What Is Congress?
The Speaker of the House is the only House leadership position mentioned in the Constitution. Over time, as the United States grew and the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives increased, a need for additional leaders developed. In addition to the Speaker of the House, current House leadership includes the majority and minority leaders and party whips.
Speaker of the House
The Speaker of the House acts as the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Every two years, the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives vote on the first day of each new Congress. Both of the major political parties nominate one candidate for the position of Speaker. The candidate from the majority party usually wins.
The Speaker of the House is responsible for administering the oath of office to the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, giving Members permission to speak on the House floor, designating Members to serve as Speaker pro tempore, counting and declaring all votes, appointing Members to committees, sending bills to committees, and signing bills and resolutions that pass in the House. The Speaker is also second in line, behind the Vice President, to become President should the President be unable to fulfill his or her duties.
While serving as Speaker of the House, the Speaker continues to serve the residents of his or her district and has all of the duties of other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Traditionally, unlike other Members, the Speaker does not serve on committees or participate in floor debate.
Like the Speaker, the majority leader is elected every two years. The majority party selects the majority leader during meetings before the start of a new Congress.
The majority leader is second-in-command to the Speaker of the House. The majority leader schedules legislation to be considered on the House floor; organizes daily, weekly, and yearly legislative plans; consults with Members to understand how party members feel about issues; and works to advance the goals of the party.
The majority leader continues to represent his or her district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Like the Speaker, however, the majority leader usually doesn’t serve on committees and does not lead floor debate on major issues.
The minority leader is selected every two years during minority party meetings before the start of a new Congress. The minority leader serves as the floor leader of the “loyal opposition,” and minority counterpart to the Speaker of the House.
The minority leader is responsible for leading the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. These responsibilities include speaking for the party and its policies, protecting the minority’s rights, and nominating minority party Members to committees. Like the Speaker and the majority leader, the minority leader continues to serve the residents of his or her district. Usually, like the majority leader, the minority leader does not usually lead floor debate on major issues.
Party whips, like other House leaders, are elected during party meetings before the start of a new Congress. Each party selects at least one chief deputy whip and a number of deputy and other whips, each for a two year term. Whips are responsible for assisting the party leadership in bringing the party’s bills to the House floor, maintaining communication between the leadership of the party and its members, counting votes on key legislation, and persuading Members to vote for the party position. Whip notices and advisories to all party members about the legislative agenda are key products of both parties’ whip organizations and are posted on each party’s website.