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Meet the Clerk

The Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with the other House officers, is elected every two years when the House organizes for a new Congress. Majority and minority caucuses nominate and the full House elects the House officers. The Clerk organizes the House and presides over its activities at the commencement of each Congress.

There is no limit to the number of terms that a Clerk can serve. The Clerk, like other House officers, has minimal political influence.

The Clerk’s duties are similar to those of the Secretary of the Continental Congress, which were established in March 1785. The House Rules and federal law charge the Clerk to administer a range of legislative services on behalf of the House.

At the beginning of each Congress, the Clerk calls the Members-elect to order, calls the roll, and pending the election of the Speaker of the House, she preserves order and decorum and decides all questions of order.

At the beginning of every session of Congress, the Clerk:

  • Prepares and distributes a list of reports that are required to be made to Congress
  • Notes all questions of order and decisions thereon
  • Prints these as an appendix to the House Journal.
After each session of Congress, the Clerk prepares and prints the House Journal.

The Clerk attests to the accuracy of all bills and resolutions and to their passage by the House, and affixes the seal of the House to all writs, warrants, subpoenas, and formal documents issued by the House.

The Clerk receives messages from the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate when the House is not in session, and prepares and delivers messages to the Senate and others, as commanded by the House. The Clerk is also the custodian of all official House records.

This may sound like a lot of work for one person, but the Clerk has a team of people to assist her, including lawyers, historians, librarians, writers, graphic designers, web developers, computer specialists, and administrative specialists.

The Clerk’s title and duties originated with the British House of Commons. Many countries, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and Nigeria, also have Clerks to maintain records and oversee legislative activities in their governments.

The first Clerk, Virginian John J. Beckley, Esq., was elected on April 1, 1789 at the beginning of the first U.S. Congress. Since then, more than 30 people have served as Clerk.

The Clerk Today

Cheryl L. Johnson is the 36th Clerk of the House of Representatives. Before becoming Clerk, Ms. Johnson worked for nearly 20 years in the House followed by 10 years at the Smithsonian Institution. Ms. Johnson went to the University of Iowa, where she studied mass communication and journalism, and the Howard University School of Law. She is also a graduate of the senior management program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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