House / House of Representatives (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

House / House of Representatives

House Chamber
House Chamber, courtesy of the Clerk of the House

The House of Representatives, as distinct from the Senate, although each body is a “house” or “chamber” of Congress. Established by the Constitution, Article I, Section 2. See “A Note About Usage: ‘Congress’.”

When members of the House and House staff speak of “the other body,” they are speaking of the Senate.

The size of the U.S. House of Representatives is set by federal statute at 435 Representatives (excluding nonvoting seats held by Delegates and the Resident Commissioner). This number has been constant since the start of the 63rd Congress in 1913, aside from a temporary increase to 437 seats to accommodate the additions of Alaska and Hawaii as states in 1959 (see P.L. 85-508, July 7, 1958; P.L. 86-3, March 18, 1959) until the apportionment that followed the 1960 census.

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, as amended by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, provides that representation in the House is based on state population size. In order to determine the population of each state, Article I, Section 2 requires that the national population be counted at least once every 10 years through what is known as the decennial census. Article I, Section 2 also contains broad parameters for House size, stating that there can be no more than one Representative for every 30,000 persons, provided that each state receives at least one Representative. Within these constitutional parameters, the House could in theory be as small as 50 Representatives or as large as about 10,000 Representatives, based on the 2010 census apportionment population. The number of House seats to be apportioned across states is set by 2 U.S.C. §2a.

Also see Chamber; Clerk of the House; Committee of the Whole; Floor / Aisle / Candy Desk / Gallery; Presiding Officer; Speaker; Well; the Congressional Deskbook; Chapter 4 – House Floor, in Congressional Procedure.


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