- Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
The Clerk of the United States House of Representatives is an officer of the United States House of Representatives, whose primary duty is to act as the chief record-keeper for the House.
Along with the other House officers, the Clerk is elected every two years when the House organizes for a new Congress. The majority and minority caucuses nominate candidates for the House officer positions after the election of the Speaker. The full House adopts a resolution to elect the officers, who will begin serving after they have taken the oath of office.
The current Clerk is Karen L. Haas, of Maryland. She replaced Lorraine C. Miller at the beginning of the 112th Congress. There are currently three Deputy Clerks: Robert Reeves, Maria A. Lopez, and Gigi Kelaher.
Every two years regular congressional elections are held. Only one-third of Senators' terms expire at each of these elections, but the terms of office of the entire House end. The Senate has remained in constant existence since it first went into session in 1789 but the House goes out of existence (and hence a "new" Congress takes office) every two years. To preserve the legal continuity of the House, the existence of the House is vested in the Clerk at the end of each two-year term. Thus, when the newly-elected members of the House gather on January 3, it is the Clerk who summons Representatives and convenes the new Congress for the first time. Accordingly, the Clerk gavels the House into session, chairs the body as it adopts its rules of order, and oversees the election of a Speaker under those rules. The Speaker then takes the chair and the House proceeds with its business (which includes electing a Clerk for the new session). Were the House not to vest such personality in the Clerk, there would be no legally empowered authority to convene the session and lead the House in its first few acts.
As stated in Rule II of the House Rules, the Clerk is required to:
- prepare the roll of Members-elect.
- call the Members-elect to order at the commencement of each Congress; to call the roll of Members-elect, and, pending the election of the Speaker, to preserve order and decorum; and to decide all questions of order.
- prepare and distribute at the beginning of every session a list of reports required to be made to Congress.
- note all questions of order, and decisions thereon, and to print these as an appendix to the Journal of each session of the House.
- prepare and print the House Journal after each session of Congress, and to distribute the Journal to Members and to the executive and the legislature of each State.
- attest and affix the seal of the House to all writs, warrants, and subpoenas and formal documents issued by the House.
- certify the passage by the House of all bills and joint resolutions.
- receive messages from the President and the Senate when the House is not in session.
- prepare and deliver messages to the Senate and otherwise as requested by the House.
- retain, in the official library, a permanent set of the books and documents generated by the House.
- manage the office and supervise the staff of any vacant Member (the vacancy may have occurred by expulsion, resignation, or death) until a successor is elected.
In addition, the Clerk:
- acts as custodian of all noncurrent records of the House, pursuant to Rule VII.
- is responsible, under the supervision and direction of the U.S. House of Representatives Fine Arts Board, for the administration, maintenance, and display of the works of fine art and other similar property of the Congress for display or for other use in the House wing of the Capitol, the House Office Buildings, or any other location under the control of the House (P.L. 100-696). In addition, pursuant to the rules of the United States Preservation Commission, the Clerk may be asked to provide staff support and assistance to the Commission.
On April 1, 1789, the House of Representatives convened with its first quorum. Its initial order of business was the election of the Speaker, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, a Representative from Pennsylvania. The next order of business was the election of the Clerk, John Beckley, a citizen of Virginia. Although the Clerk's title is derived from that of the Clerk of the British House of Commons, the duties are similar to those prescribed for the Secretary of the Continental Congress in March 1785.
In addition to the duties involved in organizing the House and presiding over its activities at the commencement of each Congress, the Clerk is charged with a number of legislative functions; some of these, such as the constitutional requirement of maintaining the House Journal, have existed from the time of the first Congress, whereas others have been added over the years because of changes in procedure and organization.
