United States Congress consists of two Houses namely the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives (“House”). Senate is the upper house, and the House of Representatives is the lower house. House of Representatives derive its powers from Article 1 of the Constitution. Article 1 of the Constitution lays down the composition and structure of the House.
Members of the House are comprised of representatives from each state.[i] The manner of election, and the time and place to elect the representatives is decided by each state legislature. Congress shall not interfere with that process unless required. [ii] If a vacancy occurs in the House due to a fall out of representation from a state, the executive authority sends a Writ of Election to the respective state to fill the vacancy.[iii] All the officers within the House and the speaker of the House are chosen by the members. The House also has sole power to impeach them.[iv]
The House meets in Washington D.C. The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House. Apart from the rules, the proceedings of the House are dependant on custom, tradition and precedents. The House meetings are held on weekdays. The House requires a quorum, which is the minimum number of members to conduct the session. Generally, the quorum is assumed to be there. The Speaker regulates the sessions. During debates, only the members called upon by the Speaker can speak. All debates and speeches are addressed to the Speaker. Other members are addressed in the third person. When addressing the Speaker or other members the member should take good care and address them with respect, for example: Mr. Speaker, or Madam Speaker, and ‘Gentleman’ or Gentlewoman’ when referring other members. The proceedings of the House are recorded in a journal called ‘Journal of Proceedings’. This journal is published in timely intervals. However, parts of proceedings requiring secrecy are not published.[v] The meeting of Congress (joint sitting of both the Houses) takes place at least once a year and shall happen on the first Monday of December.[vi]
All Bills relating to revenue originate in the House.[vii] Debate on passing a bill is always confined to one hour. Debates are between the majority and minority party. The floor manger allocates the time for debates and each member who wishes to speak may be granted 30 seconds to 1 minute to make a point. On conclusion of the debate the motion is put to vote. There are three modes of voting: electronic device vote; teller vote; and roll call vote. The Speaker is also allowed to vote like other members.
[i] USCS Const. Art. I, § 2, Cl 1.
[ii] Art. I, § 4, Cl 1.
[iii] Art. I, § 2, Cl 4.
[iv] Art. I, § 2, Cl 5.
[v] Art. I, § 5, Cl 3.
[vi] Art. I, § 4, Cl 2.
[vii] Art. I, § 7, Cl 1.