United States House of Representatives. I INTRODUCTION United States House of Representatives, larger of the two legislative chambers that make up the Congress of the United States. Along with the Senate of the United States, it drafts and passes laws that, if signed by the president, govern the United States and its citizens. Usually called simply "the House," it consists of 435 members chosen for two-year terms from districts of about equal population. II CONSTITUTIONAL ORIGINS The bicameral (two house) Congress emerged from a compromise between delegates from large and small states at the Constitutional Convention, which convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States. All of the delegates at the convention agreed that the national government needed more power. The Articles of Confederation, which had governed the country since 1783, left the national government powerless to resolve trade disputes with other countries and to prevent ruinous economic competition between the states. The delegates worried, however, that giving too much authority to the national government would result in the kinds of abuses of power that had led the colonies to break away from Great Britain. To prevent such problems, the framers of the Constitution gave most political power to the Congress, rather than to a single leader such as a king or president. The convention delegates disagreed over how to select members of Congress, however. The more populous states, such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, wanted power in the legislature that reflected their population and wealth. They favored a system that assigned congressional seats based on the number of residents in each state. Smaller states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, feared that their interests would be ignored if they did not have equal representation in Congress. The delegates compromised, deciding that seats in the House of Representatives would be distributed according to population and that seats in the Senate would be distributed equally among the states. The small states could rely on the Senate to defend their interests if the House passed legislation that threatened their rights. The framers of the Constitution specified that House members would be elected by popular vote (the vote of citizens) every two years, so members of the House would be constantly in touch with the citizens that they represent. "Here, sir, the people rule," declared American statesman Alexander Hamilton in reference to the House. In contrast, the framers decided to shield the Senate from popular pressures by giving senators six-year terms, and by having state legislatures choose them. In 1913 popular pressure for reform led to adoption of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which required that senators be elected. III HOUSE MEMBERSHIP House members are usually called representatives; they are also referred to as congressmen or congresswomen, although technically these titles apply to both House and Senate members. Representatives must be at least 25 years old, U.S. citizens for at least seven years, and residents of the state from which they are elected. Only an amendment to the Constitution can change these three requirements. Many states enacted laws in the early 1990s to limit the number of terms their representatives (and senators) could serve, but in 1995 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that these laws violated the Constitution. House members are elected by voters in congressional districts. When the first Congress met in 1789, it had 65 members who represented districts of no more than 30,000 people. The House added members throughout the 19th century as the country's population grew and new states were admitted. A 1911 law fixed the size at 435 members. Today each House member represents about 650,000 people. A Dividing Seats Among the States House seats are divided among the states by population in a process known as apportionment. After every ten-year national census, the U.S. Census Bureau uses a mathematical formula to assign a specific number of representatives to every state. Each state is guaranteed at least one House seat, and seven states--Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont--have only one. There are also five nonvoting delegates who are elected from parts of the United States outside of the 50 states. These delegates represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands of the United States. As the U.S. population shifts, states may gain or lose House seats. This process is known as reapportionment. Following the 2000 census, eight states gained seats and ten states lost seats. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas each gained two seats. California, Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina gained one seat each. New York and Pennsylvania lost two seats each. Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin lost one seat each. After the Census Bureau allocates House seats to reflect population changes, the states redraw their congressional districts to make the number of voters in each district roughly equal. This process, known as redistricting, frequently sparks bitter disputes between contending political parties. In most states, the state legislature controls the creation of new districts. Federal courts sometimes step into the reapportionment process, but state legislatures generally have broad authority. The party with the most seats in the state legislature tries to devise district boundaries that will favor that party in House elections. The majority party does this by drawing boundaries that spread its supporters over several districts, trying to ensure a majority of support in each. This makes it easier for the party to win House seats, but it sometimes results in contorted district boundaries. See Gerrymander. B Campaigning for the House Most representatives start their political careers in state or local government before they run for