Floor / Aisle / Candy Desk / Gallery (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Floor / Aisle / Candy Desk / Gallery

The well on the floor of the House Chamber. Image courtesy of the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

The well on the floor of the House Chamber. Image courtesy of the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

The actual physical chambers of the House and the Senate, in the Capitol Building, in Washington, DC. These are the only places where legislation can pass.

The aisle is the space between the minority and the majority on the floor, i.e., the center aisle. When speaking on the floor, members will occasionally use the phrase “my side of the aisle” to refer to their fellow party members in the chamber.

In the House, members do not have assigned seats. Facing the presiding officer’s dais, by tradition, Democrats sit to the left of the center aisle, and Republicans to the right. Two lecterns are stationed in the well, the open area between the dais and the seats. Each party has two tables on its side of the center aisle of the House.

House: from § 6.113, Who Is Allowed on the House Floor? in the Congressional Deskbook:

In addition to the representatives (and formerly pages), a variety of staff have permanent or temporary privileges to be on the floor of the House. Standing next to or near the presiding officer are the parliamentarian, sergeant at arms, and clerk of the House. At the desk immediately in front of the Speaker are seated the journal clerk, tally clerk, and reading clerk. At the desk below the clerks are the bill clerk, enrolling clerk, and daily digest clerk. Reporters of debate sit at a table below the rostrum. Staff members of committees and individual representatives are allowed on the floor by unanimous consent.

Senate: from § 6.192, Who Is Allowed on the Senate Floor? in the Congressional Deskbook:

In addition to senators, a variety of staff have permanent or temporary privileges to be on the floor of the Senate. At the desk immediately in front of the presiding officer are seated the parliamentarian, legislative clerk, journal clerk, and, often, the executive clerk and bill clerk. Reporters of debates sit at a table below the rostrum. Seats near the rostrum are reserved for the secretary and assistant secretary of the Senate and the sergeant at arms. Majority- and minority-party secretaries and other staff members who have floor privileges may be seen on the floor. Pages sit on either side of the presiding officer’s desk. Staff members of individual senators are allowed on the floor by unanimous consent.

In the Senate, a so-called “candy desk,” filled with sweets, exists on an aisle in the last row on the Republican side of the chamber. The desk is usually assigned to a junior senator (see Junior Senator).

Candy Desk drawer in the Senate, courtesy of the Senate

Candy Desk drawer in the Senate, courtesy of the Senate

In 1965 Senator George Murphy of California originated the practice of keeping a supply of candy in his desk for the enjoyment of fellow senators. In every Congress since that time a candy desk has been located in the back row of the Republican side, on the aisle and adjacent to the chamber’s most heavily used entrance. The desk is usually assigned to a junior senator. In the 112th Congress, the candy desk was occupied by Senator Mark Kirk.

In both chambers, the galleries are in the chamber but above the floor. In addition to a gallery for the press (press gallery), there is seating that is used for specific guests such as family members and for other visitors, such as constituents and tourists. See “What’s the Deal With Gallery Passes?

Also see Chamber; Congress Seating Charts; Seniority / Junior Senator / Senior Senator; Well; § 6.113, Who Is Allowed on the House Floor? and § 6.192 Who Is Allowed on the Senate Floor? § 11.11, House Floor Plan, § 11.13 View of the Speaker’s Dais, Floor of the House, and Galleries, § 11.21, Senate Seating Chart, in Congressional Deskbook.

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