Order Code RL30725
The First Day of a New Congress:
A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor
Updated October 31, 2008
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
The First Day of a New Congress:
A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor
This report focuses on the floor activities of the House during its first formal
session in a new Congress, and serves as a guide for those participating in or
watching these proceedings.
The House is not a continuing body. It ends at the conclusion of each two-year
Congress and must reconstitute itself at the beginning of the next Congress. Article
1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets terms for Members of the House at two years.
The House must choose its Speaker and officers and determine the chamber’s
internal rules every two years.
The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless
it has earlier passed a law designating a different day. Although no officers have
been elected when the House first convenes, some officers from the previous
Congress perform certain functions.
The House follows a well-established first day routine of electing and swearing
in the Speaker, administering the oath of office to its Members, electing and swearing
in its administrative officers, and adopting its rules of procedure. It also establishes
its daily hour of meeting.
On opening day, the House usually adopts resolutions assigning its Members to
serve on committees. This process often extends for several more weeks. The
committee assignment process occurs primarily within the party groups — the
Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus. Assignments cannot be
considered on the House floor until both of these groups have adopted rules
governing committee assignments.
Other routine organizational business may also be taken up on the House floor
on the first day. The Speaker usually announces his/her policies on certain floor
practices; a resolution is adopted providing for a joint session of Congress to receive
the President’s State of the Union Message; and often a resolution is adopted to allow
a judge or a Member of Congress to administer the oath of office to Members-elect
who are absent due to illness or other reasons.
Some resolutions on opening day are dependent on specific circumstances and
do not occur at the beginning of each new Congress. In inaugural years, the House
must adopt a resolution to authorize the use of the Capitol for the inauguration
activities. At the outset of a new Congress following a presidential election, the
House must also adopt a resolution providing for the counting of electoral votes for
the President and Vice President of the United States by the new Congress.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The House Convenes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Election of the Speaker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Swearing in of the Speaker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Oath of Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Announcement of Party Leaders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Election of Officers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Notification to Other Body and to President . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Adoption of House Rules of Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Daily Meeting Time for the House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Committee Organization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Other First-Day Floor Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Appendix. Selected Rules Changes, 104th through 109th Congresses . . . . . . . . . 11
The First Day of a New Congress:
A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor
The House of Representatives follows a well-established routine on the opening
day of a new Congress. The proceedings include electing and swearing in the
Speaker, swearing in its Members, electing and swearing in its administrative
officers, and adopting its rules of procedure. Also, resolutions assigning Members
to committees may be adopted.
The House must take these actions at the beginning of each new Congress
because it is not a continuing body. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution sets
terms for Members of the House at two years. Thus, the House ends at the
conclusion of each two-year Congress and must reconstitute itself at the beginning
of a new Congress.1
The House Convenes
The Constitution mandates that a new Congress convene at noon on January 3
each odd numbered year unless it has earlier passed a law designating a different day.
For example, the 111th Congress will convene on January 6, 2009.2 The 109th and
110th Congresses convened on January 4, 2005, and January 4, 2007, respectively.
In fact, with the exception of the 107th Congress which convened on January 3, 2001,
all Congresses in the past 14 years have convened on days other than January 3.
Although no officers have been elected when the House first convenes, some officers
from the previous Congress perform certain functions. The previous Clerk of the
House calls the House to order and presides over the chamber until the Speaker is
sworn in. In the absence of the Clerk, the Sergeant at Arms performs this duty.3
The chaplain offers a prayer, and the Members-elect and their guests recite the
Pledge of Allegiance. The Clerk then directs a reading clerk to call the roll of all
For information on convening of the House, see William Holmes Brown, “Assembly of
Congress,” in House Practice, A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the
House of Representatives (Washington: GPO, 2003), pp. 157-165. For information on
organizational meetings held prior to the formal start of a new Congress, see CRS Report
RS21339, Congress’ Early Organizational Meetings, by Judy Schneider.
See P.L. 110-420, signed on Oct. 15, 2008.
See House Rule II, clause 2, Sec. 641, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the
House of Representatives, 110th Cong., H. Doc. 109-157 (Washington: GPO, 2007).