List of Clerks
Name State Years John Beckley Virginia 1789–1797 Jonathan W. Condy Pennsylvania 1797–1799 John H. Oswald Pennsylvania 1799–1801 John J. Beckley Virginia 1801–1807 Patrick Magruder Maryland 1807–1815 Thomas Dougherty Kentucky 1815–1822 Matthew St. Clair Clarke Pennsylvania 1822–1833 Walter S. Franklin Pennsylvania 1833–1838 Hugh A. Garland Virginia 1837–1841 Matthew St. Clair Clarke Pennsylvania 1841–1843 Caleb J. McNulty Ohio 1843–1845 Benjamin B. French New Hampshire 1845–1847 Thomas J. Campbell Tennessee 1847–1850 Richard M. Young Illinois 1850–1851 John W. Forney Pennsylvania 1851–1856 William Cullom Tennessee 1856–1857 James C. Allen Illinois 1857–1860 John W. Forney Pennsylvania 1860–1861 Emerson Etheridge Tennessee 1861–1863 Edward McPherson Pennsylvania 1863–1875 George M. Adams Kentucky 1875–1881 Edward McPherson Pennsylvania 1881–1883 John B. Clark, Jr. Missouri 1883–1889 Edward McPherson Pennsylvania 1889–1891 James Kerr Pennsylvania 1891–1895 Alexander McDowell Pennsylvania 1895–1911 South Trimble Kentucky 1911–1919 William Tyler Page Maryland 1919–1931 South Trimble Kentucky 1931–1947 John Andrews Massachusetts 1947–1949 Ralph R. Roberts Indiana 1949–1953 Lyle O. Snader Illinois 1953–1955 Ralph R. Roberts Indiana 1955–1967 W. Pat Jennings Virginia 1967–1977 Edmund L. Henshaw, Jr. Virginia 1977–1983 Benjamin J. Guthrie Maryland 1983–1987 Donnald K. Anderson California 1987–1995 Robin H. Carle Idaho 1995–1998 Jeff Trandahl South Dakota 1999–2005 Karen L. Haas Maryland 2005–2007 Lorraine C. Miller Texas 2007–2011 Karen L. Haas Maryland 2011–Present
Offices and Services
In addition to the Clerk's Main Office, located in H154 of the U.S. Capitol, there are nine offices that fall under the Clerk's jurisdiction.
Capitol Service Groups
The Capitol Service Groups provide support services to the maintenance of the Republican and Democratic Cloakrooms, the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room, the Members and Family Committee Room, and the Capitol Prayer Room.
House Page Program
Pages are high school juniors who serve as support staff for the U.S. House of Representatives, either for one of two school semester sessions or one of two summer sessions.
Legislative Computer Systems (LCS)
The Legislative Computer Systems office provides technical support for offices under the Clerk and maintains the electronic voting system on the House floor.
Legislative Resource Center (LRC)
The Legislative Resource Center provides information services to the House and the public through its four divisions:
- Public Information (House documents, public access to statutory filings, legislative information),
- Records and Registration (point of entry for statutory filings),
- Library Services (research and reference of the House Library).
The Legislative Resource Center assists with the retrieval of legislative information and records of the House for congressional offices and the public. The Legislative Resource Center provides centralized access to all published documents originated and produced by the House and its committees, and to public disclosure documents. The Legislative Resource Center combines the responsibilities of several previously separate offices–the House Library, the House Document Room, the Office of Legislative Information, and the Office of Records and Registration.
Under Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Clerk of the House is charged with the responsibility of maintaining two copies of printed documents of the House as well as the House Journal "in the library at his office" for use by the Members and staff. The Clerk has maintained a legislative and legal reference library since the Second Congress in 1792. Since the 104th Congress, the library services have been provided by Legislative Resource Center (LRC). The LRC has a small staff available to assist researchers and maintains a study area for library patrons.
In addition to a reference collection of encyclopedias, congressional biographies, and statistical information about Congress, the following holdings are available:
- House and Senate Journals (1st Congress to present)
- Congressional Record and its predecessors (1st Congress to present)
- House Reports and Documents (4th Congress to present)
- House Bills and Resolutions (6th Congress to present)
- House Committee Hearings (61st Congress to present)
- Senate Reports (30th Congress to present)
- Senate Documents (15th Congress to present)
- Congressional Directories (34th Congress to present)
- Precedents (Hinds & Cannon's, Deschler's)
The collection also consists of additional information related to legislation or the federal government:
- Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
- Federal Register
- Compilation of Presidential Documents
- United States Statutes at Large
- United States Code
- United States Code Annotated
- Federal Reporter (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Series)
- Federal Supplement (1st and 2nd Series)
- United States Reports
- United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)
- Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
- Congressional Quarterly (Weekly Reports, Almanacs, and Others)
Use of Collection
The research and library materials of the LRC are maintained in closed stacks and can be retrieved by the LRC staff on request. Materials can be reviewed in the LRC reading room. Inquiries can be made at the main LRC desk. To facilitate research, it is most advantageous to call ahead to insure availability of materials and to have them retrieved before you visit.
