From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms
Sergeant at Arms
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House: As an elected officer of the House of Representatives, the Sergeant at Arms is the chief law enforcement and protocol officer of the House of Representatives, and is responsible for maintaining order in the House side of the United States Capitol complex. The Sergeant at Arms reviews and implements all issues relating to the safety and security of Members of Congress and the Capitol complex. The Sergeant at Arms also coordinates extensively with the U.S. Capitol Police and various intelligence agencies to assess threats against Members of Congress and the Capitol complex.
Duties include overseeing the House floor and galleries, the House Appointments Desk, the House garages and parking lots, as well as administering all staff identification badges. The mace, the symbol of the authority of the House and of the office of the sergeant at arms, is in the custody of the sergeant at arms.
These eight words precede every State of the Union
Senate: The Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, elected by the Senate upon the nomination of the majority party conference, serves as the protocol and chief law enforcement officer and is the principal administrative manager for most support services in the Senate. The chief security officer of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms and staff in the office help to preserve order in the Senate chamber, the Senate galleries, and the Senate side of the Capitol.
When the first Congress convened in 1789, the Office of Doorkeeper was established to address the single most pressing problem confronting the Senate at its birth – its inability to keep a majority of members in the Capitol long enough to organize and begin the business of government.
A doorkeeper was also necessary to control access to the Senate sessions, which were private for the first six years. Later, when the sessions were open to the public, the doorkeeper was responsible for maintaining order on the floor of the Senate and in the galleries. The title of Sergeant at Arms was added in 1798 to reflect the expanded administrative duties of the position. The Senate gavel is entrusted to the care of the sergeant at arms.
Also see § 4.110, Administrative Offices of the House, § 4.120, Administrative Offices of the Senate, in Congressional Deskbook.
- Senate Office of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper
- House Sergeant at Arms
- “Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate: Fact Sheet on Legislative and Administrative Duties,” CRS Report 98-748 (11-page PDF)
- “House Sergeant at Arms: Fact Sheet on Legislative and Administrative Duties,” CRS Report 98-835 (11-page PDF)
- “Legislative Branch: Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations,” CRS Report R44899 (43-page PDF)
- “History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions,” CRS Report R44770 (14-page PDF)
- “Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses,” CRS Report R41609 (18-page PDF)
- “House Sergeant at Arms: A Primer,” CRS In Focus IF11727 (5-page PDF)
- “Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper: A Primer,” CRS Infocus IF11728 (5-page PDF)
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