election to the House. These years of experience give them time to become familiar with issues affecting their districts, and it gives voters a chance to learn about the candidates. Once they have demonstrated their leadership skills in local or state government, House candidates must find a way to raise enough money to run an effective campaign. The large size of the districts today makes it difficult and expensive to win election to the House. Most House campaigns rely on radio and television advertisements to reach voters. This television and radio time is very costly. Most campaigns also rely on direct-mail campaign leaflets sent directly to voters. Advertisements and direct mail are usually the largest expenses in running for a House seat. In 2000 the average winning House candidate spent $832,000 on his or her campaign. (U.S. Senate elections are usually even more expensive than House races because Senate candidates must try to win votes across an entire state. In 2000 the average winning Senate campaign spent more than $7 million, mostly on television and radio advertisements.) The high cost of campaigns influences who wins House elections and how representatives act when they are in office. Incumbents--those who already have seats in the House--have a strong fund-raising advantage because donors tend to favor candidates who have shown that they can win an election. Although incumbents usually have a head start in campaigns because it is easier for them to raise money, incumbency can be a disadvantage if voters believe that their representatives have lost touch or are putting their careers ahead of the people they represent. Because of the high cost of elections and the short two-year term of office, members of the House campaign almost constantly. They spend much of their time raising campaign funds, and they frequently return to their districts to keep in touch with voters. Because the elections are so frequent, House members tend to pay close attention to how their votes in Congress will be seen in the short term. House members tend to come from wealthier family backgrounds than average Americans. Few working class people--those who work for others and receive an hourly wage--win election to the House. Racial discrimination has also been a barrier to House membership. Historically, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have been underrepresented in the House. Racial minorities have gained more seats in the House in recent decades as a result of the civil rights movement, but the proportion of minorities in the House still falls well short of their proportion in the population as a whole. Women have also found it difficult to win election to the House, holding fewer than 4 percent of the seats from the early 20th century through the 1980s. However, women have recently broken new ground; in the 107th Congress (2001-2003), 61 women served in the House, giving them 14 percent of the chamber's seats. C Responsibilities Representatives constantly juggle lawmaking, tending to the concerns of voters, and campaign work. In Washington, D.C., members are expected to study and discuss proposed laws, attend committee meetings, attend floor debate or follow it on television, and cast votes in the chamber. To serve their constituents, they meet with citizens in Washington, D.C., or in the home district, communicate by mail or media, oversee their staffs, and help citizens deal with the federal agencies. Most return as often as possible to their home districts. Members are given funds and up to 18 staff aides to help with these tasks. In addition to space in one of three House office buildings on Capitol Hill, most members maintain one or more offices in their districts--mainly to handle citizens' requests and problems. In 2001 House members were paid a base salary of $145,100 per year. They also received a housing allowance and reimbursement for travel expenses. IV THE WORK OF THE HOUSE A Powers The House of Representatives, combined with the Senate, is the world's most powerful legislature. Acting in tandem, the two chambers rarely accept legislation proposed by the president without debating and amending it. The two chambers can, and often do, reject the president's pet proposals. They frequently write and pass legislation that the president opposes, daring the chief executive either to veto it or seek a compromise. The Constitution gives Congress "all legislative powers" of the national government. The House and Senate share most of these powers. This includes the broad enumerated (listed) powers in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution--for example, coining money, regulating interstate and foreign commerce, raising and equipping a military, and declaring war. The Constitution also gives the chambers implied powers--to carry out the enumerated powers and to investigate and oversee the executive branch. The House and the Senate share most lawmaking powers. Bills must clear both chambers in exactly the same form before they are sent to the president for approval or veto. The House has special authority over taxing and spending. In opposing British rule, Americans had protested "taxation without representation." Mindful of this complaint, the framers of the Constitution required that all tax laws begin in the House of Representatives--the chamber that most closely represents the people. By custom, all laws that authorize the government to spend money originate there as well. The House also has the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president and other high officials, but the Senate conducts the trial. The House lacks two specific powers granted to the Senate. Only the Senate can approve treaties negotiated and submitted by the president. However, the House has the power to withhold funding to carry out the agreements, and thus has leverage over many treaties. The Senate also has sole power to confirm cabinet members and other key government officers. Because these officials work on policies such as