Members-elect to establish that a quorum is present4. In current practice, the roll is
not actually called by a clerk; the Members-elect record their presence by inserting
their official voting cards (obtained prior to opening day) in the chamber’s electronic
voting machines. Once the call of the roll is completed, a majority having registered
their names, a quorum (218) is proved present.5 This action fulfills the requirements
of Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution that no business be conducted by the House
without a quorum being present. The Clerk then announces the election of the
Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico (when applicable) and the Delegates (one
each) from the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American
Samoa,6 and reports any deaths or resignations since the election.7
A quorum being present, the first order of official business is the election of the
presiding officer, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.8
Election of the Speaker
The candidates for Speaker are nominated from the floor by the leaders of their
respective parties. Traditionally, there is one candidate from the majority party and
one from the minority party, selected by the Republican Conference and the
Democratic Caucus at their early organizational meetings.9 Debate on the
“All Members-elect whose credentials have been received by the Clerk are included in the
first roll call on opening day to establish a quorum.” See William Holmes Brown, “Status
and Rights of Members-elect,” in House Practice, A Guide to the Rules and Procedures of
the House of Representatives, p. 161.
A quorum is the minimum number of Members required to be present for the transaction
of business. Under the Constitution , a quorum in each House is a majority of its members:
218 in the House and 51 in the Senate when there are no vacancies. For more information,
see Congressional Research Service, “Congressional Quarterly’s American Congressional
Dictionary,”[http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/glossary/q.shtml], visited Sept. 30, 2008.
The Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico serves a four-year term.
At the beginning of the 109th Congress, the Clerk announced the death of Rep. Robert
Matsui of California since the last regular election for Representatives to the 109th Congress.
See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Announcement by the Clerk,” Congressional Record,
daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, p. H2. In the 107th Congress, the Clerk announced the
death of Rep. Julian Dixon of California since the last regular election for Representatives
to the 107th Congress. See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Announcement by the Clerk,”
Congressional Record, vol . 147, Jan. 3, 2001, p. 20. In the 106th Congress, the Clerk
announced that he had received a letter from Rep. Newt Gingrich, who announced that he
would not seek reelection as Speaker of the House or take his seat as a Member from the
Sixth District of Georgia. See The Clerk [Jeffrey J. Trandahl], “Resignation As Member of
the House of Representatives,” Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 42.
For more information on the Speaker, see CRS Report RL30857, Speakers of the House:
Elections, 1913-2007, by Richard Beth and James V. Saturno. See also House Rule I.
Although the Speaker has always been a Member of the House, this is not a requirement.
For example, at the commencement of the 105th Congress, two former Members, in addition
to the two party nominees and another incumbent Member, received votes for Speaker. In
the 107th - 109th Congresses, one incumbent Member other than the two party nominees
nomination of candidates for Speaker is allowed but not customary.10 Instead, the
nominations are followed immediately by a viva voce roll call vote — that is, a vote
in which the Members-elect respond orally to the calling of their names. In this vote,
the Members-elect call out the last names of their choices for Speaker when their
names are called by the Clerk. The Clerk appoints Members-elect to serve as
majority and minority tellers, usually two each, to ascertain the vote.11 The majority
party is able to assure the election of its candidate because the vote is usually along
straight party lines.12 The candidates themselves, however, often vote “present.”13
The following excerpts are the proceedings for the election of the Speaker in the
ELECTION OF SPEAKER14
The CLERK. Pursuant to law and precedent, the next order of business is the
election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 110th Congress.
Nominations are now in order.
The Clerk recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. EMANUEL).
Mr. EMANUEL. Madam Clerk, ... as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I am
directed by the unanimous vote of that caucus to present for election to the office
of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 110th Congress the name
of the Honorable NANCY PELOSI, a Member-elect from the State of
The CLERK. The Clerk now recognizes the gentleman from Florida (Mr.
received a vote for Speaker.
At the commencement of the 105th Congress, the chair of the Democratic Caucus rose to
“a question of the highest constitutional privilege” to offer a resolution calling for the
postponement of the election of the Speaker until the completion of a pending investigation.
His resolution proposed the election of an interim Speaker, but the motion was tabled. See
Rep. Vic Fazio, remarks in the House, Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, pp.
Tellers are Members or clerks who count votes cast on the House floor. Vote totals are
announced but not the votes of individual Members.
