United States House of Representatives
Seats vacated during a term are filled through special elections, unless the vacancy occurs closer to the next general election date than a pre-established deadline. The term of a member chosen in a special election usually begins the next day, or as soon as the results are certified.
Representatives and delegates serve for two-year terms, while a resident commissioner (a kind of delegate) serves for four years. A term starts on January 3 following the election in November. The U.S. Constitution requires that vacancies in the House be filled with a special election. The term of the replacement member expires on the date that the original member's would have expired.
The House also has the power to formally censure or reprimand its members; censure or reprimand of a member requires only a simple majority, and does not remove that member from office.
The speaker is the presiding officer of the House but does not preside over every debate. Instead, they delegate the responsibility of presiding to other members in most cases. The presiding officer sits in a chair in the front of the House chamber. The powers of the presiding officer are extensive; one important power is that of controlling the order in which members of the House speak. No member may make a speech or a motion unless they have first been recognized by the presiding officer. Moreover, the presiding officer may rule on a "point of order" (a member's objection that a rule has been breached); the decision is subject to appeal to the whole House.
Speakers serve as chairs of their party's steering committee, which is responsible for assigning party members to other House committees. The speaker chooses the chairs of standing committees, appoints most of the members of the Rules Committee, appoints all members of conference committees, and determines which committees consider bills.
After the whips, the next ranking official in the House party's leadership is the party conference chair (styled as the Republican conference chair and Democratic caucus chair).
In the instance when the presidency and both Houses of Congress are controlled by one party, the speaker normally takes a low profile and defers to the president. For that situation the House minority leader can play the role of a de facto "leader of the opposition," often more so than the Senate minority leader, due to the more partisan nature of the House and the greater role of leadership.
Most committee work is performed by twenty standing committees, each of which has jurisdiction over a specific set of issues, such as Agriculture or Foreign Affairs. Each standing committee considers, amends, and reports bills that fall under its jurisdiction. Committees have extensive powers with regard to bills; they may block legislation from reaching the floor of the House. Standing committees also oversee the departments and agencies of the executive branch. In discharging their duties, standing committees have the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses and evidence.
Power is nowhere concentrated; it is rather deliberately and of set policy scattered amongst many small chiefs. It is divided up, as it were, into forty-seven seigniories, in each of which a Standing Committee is the court-baron and its chairman lord-proprietor. These petty barons, some of them not a little powerful, but none of them within the reach of the full powers of rule, may at will exercise almost despotic sway within their own shires, and may sometimes threaten to convulse even the realm itself.
[T]he constitutional prerogative of the House has been held to apply to all the general appropriations bills, and the Senate's right to amend these has been allowed the widest possible scope. The upper house may add to them what it pleases; may go altogether outside of their original provisions and tack to them entirely new features of legislation, altering not only the amounts but even the objects of expenditure, and making out of the materials sent them by the popular chamber measures of an almost totally new character.
The president may veto a bill passed by the House and Senate. If they do, the bill does not become law unless each House, by a two-thirds vote, votes to override the veto.
The Constitution provides that the Senate's "advice and consent" is necessary for the president to make appointments and to ratify treaties. Thus, with its potential to frustrate presidential appointments, the Senate is more powerful than the House.