housing and agriculture that fall under House control, however, they must work with committees in both chambers once in office. B The Committee System Because of its large size, nearly all of the House's most important legislative decisions are made by specialized committees and subcommittees. Most are permanent legislative committees (usually called standing committees) with control over a particular subject area, such as agriculture or the military. Legislative committees and subcommittees hold hearings on pressing issues, direct research staffs, and draft legislation. The committees then make legislative recommendations to the House as a whole. In most cases, the House supports the recommendations of its committees. A committee may choose not to act on a bill, which effectively scuttles the proposal. Legislative committees also oversee the executive agencies related to their area of specialization. The House also establishes joint committees to collaborate with the Senate. Joint committees include members of both the House and the Senate. They are created to investigate specific problems, but lack the authority to report out (recommend) legislative action. The House sometimes creates special investigative committees, usually called select committees, to delve into specific problems, such as corruption in a government agency. Most select committees also lack the power to report out legislation. The number of committees and subcommittees changes somewhat from year to year. In 1997, for example, the House had 19 standing, or permanent, committees, which in turn had nearly 90 subcommittees. Key House panels include the Appropriations Committee, which recommends annual spending amounts; the Ways and Means Committee, which considers revenue measures; the Commerce Committee, which oversees the regulation of many industries; the Budget Committee, which prepares the annual budget; and the Rules Committee, which helps the Speaker schedule bills by issuing special rules governing amendments, debates, and voting procedures. Other committees handle such topics as natural resources, national security, foreign affairs, and education. On average, each House member sits on two committees and three subcommittees. C The Speaker and Other Leaders The party with the most seats in the House selects a Speaker of the House, who presides over the chamber and leads the majority party. The Speaker refers bills to committees, appoints members to special committees, and grants members the right to speak during chamber debates. The Speaker does not usually vote on bills except in the case of ties. With the help of deputies, the Speaker also influences committee assignments, oversees committee handling of bills, and schedules bills for debate and voting by the House. This control over committee assignments and scheduling gives the Speaker considerable influence over which laws are eventually approved by the chamber. Because more laws originate in the House than in the Senate, the Speaker of the House can have a decisive impact on the laws of the United States. The broad powers make the Speaker the most prominent person in Congress. Some Speakers, such as Republican Newt Gingrich and Democrat Jim Wright, used the position to launch bold political initiatives and to push their parties in new directions. When the Republicans took over the House in 1995, they initially accorded Speaker Gingrich enormous power, but at the same time voted to impose a rule that limits any individual to eight years as Speaker. Subsequently the Speaker's powers were cut back in relation to the powers of committee leaders. House majority and minority parties each choose their own officers, including a floor leader and assistants called whips. These officers try to organize their party members to support or oppose legislative proposals. Whips are usually selected from among the most experienced members of the House. Majority party members also chair and hold a majority of seats on the House's standing committees and subcommittees. The Sergeant at Arms and the Clerk of the House ensure that the chamber works smoothly. The Sergeant at Arms is not a representative, but is elected to the position by the House membership. The Sergeant at Arms maintains order in the House under the supervision of the Speaker, and is nominally responsible for summoning members onto the floor when a quorum is necessary. The Sergeant at Arms also arranges joint sessions of Congress, visits from foreign dignitaries, and other ceremonial events. During important official events, the Sergeant at Arms carries a large wooden mace made of ebony and silver that symbolizes the power of the office. The Sergeant at Arms and the associated staff also supply House members with office equipment and other supplies. The Office of the Clerk of the House manages the day-to-day legislative activity of the chamber, recording the results of floor votes and documenting the approval of bills. The Clerk and the Clerk's assistants also supervise research for House members, certify that members have been elected according to the provisions of the Constitution, and oversee enforcement of laws regulating House ethics and elections. Like the Sergeant at Arms, the Clerk is elected by the House membership. D Rules and Procedures The Constitution allows the House to devise its own rules and procedures. Control of important House committees often shifts when House rules are revised, so members often argue bitterly over proposals to change a rule. Because the House has so many members, its floor proceedings have historically been noisy and contentious. Today, however, House rules allow leaders to determine which bills reach the House floor, how much time will be allotted to each, and even sometimes the number and type of amendments to be offered. The bill's majority and minority "managers" (often the chair and ranking minority member of the relevant committee or subcommittee) guide the debate, speaking for or against the bill and coordinating speeches