Note that the Independent Members usually vote for the candidate of the party with which
they have chosen to caucus.
In the 110th Congress, both party nominees for Speaker voted for themselves. See
“Election of Speaker, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4, 2007, pp. H2H3.
All excerpts are taken from the Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan 4, 2007,
Mr. PUTNAM. Madam Clerk, ... as chairman of the Republican Conference, I
am directed by the unanimous vote of that conference to present for election to
the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 110th Congress
the name of the Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER from the State of Ohio.
The CLERK. The Honorable NANCY PELOSI, a Member-elect from the State
of California, and the Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER, a Member-elect from the
State of Ohio, have been placed in nomination.
Are there any further nominations?
There being no further nominations, the Clerk will appoint tellers.
The Clerk appoints the gentlewoman from California (Ms. MILLENDERMCDONALD), the gentleman from Michigan (MR. EHLERS), the gentlewoman
from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR), and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROSLEHTINEN).
The tellers will come forward and take their seats at the desk in front of the
The roll will now be called, and those responding to their names will indicate by
surname the nominee of their choice.
The Reading Clerk will now call the roll.
The tellers having taken their places, the House proceeded to vote for the
The CLERK. The tellers agree in their tallies that the total number of votes cast
is 435, of which the Honorable NANCY PELOSI of the State of California has
received 233 and the Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER of the State of Ohio has
Therefore, the Honorable NANCY PELOSI of the State of California is duly
elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 110th Congress, having
received a majority of the votes cast.
Swearing in of the Speaker
Next, the newly elected Speaker, escorted by leaders of both parties and often
Representatives-elect from his/her home state, is introduced to the chamber by the
minority leader, who first delivers a short statement from the chair. The Speaker
Prior to the voting for Speaker in the 106th Congress, a parliamentary inquiry was made
by the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico and another Member-elect about the
Delegates in the House being allowed to cast ballots for Speaker. The Clerk announced,
however, that “Representatives-elect are the only individuals qualified to vote in the election
of the Speaker.” See “Election of Speaker, ‘Parliamentary Inquiry,’” Congressional
Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, p. 43.
often responds with a statement of his/her own and then takes the oath of office.16
By precedent, the “dean” of the House, the most senior (longest-serving) Member
(regardless of party), administers the oath to the Speaker on the dais. That oath is
identical to that of the other Members.17
Oath of Office
After taking the oath, the Speaker administers the following oath of office to all
Members of the House, en masse, including the nonvoting Delegates and Resident
Commissioner. The oath, which follows, is in the form of a question, to which the
newly elected Members respond in the affirmative:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution
of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear
true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without
any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully
discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
This oath is mandated by Article VI of the Constitution, and its text is set by
statute (5 U.S.C. 3331). As the Members-elect raise their right hand, they are not
required to hold anything in their left hand. Many have held a family bible or other
scripture in their left hand, but there is no requirement that anything be held when the
oath is taken. The same is true for Representatives who re-enact the event with their
families and the Speaker in the Speaker’s office after the formal ceremony.
Photographers are present, and many Members choose to hold something meaningful
in their left hand. These objects have often been, but are not limited to, a family
heirloom or something else of special significance. Nothing, however, is required.
It is up to those being photographed to determine what, if anything, a Member holds
in his/her left hand.18
Occasionally, the swearing in of a Member-elect is delayed because of illness
or other similar circumstances. When this happens, the Member-elect is sworn in at
a later date in the House chamber or elsewhere by someone designated by the
In the 106th Congress, the Speaker broke with tradition and delivered his remarks from the
floor of the House rather than the dais. See Rep. Dennis Hastert, remarks in the House,
Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, pp. 44-45.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) is the dean of the House in the 110th Congress and would be the
dean in the 111th Congress if he is reelected to the House.
In the 110th Congress, for example, the first Muslim elected to Congress used a Quran
when he re-enacted his swearing-in with the Speaker. See “First Muslim Lawmaker Takes
Oath With Quran,” USA Today, Jan. 5, 2007, p. 3; and Gail Feinberg and the Library of
Congress, “Members Borrow Historic Books from the Library,” The Gazette, vol. 18, Jan.