Members and permanent employees of the House may check out books and other materials for short-term loans. No materials may leave the LRC before they are first signed out by a permanent staff member. As the LRC also functions as the permanent archives of House documents, some materials are deemed irreplaceable and may only be borrowed with the specific written permission of the Clerk. No LRC materials from the permanent collection may be removed from the Capitol compound or sent to district offices.
Senate Bills and Hearings
The LRC retains Senate Journals, Reports, and Documents. However, we do not maintain Senate bills nor hearings. For more information about Senate bills and hearings, please visit the Senate's Legislative Activities section.
The Serial Set is the compilation of all House and Senate Reports, Conference Reports, and House and Senate Documents published and bound into one set of documents. The LRC holds a complete Serial Set of House materials since the 4th Congress and of Senate material since the 30th Congress. When requesting these materials, please include the Congress from which the report or document originated.
Office of History and Preservation (OHP)
The Office of History and Preservation collects, preserves, and interprets the heritage of the House. The office is responsible for the House's historical documentation and publications, oral history interviews with longtime staff, the House Collection of Fine Art and Artifacts, and the official records of the House from 1789 to the present. The Historian and Deputy Chief of the office, Matthew Wasniewski, is responsible for the print and online editions of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, the House's website on Art and History, the print and online editions of Women in Congress, Black Americans in Congress, brochures with historical, archival and art-related information, along with other publications mandated by the House. The House Curator and Chief of the office, Farar Elliott, curates the House Collection of several thousand objects, and which duties includes: acquisition and care of collection objects, processing of artifact loans, and services to members and staff. The House Archivist, Robin Reeder, also processes the records of the House, oversees their eventual safe transfer to the National Archives, and provides advice to committee staff and member office staff on records management.
Office of House Employment Counsel (OHEC)
This office provides advice about employment practices and acts as legal representation for all employing authorities in the House.
Office of Legislative Operations
This office coordinates the services of the Bill and Enrolling Clerks, the Journal Clerks, the Tally Clerks, the Daily Digests, and the Floor Action Reporting.
The Office of Legislative Operations provides support pertaining to the Clerk's legislative duties. Among the duties of this office are receiving and processing official papers; compiling and publishing the daily minutes of House proceedings; operating the electronic voting system and overseeing the recording of votes; preparing messages to the Senate regarding passed legislation; and reading the bills, resolutions, amendments, motions, and Presidential messages that come before the House. The Office of Legislative Operations also prepares the summaries and schedules of House activities published in the Daily Digest section of the Congressional Record.
A Bill Clerk receives and processes official papers including introduced bills and resolutions, amendments and additional co-sponsors.
A Journal Clerk compiles the daily minutes of House proceedings and publishes these in the House Journal at the end of each session. The House Journal is the official record of the proceedings maintained in accordance with Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution.
A Tally Clerk operates the electronic voting system, oversees the recording of votes on the House Floor, receives reports of Committees, and prepares the Calendar of the United States House of Representatives and History of Legislation.
An Enrolling Clerk prepares all messages to the Senate regarding passed legislation, the official engrossed copy of all House-passed measures, and the official enrollment of all House-originated measures that have cleared both bodies of Congress.
A Reading Clerk is responsible for the reading of all bills, resolutions, amendments, motions and Presidential Messages that come before the House; reports formally to the Senate all legislative actions taken by the House.
Office of Publication Services (OPS)
This office processes official print orders, such as those for letterhead and envelopes, for the House and produces official House publications, including the Official List of Members, the Capitol Directory Card, and the House Telephone Directory. This office also develops and maintains the Clerk’s official Web site and the Kids in the House Web site.
This office transcribes House proceedings verbatim for publication in the Congressional Record and provides stenographic support to committees for all hearings, meetings, and mark-up sessions.
Mailing Address: U.S. Capitol, Room H154, Washington, DC 20515-6601
Telephone Number: (202) 225-7000
Office Hours : 9:00 AM–6:00 PM, Monday–Friday
- Official site
- Kids in the House
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Women in Congress
- Black Americans in Congress
- Oral History of the U.S. House of Representatives
- XML in the House
- The Hopper.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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