Order Code 98-396 GOV
October 2, 2007
Guide to Individuals Seated on
the House Dais
Specialist in American Government
Government and Finance Division
The House of Representatives meets in the Capitol in the House chamber. In the
front of the chamber is a three-tiered, elevated dais. Seated or standing at a sizable lectern
(the height of which is adjustable) on the top level of the dais is the presiding officer.
Members of the House sit in one of 448 unassigned seats arranged in a semicircle facing
the presiding officer. Facing the dais, Republicans traditionally sit to the right of the
center aisle, Democrats to the left.
Speaker of the House. The only seat at the top tier of the dais is that of the
Speaker, who is the presiding officer when the House is meeting as the House. When not
presiding, the Speaker appoints a Speaker pro tempore to perform the duties of the
presiding officer. When the House is meeting in the Committee of the Whole House on
the state of the Union (the Committee of the Whole), the chairman (a majority-party
member named by the Speaker) occupies this seat. During a joint session or meeting of
the House and Senate, a second seat is added for the Vice President to occupy.
Parliamentarian. Usually observed standing to the left of and slightly below the
presiding officer (viewed from the rear of the chamber) is the House Parliamentarian or
an assistant Parliamentarian. In this role, the Parliamentarian counsels the Speaker or
chairman of the Committee of the Whole on rules and precedents and attends the
presiding officer in performing his or her duties.
Sergeant at Arms. Off the dais on the left, the Sergeant at Arms, or a deputy, is
seated at a separate table. Sometimes an assistant Parliamentarian sits at this table. Elected
by the House, the Sergeant at Arms is custodian of the mace, the symbol of parliamentary
power and authority. When the House is meeting as the House, the mace is on a pedestal
to the Speaker’s left (viewed from the rear of the chamber). When the House is meeting
as the Committee of the Whole, the Sergeant at Arms moves the mace to a lower pedestal.
Speaker’s Page. Seated beside the Sergeant at Arms is the Speaker’s page, who
assists the presiding officer during each day’s session.
Clerk of the House. The Clerk of the House is seated to the right of and slightly
below the presiding officer (as viewed from the rear of the chamber). Elected by the
House, the Clerk is the chamber’s chief legislative official. The Clerk’s duties include
certifying the passage of bills, delivering messages to the Senate, and affixing the seal of
the House on all formal documents. The Clerk also presides over a new session of
Congress until a Speaker is elected. Except for ceremonial occasions such as joint
meetings and sessions, the clerk spends little time seated on the dais.
Timekeeper. The area near the Clerk’s seat might be occupied by a timekeeper,
who is on the staff of the Parliamentarian. The timekeeper keeps the time used during
House debate and other proceedings and provides that information to the presiding
Documentarian Pages. Further to the right and off of the dais are two
documentarian pages who operate the legislative lights and bells that signal votes, quorum
calls, or adjournment. These and other House pages, seen working throughout the
chamber, also provide Members with copies of all documents (such as bills and reports)
that are needed during a day’s session of the House.
The middle level of the dais is occupied by employees of the Clerk of the House. The
Clerk’s lectern is also on this level. It is from this lectern that the House Chaplain or guest
chaplain offers prayers, the President delivers the State of the Union address or other
addresses to Congress, invited dignitaries address joint meetings of Congress, and a clerk
reads bills and other business to the House.
Journal Clerk. To the far left of the Clerk’s lectern (viewed from the rear of the
chamber) is a journal clerk, who compiles the House’s daily minutes. These minutes are
the official record required by the Constitution and published as the House Journal.
Tally Clerk. Between the journal clerk and next to the Clerk’s lectern is the tally
clerk, who operates the electronic voting system, oversees the recording of votes on the
House floor, receives reports of committees, and prepares the Calendars of the United
States House of Representatives and History of Legislation. This tally clerk may be
referred to as the “seated tally clerk.” (See below for information on a second tally clerk,
who stands during a vote.)
Reading Clerk. To the right of the Clerk’s lectern is a reading clerk, who is
responsible for reading aloud communications from the Senate and President, House bills,
amendments, and other business.
The lower tier is also occupied by employees of the Clerk of the House.
Bill Clerk. On the far left of the lower level of the dais (viewed from the rear of the
chamber) is a bill clerk. This area is also where the “hopper” is located, in which
Members place measures they wish to introduce. The bill clerk receives and processes
bills and resolutions and receives lists of cosponsors, texts of amendments, and
communications to the House.
Enrolling Clerk. A seat is reserved on the lower level of the dais (left of center)
for an enrolling clerk, who prepares the official (engrossed) copy of all House-passed
measures for messaging to the Senate and the official (enrolled) copy of all Houseoriginated measures for transmittal to the White House for presidential action. The
enrolling clerk does not usually sit on the dais during the course of the day since the clerk
is able to watch floor proceedings on C-SPAN.
Tally Clerk. During a vote, a tally clerk stands on the lower level of the dais directly
in front of the seated tally clerk (see above) to take “well cards” (paper ballots) from
Members casting votes or changing votes after the electronic voting stations are locked.
This tally clerk may be referred to as the “standing tally clerk.” This clerk prepares the yea
and nay tally sheets for the presiding officer at the end of each vote.
Daily Digest Clerk. Another seat is reserved on the lower level of the dais (left of
center) for a Daily Digest clerk, who prepares the information published in the Daily
Digest section of the Congressional Record. The Daily Digest clerk does not usually sit
on the dais during the course of the day since the clerk is able to watch floor proceedings
Official Reporters of Debate. In the center of the lower level of the dais are the
clerks to the official reporters of debate. They are responsible for keeping track of floor
activity and receiving text for the Congressional Record. Further to the right are seats for
reporters awaiting their turn to work on the House floor.
The official reporters who are transcribing sit at a table in the well of the House in
front of the lower level of the dais. This table also holds a box containing the “well cards”
(paper ballots) used by Members to cast or change votes. Two podiums, located on either
side of this table, are used by Members to speak from the well of the House, thus facing
their colleagues in the House chamber.
An illustration of the House chamber and dais can be found on the Internet at
[http://www.clerk.house.gov]. At this site, a user should place a cursor on the Legislative
Activities button on the top navigation bar, which will cause a color photograph of the
Speaker’s dais to appear. Additional views of the House chamber may be found by
clicking the Art and History button on the top navigation bar.