12, 2007, pp 3-5. In 2008, the second Muslim elected to Congress used a copy of the House
Manual for his mock ceremony after he was sworn in following election to a vacant seat in
the 110th Congress. See Emily Heil and Anna Palmer, “Carson’s Jeffersonian Moment,”
Roll Call, Mar. 17, 2008, p. 19.
Speaker. It is usually administered by other Members or judges. The locations have
often been at other sites in Washington, DC or other parts of the country.19
If the swearing in of a Member is challenged, the Speaker, pursuant to House
precedents, will ask this Member-elect to remain seated while the others are sworn
in. The House then determines the disposition of the challenge.20
Announcement of Party Leaders21
After the Speaker administers the oath of office, he receives reports from the
chairmen of the two party organizations, the Republican Conference and the
Democratic Caucus, who announce their parties’ choices for majority and minority
Mr. EMANUEL. Madam Speaker, as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I
have been directed to report to the House that the Democratic Members have
selected as majority leader the gentleman from Maryland, the Honorable STENY
In the 105th Congress, the swearing in of Rep.-elect Frank Tejeda of Texas and Rep.-elect
Julia Carson of Indiana was delayed because of illness. Rep. Tejeda was sworn in Jan. 8,
1997, and Rep. Carson on Jan. 9, 1997. Both were sworn in by federal judges outside
Washington, DC. See Rep. Richard Gephardt, “Authorizing the Speaker or His Deputy to
Administer the Oath to the Honorable Frank Tejeda and the Honorable Julia Carson,”
Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, p.143-144. In the 106th Congress, two ill
Members, Reps.-elect George Miller, and Sam Farr, were sworn in at their California homes
by judges on Jan. 7, 1999, and Jan. 8, 1999, respectively. See Rep. Robert Menendez,
“Authorizing the Speaker or His Deputy to Administer the Oath of Office to the Honorable
George Miller and the Honorable Sam Farr of California,” Congressional Record, vol. 145,
Jan. 6, 1999, p. 246. In the 108th Congress, Rep.-elect Darlene Hooley of Oregon took the
oath of office on Jan. 27, 2003, in the House chamber. See The Speaker [J. Dennis Hastert],
“Swearing in of Member-Elect,” Congressional Record, vol. 149, Jan. 27, 2003, p. 1759.
In the 109th Congress, Reps.-elect Mike Honda, Tom Osborne, Luis Gutierrez, and Chris
Cannon took the oath of office on Jan. 25, 2005, in the House chamber. See The Speaker
[J. Dennis Hastert], “Swearing in of Members-Elect,” Congressional Record, daily edition,
vol. 151, Jan. 25, 2005, p. H171.
This last occurred on Jan. 3, 1985, when the seating of Rep.-elect Richard McIntyre of the
Eighth Congressional District of Indiana was challenged. In that incident, the House
adopted a resolution referring the challenge to the House Administration Committee for
further examination. The Member-elect’s opponent, Frank McCloskey, was ultimately
seated. See William Holmes Brown, “Election Contests and Disputes,” in House Practice,
A Guide to the Rules and Procedures of the House of Representatives, pp. 475-480, and Rep.
James Wright, “Referring Election of a Member from the Eighth Congressional District of
Indiana to the Committee on House Administration,” Congressional Record, vol. 131, Jan.
3, 1985, pp. 381-388.
The excerpts are taken from the Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4,
2007, pp. H5-H6.
Mr. PUTNAM. Madam Speaker, as chairman of the Republican Conference, I
am directed by that conference to notify the House officially that the Republican
Members have selected as minority leader the gentleman from Ohio, the
Honorable JOHN A. BOEHNER.
The chairmen then announce the names of those elected to serve as majority and
minority whips. The whips are the assistant floor leaders.
