What Is Congress?

First Day of Congress

Today is the first day of a new Congress. New Members of the House of Representatives will be sworn into office today, the Speaker of the House and House Officers will be chosen, and the House Rules will be decided.

  The Gavel

The day begins a lot like the start of the school day. The Clerk of the House calls the House to Order just like your teacher tells the class to take their seats. Next, the Chaplain leads everyone in a prayer, and then everyone says the Pledge of Allegiance together. Just like your teacher, the Clerk of the House takes attendance to be sure everyone is there so they can get to work.

First the Members elect the Speaker of the House. The Speaker is a lot like the class president. He or she is elected by the Members of the House and serves as the leader of the House like the class president is elected by his or her classmates to represent the class. The Speaker’s first job is to lead the Members of the House in saying the Oath of Office. Together they say:

I do solemnly swear 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 the enter, so help me God.

The House has one last step before they can officially get to work—they must elect the four House Officers:

  1. The Clerk keeps track of all votes taken on the House Floor and keeps all official records. Learn more about the Clerk of the House.
  2. The Sergeant at Arms makes sure Members and visitors are safe while at the Capitol.
  3. The Chief Administrative Officer is in charge of the teams of people who run the cafeteria and ensure Capitol employees are paid and have working computers.
  4. The Chaplain opens each meeting of the House with a prayer and advises Members.
  The Speaker's Chair

With all positions elected, Congress is now ready for business! The Speaker of the House calls the President to let him know that the House is ready to get to work. Their first job is to decide on the House Rules. Like school, Members of the House have rules to follow when they are on the House Floor. The Members have a long discussion about what rules are important and then they vote on what will be included.

With the rules decided, the first day activities are over but Congress has lots of work to do making laws to keep Americans safe.