Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution directs the U.S. House of Representatives to choose its Speaker and other officers. The Constitution does not, however, identify the officers’ titles or duties. Over time the officers have come to include the Clerk of the House, Sergeant at Arms, Chief Administrative Officer, and Chaplain. Their responsibilities cover legislation, security, administration, and pastoral guidance. The four officers are elected by the House membership at the start of each new Congress.
Clerk of the House
The Clerk is the chief legislative officer of the House. The role’s duties were defined during the First Congress (1789–1791) and include legislative and administrative responsibilities.
At the start of each new Congress, the Clerk presides over the House until the Speaker is elected. The Clerk’s opening day responsibilities include calling the roll, certifying newly elected Members, maintaining order and decorum, and deciding on all questions of order. Throughout the Congress, the Clerk certifies the passage of all House bills and joint resolutions, receives messages from the President and Senate, and attests and affixes the House seal to all formal documents issued by the House.
In accordance with Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, the Clerk maintains the House Journal, and distributes it to the House membership at the end of each session. In addition, the Clerk is the official custodian of permanent House documents, including historical records of the House, and consults offices of retiring or leaving Members on the proper archival of official papers and files. In the event of a vacancy or death, the Clerk’s organization manages vacant congressional offices.
To learn more about the current Clerk of the House, visit Meet the Clerk.
House Sergeant at Arms
The Sergeant at Arms is the chief law enforcement and protocol officer for the U.S. House of Representatives. The role of House Sergeant at Arms dates back to the first Congress (1789–1791).
As head law enforcement officer, the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for security in the House wing of the Capitol, House office buildings, and the surrounding grounds. As part of this duty, the Sergeant at Arms ensures the safety and security of Members of Congress, congressional staff, visiting national and foreign dignitaries, and tourists. The Sergeant at Arms also maintains order and decorum in the House Chamber, including holding the mace—the symbol of the Sergeant at Arms’ authority—before unruly Members, and carrying the mace down the aisles of the House Chamber to subdue rowdy House sessions.
As chief protocol officer, the Sergeant at Arms leads formal processions at ceremonial events, such as presidential inaugurations, joint sessions, and formal addresses to the Congress. The Sergeant at Arms greets and escorts foreign dignitaries, and supervises congressional funeral arrangements.
In addition to these law enforcement and protocol responsibilities, the Sergeant at Arms also performs administrative duties. The Sergeant at Arms serves, with the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Architect of the Capitol, on the Capitol Police Board and the Capitol Guide Board. The Sergeant at Arms also serves on the House Page Board.
Chief Administrative Officer
The newest of the House officers, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer was established at the beginning of the 104th Congress (1995–1997). The office was created to provide infrastructure support for Members and committees to operate their offices.
The Chief Administrative Officer oversees human resources— including managing employee payroll and benefits, child care, and parking—technology, procurement, and facilities management. The Chief Administrative Officer also oversees House dining services, gift shops, and the House Recording Studio.
The Chaplain performs ceremonial, symbolic, and pastoral duties in the House. Although the Chaplain was not considered an officer of Congress until the mid-19th century, a Chaplain has been elected since the first Congress (1789–1791). Chosen as individuals, Chaplains are not representatives of any religious body or denominational entity.
The Chaplain opens the daily House sessions with a prayer and serves as a spiritual counselor to Members, their families, and staff. Chaplains also conduct a variety of group sessions including Bible studies, discussion groups, and prayer meetings for Members, family of Members, and staff. The Chaplain is also responsible for scheduling guest chaplains and arranging memorial services for the House and its staff. In the past, Chaplains have performed marriage and funeral ceremonies for House Members.