Government » American Congress » House and Senate Organizations

Summary of House and Senate Organizations


The leader of the House is the Speaker, who also typically the leader of the majority party. In the Senate, the leader is called the majority leader. The minorities in each chamber also have leaders who help create and act on party strategies. The majority leadership in each chamber controls the important committees where legislature is written, amended, and prepared for the floor.

Practice Questions

  1. Explain how the committees demonstrate a division of labor in Congress based on specialization.


conference committee: a special type of joint committee that reconciles different bills passed in the House and Senate so a single bill results

joint committee: a legislative committee consisting of members from both chambers that investigates certain topics but lacks bill referral authority

majority leader: the leader of the majority party in either the House or Senate; in the House, the majority leader serves under the Speaker of the House, in the Senate, the majority leader is the functional leader and chief spokesperson for the majority party

minority leader: the party member who directs the activities of the minority party on the floor of either the House or the Senate

president pro tempore: the senator who acts in the absence of the actual president of the Senate, who is also the vice president of the United States; the president pro tempore is usually the most senior senator of the majority party

select committee: a small legislative committee created to fulfill a specific purpose and then disbanded; also called an ad hoc, or special, committee

Speaker of the House: the presiding officer of the House of Representatives and the leader of the majority party; the Speaker is second in the presidential line of succession, after the vice president

standing committee: a permanent legislative committee that meets regularly

whip: in the House and in the Senate, a high leadership position whose primary duty is to enforce voting discipline in the chambers and conferences

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