Election of Officers
Next, the House turns to the election of its administrative officers: Chief
Administrative Officer, Chaplain, Clerk, and Sergeant at Arms.22 The resolution
nominating the slate of candidates is offered by the chairman of the conference of the
majority party. The minority party proposes its own roster of candidates as an
amendment to the majority party’s resolution. By tradition, neither the resolution nor
the amendment is debated, although the slate can be divided with a separate vote on
any or all officers.23 Again, however, because of its numerical advantage, the
majority is able to defeat the minority substitute, and to adopt the resolution naming
its chosen candidates. Then, the Speaker administers the oath to the newly elected
Notification to Other Body and to President
The House then considers resolutions which formally notify the Senate and the
President that it has elected its leaders, is assembled, and is ready to receive messages
from them. Subsequently, the majority and minority leaders and clerk of the House,
as well as two Senators (usually the majority and minority leaders), appointed by the
Vice President, telephone the President with the news that Congress is ready to begin
Adoption of House Rules of Procedure
The next order of business is the adoption of the rules of the House. Although
the rules of one Congress are not binding on the next, the House usually approves its
rules by adopting en bloc the rules of the previous Congress with amendments.
Normally, prior to the first day of a new Congress, task forces of both the majority
and the minority party have worked on any changes they wish to implement in the
House’s standing rules. In modern times, the majority party’s rules package has
The proposed rules are offered in the form of a House resolution. Since there
are then no existing House rules, the resolution is considered under “general
In the 102nd Congress, the office of postmaster was abolished, and that of doorkeeper was
abolished in the 104th Congress. Their duties have been assumed by other officers.
Rep. Larsen, “Election of Clerk of the House, Sergeant at Arms, Chief Administrative
Officer, and Chaplain,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 153, Jan. 4, 2005, p. H6.
parliamentary law,” which the House interprets to mean the rules in force in the
preceding Congress.24 Debate is normally limited to one hour, and the majority party
manager traditionally yields half the time to the minority manager “for purposes of
debate only” to discuss an alternative proposal. Because of that stipulation, no
Member can offer an amendment to the rules proposal, and the minority substitute
is not formally considered.
At the end of debate time, the majority manager moves the previous question.
The majority party’s numerical advantage assures the adoption of this motion. The
effect is to force an immediate vote on the question of final approval of the majority’s
own pending rules package. Therefore, any opportunity for the minority to offer an
amendment is precluded.25 If that motion were defeated, the minority would be
entitled to offer an amendment to the majority’s rules package. Normally, this does
not happen, and the rules are usually adopted on a party-line roll-call vote.26 If the
rules package were to be defeated, the House would continue to operate under
general parliamentary law until another rules package was adopted.
On the opening day of the 110th Congress, the House adopted rules to prohibit
Members and staff from receiving most gifts from lobbyists, foreign agents, and their
private clients.27 These ethics rules were adopted as part of the 110th Congress rules
package which also place more restrictions and requirements on the acceptance of
For a summary of the procedures the House follows in the brief period of time it is in
session prior to the formal adoption of its own rules, see William Holmes Brown,
“Assembly of Congress,” in House Practice, A Guide to the Rules and Procedures of the
House of Representatives, pp. 163-164.
Given that the rules of the House in the last Congress apply generally, the minority party
is given the right to offer a motion to commit the rules package to committee for further
examination. While this motion traditionally loses, it does give the minority party the
opportunity to include “instructions” to the committee for changes in the text of the
proposed rules. These instructions are, in essence, an amendment, which typically contains
selected portions of the minority’s rules package. The outcome, however, remains certain:
the majority party’s rules package prevails.
In 1971, the “previous question” motion to end debate on H.Res. 5 was defeated by a
bipartisan coalition which sought to drop from the rules package a proposal permitting the
automatic discharge of a measure from the Rules Committee if that committee had not acted
on it within 31 days. This coalition voted against ordering the “previous question” motion.
Thereafter, the 31-day rule was removed from the rules package by floor amendment, and
the rules package passed overwhelmingly. It should be noted that the consideration of
H.Res. 5 was delayed by one day by unanimous consent, and the House operated under
“general parliamentary law” for most of the two session days. See “Rules of the
House,”Congressional Record, vol. 117, Jan. 21, 1971, pp. 13-15; and “Rules of the
House,”Congressional Record, vol. 117, Jan. 22, 1971, pp. 132-144.
Rep. Slaughter, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vo. 152, Jan.
4, 2007, pp. H6-H39. See also CRS Report RS22566, Acceptance of Gifts by Members and
Employees of the House of Representatives Under New Ethics Rules of the 110th Congress,
by Jack Maskell; CRS Report RL34149, House Rules Changes Affecting the Congressional
Budget Process Made at the Beginning of the 110th Congress, by Bill Heniff Jr., and CRS
Report RS22580, Committee System Changes in the House, 110th Congress, by Judy
travel expenses from outside sources, and require the Committee on Standards of
Official Conduct to offer annual ethics training to Members and employees.