by other members under strict time limits. Most debates attract few members beyond those directly concerned with the measure at hand. Others, occupied with duties elsewhere on Capitol Hill, can follow the debate on television monitors in their offices. Bells ring to announce impending floor votes, and the chamber soon fills with members talking and milling around. Although the House's 435 members do not have individually assigned seats, they customarily sit on either side of the center aisle--Democrats to the left facing the Speaker, Republicans to the right. To cast votes, members insert a plastic card into small boxes located throughout the chamber and vote "aye," "no," or "present" (abstain). Their votes are recorded electronically and displayed on a large tally board on the front wall of the House gallery. Lights on the board show each member's vote, "yes" noted with a green light, "no" with red, and "present" with amber. After the vote is announced, the chamber empties and the House turns to the next order of business. V A HISTORY OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Early Years When the House convened in Philadelphia for its first session in 1789, it immediately set out to create effective government agencies that had been lacking under the Articles of Confederation. Representatives drafted legislation to create key government departments, including the departments of the treasury, foreign affairs, and war. The House also proposed 17 constitutional amendments (12 of which were sent to the states after Senate action), as the proponents of the Constitution had promised when the states were considering ratification. The states ratified ten of these amendments, which became known as the Bill of Rights. Beginning with these first sessions of Congress in 1789, House debates were open to the public, unlike the earliest Senate debates, which were held behind closed doors. Members of the House argued bitterly over the scope of federal power, where to establish the nation's capital, and how to pay for debts from the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). Slavery was also one of the first issues taken up in House debates, with Southern states fighting attempts to limit the practice. Two political parties, the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party, soon emerged from these sharp differences, establishing the practice of party organization in the House. The Federalists controlled the House and the Senate until 1801, when the party's support plummeted in response to its policy advocating closer ties with Great Britain and its attempt to control dissent through the Alien and Sedition Acts. Many former backers of the Federalists threw their support behind the Democratic-Republicans, who took control of the House. The Democratic-Republicans, who are sometimes referred to as Jeffersonian Republicans because of the influence of President Thomas Jefferson, held a majority in the House until 1825. The party then splintered over the role of government in the economy, slavery, and the policies of President Andrew Jackson. (Today's Republican Party was founded in 1854 and is not related to the Democratic-Republicans. Elements of the DemocraticRepublican Party later formed what is now the Democratic Party.) See also Political Parties in the United States. As the United States added new territory in the West, the question of whether to permit slavery in new states ignited heated debates in Congress. Abolitionists sent thousands of antislavery petitions to the House, and the issue sparked fierce debates that dominated the chamber's agenda. By the 1850s, disagreements over slavery nearly paralyzed both the House and the Senate. Selecting a House Speaker sometimes required dozens of rounds of voting, and proslavery forces stripped antislavery representatives of their committee assignments. Representative Preston Brooks savagely assaulted abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner with a cane on the floor of the Senate in 1856. Supporters of slavery in the House prevented the chamber from punishing Brooks for the brutal attack. In 1860 the House established a select committee to forge a compromise over slavery, but it failed to produce a solution acceptable to both sides. A parallel Senate committee could not resolve the dispute. Southern states seceded from the United States, sparking the American Civil War (1861-1865). B Civil War and Reconstruction The federal government assumed broad new powers during the Civil War, requiring the House to consider more bills than ever before. The House passed legislation to create a national banking system to finance the war, subsidize railroad construction, and encourage settlement of the West. After the war, the House struggled for consensus during Reconstruction (1865-1877), a period in which the country repaired damage from the war and reincorporated Southern states into the political system. The House created new committees to coordinate finances and to plan new roads, harbors, schools, and other federal projects. Congress imposed strict requirements on Southern states hoping to rejoin the United States, setting the ground for a showdown with President Andrew Johnson. The president bitterly opposed congressional interference during Reconstruction. The House voted to impeach Johnson in 1868, but he was acquitted in the Senate by one vote (see Impeachment). The extension of voting rights to African Americans a few years after the Civil War led to the election of blacks at many levels of government, including Congress. In 1870 Joseph Rainey, a freed slave from South Carolina, became the first black to serve in the House. In all, 14 African American representatives were elected to the House during Reconstruction. After Reconstruction ended, Southern states used poll taxes (taxes levied on people who vote), literacy tests, and other discriminatory devices to prevent blacks from voting. The restrictions on African American voting made it nearly impossible for