The political parties in the House elect leaders who will serve as spokespersons for the party and for the House. Leaders represent their parties on the Floor, advocate their parties' policies and viewpoints, coordinate their parties' legislative efforts, and help determine the schedule of legislative business.
What are the leadership offices in the House?
There are 8 leadership offices in the House:
- The Speaker of the House - The Speaker, an officer of the House, is the only House leadership position mentioned in the Constitution. The Speaker presides over the House and is chosen by a vote of the entire House. The Speaker has an important role in managing of the House and Congress and is next in line for the presidency after the President and Vice President.
- Majority Leader and Minority Leader - The House became so large by the 19th century that Majority and Minority leaders were elected to help manage and organize the political parties and their activities. The majority leader heads the political party with the more Members in the House, and the minority leader heads the other political party in the House. The party leaders are responsible fo streamlining legislative business and uniting their political parties.
- Majority Whip and Minority Whip - Whip or whipper in is a British term for the person who keeps the hounds from leaving the pack during a fox hunt. In the House, the party whips keep track of party members and make sure they are present to vote on crucial issues. The whips also assist party leaders with their duties, distribute information to party members, and track important legislation.
- The Caucus and Committee Chairmen - House Democrats call their meetings caucuses, and House Republicans call their meetings conferences. (Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats both call their meetings conferences.') These party committees are led by the Chairman of the Republican Conference and the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, who act as leaders and spokespersons for their party meetings.
To find out more about House leadership, visit Member Information. You'll find a list of the representatives who have served in leadership positions and a list of leadership websites.
A detailed report about House Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is available from the House Rules Committee.
What does the Speaker do?
Preside over the House
Recognize Members who wish to speak
Make important rulings and decisions in the House
Vote in the case of a tie. (This is usually the only time the Speaker will vote.)
The Speaker and the majority leader determine the legislative agenda for the House and often confer with the President and with the Senate leadership.
What are the duties of party leaders?
Represent the party on the Floor
Serve as spokespersons
Advocate their parties' policies and viewpoints
Promote issues of national concern
Coordinate their parties' legislative efforts
Keep their parties united
Help determine the schedule of legislative business and support actions favored by their parties for solving national problems
What are the duties of party whips?
Assist party leaders
Help party leaders get bills passed
Keep party members informed and track politically important legislation
Estimate the number of votes for a bill
Make sure all party members are present for votes on important measures
The whips' authority over the members of their parties is limited, meaning that House Members can vote against their parties' position because they or their constituents oppose it.
What are party conferences and party caucuses?
House Democrats call their meetings caucuses, and House Republicans call their meetings conferences. (Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats both call their meetings conferences.) The caucus or conference officially elects party Floor leaders, the party whips, and nominates each party's candidates for Speaker, President pro tempore, and other offices. Regular caucus or conference meetings allow party leaders and members to discuss party policy, legislative issues, and other matters.