Other 110th Congress rules changes rename several committees;28 prohibit the
Speaker from holding votes open for longer than the scheduled time for the sole
purpose of changing the outcome of the vote; and require committees of jurisdiction
(and conference committees) to publish lists of earmarks and tax and tariff benefits
contained in all bills (reported and unreported), manager’s amendments, and
conference reports that come to the House floor.29
Selected rules changes for the openings of the 104th through 109th Congresses
are described in the Appendix.
Daily Meeting Time for the House
The House establishes its daily hour of meeting by a resolution which must be
renewed each session of Congress. The resolution is normally offered by the
chairman of the House Rules Committee.
The committee assignment process occurs largely within the party groups — the
Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus. The only action visible on the
chamber floor is the adoption of resolutions which implement the committee
nominations agreed upon by the conference and the caucus. The adoption of both
resolutions is routine and occurs without amendment, because of the tacit
understanding that each party has a right to establish its own internal distribution of
work without amendment from the other.
Committee assignments may not be considered on the House floor until both the
Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus have adopted their own rules
governing committee assignments. The House takes up some of the assignment
resolutions on opening day, but their consideration extends throughout January and
often for several additional weeks.
Other First-Day Floor Actions
Other routine organizational business may be taken up on the House floor on the
first day. For example, the Speaker customarily announces his/her policies with
respect to certain floor practices for the duration of the Congress. Resolutions are
The Committee on Education and Workforce became the Committee on Education and
Labor, the Committee on International Relations became the Committee on Foreign Affairs,
the Committee on Government Reform became the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform, and the Committee on Resources became the Committee on Natural
The lists of earmarks are to be electronically available to the public through committee
prints or in the Congressional Record. If a measure does not contain any earmarks,
committees are required to publish a statement noting this.
often adopted designating certain minority party employees to special pay status,
providing for a joint session of Congress to receive the President’s State of the Union
message, and providing for conditional adjournments of the House. Resolutions of
condolence on the death of any Member that occurred subsequent to the adjournment
of the last Congress may also be considered.
Some resolutions are dependent on specific circumstances and do not occur on
the first day of every new Congress. For example, following a presidential election,
the House must adopt a resolution providing for the counting of electoral votes for
the President and Vice President by the new Congress, continue the Joint
Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and authorize the use of the
Capitol for inaugural activities.30
After the House has completed its initial organizational proceedings, it may then
turn to the routine business which normally completes its legislative day. This
includes the introduction of bills and resolutions, the receipt of messages from the
President, and one-minute and special order speeches.
Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4, 2005, pp. H32-H33.
Appendix. Selected Rules Changes, 104th through
In the 104th Congress, with a change in party control for the first time in some
40 years, there were major changes in the House rules.31 These included term limits
for the Speaker (no more than four consecutive Congresses) as well as for committee
and subcommittee chairs (no more than three consecutive Congresses). A ban on
proxy voting in committees and subcommittees was also adopted. In addition, the
House modified its sunshine rules to provide for more open committee sessions;
voted to require a three-fifths majority vote for all tax increases; mandated a
comprehensive House audit and other administrative reforms; and abolished some
committees, renamed others, and consolidated jurisdictions.32
In the 105th Congress, the House approved a more modest rules package.33
Included was a provision allowing the incumbent members of the House Committee
on Standards of Official Conduct to finish a pending investigation by serving on a
temporary Select Committee on Ethics through January 21, 1997. The new rules also
prohibited the distribution of campaign contributions on the House floor, provided
for the development of a system of drug testing for Members, officers, and
employees, clarified voting on increases in income tax rates, and required nongovernmental agencies testifying before House committees to provide a list of federal
grants and contracts received in the past three years. In addition, the name of the
Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities was changed to the
Committee on Education and the Workforce.34
At the commencement of the 106th Congress, the House adopted its rules in a
recodified, substantially revised format.35 This was the first comprehensive revision
of its rules since 1880, and the number of rules was cut nearly in half. Included in
the rules changes were provisions to encourage committees to plan oversight
activities before the convening of a new Congress, establishment of a limit of six
subcommittees for committees that maintain an oversight committee, and two ethicsrelated changes. One requires committee consultants to abide by the Code of Official
Conduct, and the other conforms House rules to a Supreme Court decision allowing
Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 141, Jan. 4, 1995, pp.
