.
If no Member rises to object to the absence of a quorum, the question can be decided even
though the Members present on the floor may not constitute a quorum. In this way, a
small number of Representatives can determine the result of either kind of vote (voice or
division), and the outcome may not be the same as if most or all Members had
When the House uses its electronic voting system, the procedures for making a point
of order of no quorum differ in the House and the Committee of the Whole. Before the
final result of a voice or division vote in the House has been announced, any
Representative may take advantage of a procedure stated in Rule XX, clause 6, which
provides for an electronic vote that also establishes the presence of a quorum.
In the Committee of the Whole, a similar procedure stated in Rule XVIII, clause 6
allows any Member, before the final result of a voice or division vote, to rise and say,
“Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chairwoman), I request a recorded vote and, pending that, I
make a point of order that a quorum is not present.” If a quorum is not present, the chair
first orders an immediate quorum call. When the quorum call is concluded and the
presence of a quorum has been established, the chair, as a separate action, then returns to
the pending request for a recorded vote.