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Study Notes

The House of Representatives

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The House of Representatives is the lower chamber in the United States Congress. It has 435 directly elected members. Elections are every two years where the entire House is up for re-election. As a result, members serve two year terms which are renewable indefinitely.


In the House of Representatives there are 435 directly elected members who represent Congressional Districts in the different states. Each state has a set number of Representatives which is proportional to its population. This number is revised every 10 years to account for changes in population. The last time this happened was 2010 and the number of representatives per state is listed below:

Members represent districts with roughly 700,000 people in them, far more than the typical 80,000 in UK constituencies. In addition to these directly elected members, the House of Representatives also contains a number of commissioners for the United States territories who may not vote in the House but may merely observe.


Below are the demographics for House of Representatives in the 114th Congress, it covers average age, gender breakdown, religion, education and more. It would be useful if you remembered some of these to recall during exams.

Becoming a Representative

In order to become a member of the House of Representative you first need to meet the requirements as set out by the US Constitution. Firstly, all members must be US Citizens for at least 7 years, but they can be born outside the United States. They must also be a resident in their representative state, some states may also impose a locality rule, meaning that Representatives must live in the Congressional District they want to represent. Finally, all candidates must be at least 25 years old. However, these rules just allow you to be eligible to run first. In order to run, certainly within the party system, you must first secure the nomination from your party. This may require you to win a Primary election first. This can still happen to incumbent Representatives. After you have been selected you then must win the election to represent your district.


The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker of the House. Unlike the UK this is a notably partisan role, yet the Speaker doesn’t typically debate or vote unless the vote is likely to be close. They are ultimately responsible for the passage of legislation and which bills will make it to the floor. They are also responsible for maintaining decorum in the House.

Below the Speaker are the Majority and Minority Leaders who represent the two parties in the House. These leaders are elected via a closed door party caucus in every Congress. They represent the Party, and act as a liaison between Congress and the White House. In addition to this they can act as the Day to Day director of Operations on the House floor. However, leaders are generally more important in the Senate.

Under the Leaders are the Whips who attempt to enforce discipline in voting among the party’s representatives. The whips power is significantly less than their British counterparts due to the lack of patronage within the party system.

Powers of the House

  • Initiate money bills (known as Power of the Purse)
  • Vote on Impeachment
  • Elect a President should the Electoral College deadlock

Further Reading & Study

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