For more information, see CRS Report 95-187, Committee System Rules Changes in the
House, 104th Congress, by Judy Schneider.
Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, pp.
For more information, see CRS Report 97-138, Committee System Rules Changes in the
House, 105th Congress, by Judy Schneider.
Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 145, Jan. 6, 1999, pp. 47235.
designated House officers and employees to earn limited honoraria if the subject
matter is unrelated to official duties.36
In addition, the names of three committees were changed. The House Oversight
Committee was renamed the Committee on House Administration; the Committee
on Government Reform and Oversight was renamed the Committee on Government
Reform; and the Committee on National Security was renamed the Committee on
With the adoption of the rules for the 107th Congress, the House abolished the
Committee on Banking and Financial Services and replaced it with a new Committee
on Financial Services; renamed the Committee on Commerce the Committee on
Energy and Commerce; required enhanced oversight planning by committees;
repealed the automatic public debt measure rule (Rule 23) to now require a vote on
any measure to change the public debt limit; and amended the House gift rule to
clarify that it applies to all House employees.38
The rules adopted for the 108th Congress included changes that resulted from the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.39 Rule I, clause 8(b) was amended to require
the Speaker to submit to the clerk of the House a list of Members to assume his
responsibilities in the event of a vacancy; Rule I, clause 12 was amended to permit
the Speaker to declare an emergency recess in the event of an impending threat to the
safety of Congress; a Select Committee on Homeland Security was established; and
under a new provision of Rule XX, clause 5, the Speaker, without appeal, can adjust
the number of Members present needed for a quorum.
In the 108th Congress, the House also repealed the term limit on the Speaker;
adjusted its rules regarding the motion to instruct conferees and the admission of
electronic devices on the floor; and reinstated as Rule 27 the automatic public debt
rule (the so-called Gephardt rule) to no longer require a separate vote on any measure
to change the public debt limit.
The rules package for the 109th Congress included several changes to the House
Ethics rules and floor procedures as well the establishment of the standing
See House Rule XXV(1) and United States v. National Treasury Employees Union, 513
U.S. 454 (1995).
For more information, see CRS Report RS20017, Committee System: Rules Changes in
the House, 106th Congress, by Judy Schneider.
Rep. Armey, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 147, Jan. 3, 2001, pp. 2437. For more information, see CRS Report RS20769, Committee System: Rules Changes
in the House, 107th Congress, by Judy Schneider.
Rep. Delay, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, vol. 149, Jan. 7, 2003, pp. 7-21.
See also CRS Report RS21388, House Rules Changes Affecting Floor Proceedings in the
108th Congress, by Elizabeth Rybicki; CRS Report RS21382, Committee System Rules
Changes in the House, 108th Congress, by Judy Schneider; and CRS Report RS21439,
House Ethics Rules Changes for the 108th Congress, by Mildred Amer.
Committee on Homeland Security.40 The ethics changes provide for limited use of
campaign funds for official expenses, tighter restrictions on sending franked mailings
before an election, and an expansion of the rule for governing companions on
officially connected travel.41
Other 109th Congress modifications were: adding Wednesdays to the permissible
days for considering suspensions motions, repeal of the corrections calendar,
amending the rules of decorum and debate to allow references to the Senate, and new
procedures for reducing the number of Members of the House needed for a quorum
in case of a catastrophic event.
Rep. Delay, “Rules of the House,” Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 151, Jan. 4,
2005, pp. H7-H31. See also CRS Report RL32772, House Rules Changes Affecting Floor
Proceedings in the 109th Congress, by Thomas Carr and Elizabeth Rybicki; CRS Report
RS22018, Committee System Rules Changes in the House, 109th Congress, by Judy
Schneider; and CRS Report RS22021, House Rules Changes Affecting the Congressional
Budget Process in the 109th Congress, by Bill Heniff, Jr.
For more information, see CRS Report RS22034, House Ethics Rules Changes in the 109th
Congress, by Mildred Amer.