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Meet the Clerk

The Clerk, along with the other House officers, is elected every two years when the House organizes for a new Congress. House officers are nominated by majority and minority caucuses and elected by the full House. The Clerk organizes the House and presides over its activities at the commencement of each Congress. There is no limit to the number of terms a Clerk can serve. The Clerk, like other House Officers, has minimal political influence.

The Clerk’s duties are similar to those of the Secretary of the Continental Congress, which were established in March 1785. The Clerk is charged by the House Rules and federal law to administer a range of legislative services on behalf of the House. At the beginning of each Congress, the Clerk calls the Members-elect to order, calls the roll, and pending the election the Speaker, preserves order and decorum and decides all questions of order. At the beginning of every session of Congress, the Clerk prepares and distributes a list of reports required to be made to Congress, notes all questions of order and decisions thereon, and prints these as an appendix to the House Journal. After each session of Congress, the Clerk prepares and prints the House Journal. The Clerk attests to the accuracy of all bills and resolutions and to their passage by the House and affixes the seal of the House to all writs, warrants, subpoenas, and formal documents issued by the House. The Clerk receives messages from the President and the Senate when the House is not in session and prepares and delivers messages to the Senate and otherwise, as commanded by the House. The Clerk is also the custodian of all official House records.

This may sound like a lot of work for one person, but the Clerk has a large team of people to help get the job done, including lawyers, historians, graphic designers, computer specialists, web developers, librarians, writers, and administrative specialists

The Clerk’s title and duties originated from the British House of Commons. Many countries, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and Nigeria, also have Clerks to maintain records and oversee legislative activities in their governments. The first clerk, Virginian John Beckley, Esquire, was elected on April 1, 1789 at the start of first Congress. Since then, more than 30 people have served as Clerk of the House.

The Clerk Today

Lorraine C. Miller is the 35th Clerk of the House of Representatives. She is the first African-American and third woman to serve as an Officer of the House. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Ms. Miller attended North Texas State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She also graduated from Georgetown School of Business with an executive master’s degree before being elected Clerk in 2007.

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