The U.S. House of Representatives
We the People of the United States…
As per the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives makes and passes federal laws. The House is one of Congress’s two chambers (the other is the U.S. Senate), and part of the federal government’s legislative branch. The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435, proportionally representing the population of the 50 states.
What is a Representative?
Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district. Among other duties, representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees. The number of representatives with full voting rights is 435, a number set by Public Law 62-5 on August 8, 1911, and in effect since 1913. The number of representatives per state is proportionate to population.
Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution provides for both the minimum and maximum sizes for the House of Representatives. Currently, there are five delegates representing the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A resident commissioner represents Puerto Rico. The delegates and resident commissioner possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives.
To be elected, a representative must be at least 25 years old, a United States citizen for at least seven years and an inhabitant of the state he or she represents.
Find Your Representative
Enter your ZIP code in the banner of this page to find the representative for your congressional district.
Did You Know?
After extensive debate, the framers of the Constitution agreed to create the House with representation based on population and the Senate with equal representation. This agreement was part of what is referred to as The Great Compromise.
House leadership includes the speaker, majority and minority leaders, assistant leaders, whips and a party caucus or conference. The speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several institutional and administrative roles. Majority and minority leaders represent their respective parties on the House floor. Whips assist leadership in managing their party's legislative program on the House floor. A party caucus or conference is the name given to a meeting of or organization of all party members in the House. During these meetings, party members discuss matters of concern.
The majority party members and the minority party members meet in separate caucuses to select their leader. Third parties rarely have had enough members to elect their own leadership, and independents will generally join one of the larger party organizations to receive committee assignments.
Curious about who else has been Speaker of the House? View the names of past house leadership.
The House’s 20 standing committees have different legislative jurisdictions. Each considers bills and issues and recommends measures for consideration by the House. Committees also have oversight responsibilities to monitor agencies, programs, and activities within their jurisdictions, and in some cases in areas that cut across committee jurisdictions.
Current standing committees of the House: Agriculture; Appropriations; Armed Services; Budget; Commerce; Education and the Workforce; Ethics; Financial Services; Foreign Affairs; Homeland Security; House Administration; Judiciary; Natural Resources; Oversight and Government Reform; Rules; Science, Space, and Technology; Small Business; Transportation and Infrastructure; Veterans’ Affairs; and Ways and Means.
The Committee of the Whole House is a committee of the House on which all representatives serve and which meets in the House Chamber for the consideration of measures from the Union calendar.
Before members are assigned to committees, each committee’s size and the proportion of Republicans to Democrats must be decided by the party leaders. The total number of committee slots allotted to each party is approximately the same as the ratio between majority party and minority party members in the full chamber.
All committees have websites where they post information about the legislation they are drafting.
What's a Select Committee?
The House will sometimes form a special or select committee for a short time period and specific purpose, frequently an investigation.
Did You Know?
Each committee has a chair and a ranking member. The chair heads the full committee. The ranking member leads the minority members of the committee.
Congress has created a wide variety of temporary and permanent commissions to serve as advisory bodies for investigative or policy-related issues, or to carry out administrative, interparliamentary, or commemorative tasks. Such commissions are typically created by either law or House resolution, and may be composed of House members, private citizens, or a mix of both. In some cases, the commissions are entities of the House or Congress itself; in other cases, they are crafted as independent entities within the legislative branch.
Examples of commissions
- Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: a temporary, independent investigative body created by law and made up of private citizens.
- Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Commission): an independent U.S. government agency composed of nine members of the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
- House Page Board: a permanent, Congressional advisory group created by law and made up of House members, Officers, and private citizens.
Whether working on Capitol Hill or in his / her congressional district, a representative’s schedule is extremely busy. Often beginning early in the morning with topical briefings, most representatives move quickly among caucus and committee meetings and hearings. They vote on bills, speak with constituents and other groups, and review constituent mail, press clips and various reports. Work can continue into the evening with receptions or fundraising events.
Representatives carry out a broad scope of work in order to best represent their constituents.
Contact Your Representative
Share your thoughts with your representative. Use the Find Your Representative box in the banner of this site to identify your representative, then use the contact form to share your thoughts.
Did You Know?
Representatives’ schedules are sometimes planned out in increments as short as five minutes.
The Rules of the House of Representatives for the 112th Congress were established by the House with the adoption of H. Res. 5 (PDF) on January 5, 2011. The current Rules also reflect changes made to the Rules by subsequent amendment during the 112th Congress. A section by section analysis is also available.
Rules of Conduct
The Committee on Ethics has jurisdiction over the rules and statutes governing the conduct of members, officers and employees while performing their official duties.
The Rules Committee controls what bills go to the House Floor and the terms of debate.
The makeup of the Rules Committee has traditionally been weighted in favor of the majority party, and has been in its current configuration of 9 majority and 4 minority members since the late 1970s.
Did You Know?
The Rules Committee has an online Parliamentary Bootcamp that gives an overview of House Floor procedures, process and precendents.
As outlined in the Constitution, the House represents citizens based on district populations, while the Senate represents citizens on an equal state basis. This agreement was part of what is called The Great Compromise which, in turn, led to the Permanent Seat of Government Act establishing the nation’s federal capital in Washington, DC. In 1789, the House assembled for the first time in New York. It moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and then to Washington, DC, in 1800.
Each member of the House represents a set number of constituents.
Learn more about the History of the House from the Clerk’s website.
Did You Know?
The House of Representatives moved into the House wing on the south side of the Capitol in 1807, four years before the wing was fully completed.