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United States House of Representatives

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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The House of Representatives is a majoritarian institution with 435 members each serving 2 year terms. There were not always 435 members, but it has plateaued at that number for many years. Each state is represented in the House of Representatives proportionally by population.

Members of the House of Representatives are directly elected (Senators are also directly elected). Each Member of Congress represents a particular state district, with each district in a state having roughly the same population. However, a state like Wyoming (with a population of 500,000) has a single district that has less population than a California district.

Powers unique to the House of Representatives are:

  1. Appropriation (spending) bills begin in the House.

  2. Selection of the president if no candidate has an electoral majority.

  3. Impeachment of any executive branch officer.

Most of the House of Representative's work is done in committees, thus avoiding a cluster of hundreds of opinionated people shouting at each other. Representatives serve on committees and become specialists on those committees.

The majority party in Congress has several benefits, including:

  1. control of the number of members of each party on committees and subcommittees;

  2. chairmanship of all committees and sub-committees;

  3. most votes in House require simple majority.

  • Formal Leadership in the House:

    1. Speaker of the House

    2. Majority Floor Leader

    3. Minority Floor Leader

    4. Party Whips

  • The Speaker of the House (currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi) is third in line of succession for the presidency, after the vice president. The Speaker of the House:

    1. Presides over the House of Representatives.

    2. Appoints member of the Rules Committee.

    3. Appoints members of the Conference Committee.

    4. Assigns bills to specific committees.

    The Majority Floor leader (currently Democrat Steny Hoyer) manages the legislative business of the House.

    The Minority Floor leader (currently Republican John Boehner) is the chief spokesperson for the party that is not the majority (the opposition party).

    Party Whips are liaisons between the party leadership and Members of Congress. Party whips pressure party members to stay in line and also count votes.