blacks to win election to the House. C Rise of Strong Leadership In the last quarter of the 19th century, divisions between Republicans and Democrats in the House blocked much major legislation. House members spent much of their time handling personal requests from constituents and championing legislation tailored to narrow interests, such as oil and railroad companies. Behavior on the House floor was shabby: Members sometimes ate peanuts, napped, and entertained visitors while the chamber was in session. Public confidence in Congress plummeted. Several Speakers tried to rein in the rowdy House, but their efforts had little effect until the House chose Republican Thomas Reed of Maine as Speaker in 1889. Reed claimed the right to declare a quorum present even if members did not answer the roll call, and he hounded those who tried to manipulate House rules to block legislation. Reed's critics denounced him as a dictator, but the House adopted his procedural reforms. With enhanced control of the chamber's business, the Rules Committee soon ranked among the most influential committees. Under Reed's guidance, the House passed over 500 significant bills. These included the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890), which banned business monopolies. In 1897 Reed instituted the system of party whips to help organize party members' support for pending legislation. The whip system, which was inspired by the British Parliament, proved so useful that leaders expanded it to include assistants to whips. The system became a key tool for compelling House members to vote with their parties. D The Early 20th Century and the Progressive Era Soaring U.S. population and the addition of new western states to the Union swelled the House membership to 391 members by 1900. As the House grew, specialized committees assumed more and more responsibility for drafting and debating legislation. By the turn of the century, committees made virtually all important legislative decisions for the chamber. House members jockeyed for powerful committee assignments. Committee chairs usually selected members based on seniority (the number of years of service) in the House. As the political parties applied the seniority system to more committees in the early 20th century, veteran representatives from oneparty regions--for example, Southern Democrats and rural Northern Republicans--came to dominate most of the powerful panels. Joseph Cannon, a conservative Republican from Illinois, became House Speaker in 1903. Cannon followed Reed's precedent of asserting broad authority over the chamber. Cannon became one of the most powerful Speakers in House history, enforcing party discipline by controlling the Rules Committee and appointing his allies to lead key committees. Progressive Era reform legislation dominated the House's agenda in the early years of the century, but Cannon resisted many of President Theodore Roosevelt's reform initiatives. The Republican Cannon faced stiff opposition from Democrats and Progressive-oriented Republicans. The Democrats and dissident Republicans stripped Cannon of his control of the Rules Committee in 1910. When the Democrats won a majority in the House later in the year, they further undercut the power of the Speaker by taking away the power to appoint committee chairs. These reforms greatly bolstered the power of individual committee chairs over their panels, a landmark power shift that lasted until the 1970s. The Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought popular pressure for reform throughout government. Reformers sought to make Congress more accountable to American voters. The House repeatedly passed constitutional amendments to subject the Senate to direct election. Senators resented this challenge to their authority. The Senate voted down all the measures until 1911, when they approved the 17th Amendment, which specified that senators be directly elected. The Senate agreed to the amendment rather than face the uncertain outcome of a constitutional convention that was likely to be called. The necessary three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment within a year. When Democrat Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913, he used his party's majority in the House and Senate to push through a wide range of legislation that greatly expanded governmental power. The House acted quickly and with little debate on many of Wilson's initiatives, which regulated child labor and broadened the federal role in farming, banking, and many other areas. The success of Wilson's program set a new standard for presidential influence on Congress. The 1920s brought little institutional change to Congress. Seniority continued to grow in importance, which weakened party leaders by reducing their influence over committee leaders. With their authority weakened by the seniority system, the parties found it increasingly difficult to control their members. Regional and sectional interests pushed for narrow issues, such as agricultural subsidies, public works projects, special trade provisions, and veterans' benefits. E The Great Depression and the New Deal The stock market crash of 1929 presented the country with an unprecedented economic crisis of unemployment, sagging consumer demand, and bank failures--the Great Depression. Republicans controlled the House, and their laissez-faire economic doctrine led them to refrain from intervening in the crisis. Republican president Herbert Hoover and the Republican-dominated Senate also favored letting the market follow its course. The downturn continued, and voters ousted the Republicans from control of the House in 1930 and the Senate in 1932. Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt replaced Hoover in 1933 and embarked on the New Deal, the most ambitious program of governmental expansion ever seen in the United States. The House generally supported Roosevelt's legislative initiatives to spur job growth through increased government spending on housing, roads, rural electrification, and other public works. Both the House and the Senate opposed Roosevelt's efforts to increase presidential power. The president proposed legislation in 1937 to increase executive control over federal agencies, but Congress rejected the plan. Undaunted, a few weeks later Roosevelt sought to control the Supreme Court by increasing the number of judges, which would have allowed him to fill the new positions with his allies. Congress also rejected this proposal. F World War II to the 1950s After the United States entered World War II in 1941, the House ceded much of its traditional authority over spending bills, granting Roosevelt wide leeway in financing the war. In 1943 House debates raged over whether to focus the American war effort in Europe or in the Pacific, but there were never floor votes in Congress on the issue. American success in the war helped the House break its narrow focus on domestic political issues that had prevailed in the first few decades of the century. This new global orientation led the House to support the formation of the United Nations after the war. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 cut the standing House committees from 48 to 19. The consolidation was short-lived, however, as subcommittees replaced many of the standing committees that had been eliminated. The reorganization increased congressional staff and gave more resources to the Legislative Reference Service, a branch of the Library of Congress that provides research assistance to Congress. The improved research support, combined with a sharp increase in the number of House staff members, helped put Congress on par with the White House in policy debates. Sam Rayburn, a Democrat from Texas, presided as Speaker of the House for much of the 1940s and 1950s. Despite the reduced power of the office, Rayburn rivaled predecessors Thomas Reed and Joseph Cannon in his influence on the chamber. He guided Roosevelt's World War II initiatives through the House, and united Republican and Democratic representatives behind America's foreign policy in the 1950s. Rayburn, in contrast to aggressive Speakers such as Reed and Cannon, won over his rivals through persuasion and compromise. The anti-Communist fervor of the Cold War dominated the House for much of the first decade after World War II. Fear of subversive activities by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) sparked wide-ranging investigations to identify and jail Communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held spectacular hearings to root out Communists, including highly publicized questioning of prominent Hollywood actors and directors in 1947. HUAC's probes climaxed with the 1948 investigation of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official. A court later convicted Hiss of perjury for denying his part in a Soviet spy ring (see Hiss Case). Very few of the committee's targets were ever charged with crimes, and historians now regard most of HUAC's charges of Communist subversion as mistaken. Despite the thin evidence, the hearings helped spark a nationwide anti-Communist fervor throughout the 1950s, destroying the careers and reputations of hundreds of actors, ministers, teachers, writers, and trade union leaders. The hearings also vaulted Republican Richard Nixon into public prominence, and put him on the path to become president of the United States. G The 1960s and 1970s Congress approved a flurry of new legislation in the 1960s, but the House saw few organizational changes in this period. Committees remained the focus of legislative activity, and committee appointments continued to follow the seniority rule. Until the 1960s the seniority system permitted a small number of conservative Southern Democrats to scuttle many civil rights and social welfare bills. The hammerlock control of the aging Southerners prompted the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970. This act marked the beginning of a series of structural changes in the 1970s that weakened the seniority system. In 1975 the parties changed their rules to allow party leaders to nominate committee chairs, with the final choice made by a secret ballot. This reform, which replaced a rule dating to the early 20th century, further undercut the seniority system and curtailed the nearly dictatorial control enjoyed by committee chairs. When they took control of the House in 1995, Republicans imposed a rule limiting individuals to a maximum of six years as chair of any one committee. In 1974 the House Judiciary Committee conducted an inquiry into the role of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal. The allegations of White House-directed burglary, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice were among the most stunning testimony in the history of the House. The Judiciary Committee passed a resolution calling for Nixon's impeachment, and the president resigned within weeks to forestall a full vote in the House. Nixon's resignation brought an end to the House's impeachment proceedings against him. Although the scandal implicated only White House officials, Watergate heightened public distrust of government institutions, including the House of Representatives. H Recent Years During the 1980s and 1990s the House was rocked by highly publicized scandals reaching its top leaders. In 1989 Speaker Jim Wright resigned in the face of an inquiry by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (ethics committee) into a questionable book deal and other matters. Wright was the first Speaker to be forced from the office. The 1994 congressional elections gave the Republicans control of the House for the first time since 1954. The party also won control of the Senate, setting the stage for conflict with a White House controlled by Democratic president Bill Clinton. Speaker Newt Gingrich used his party's control of the House to push for a Republican "Contract With America," which included tax cuts, welfare reform, term limits for federal legislators, a balanced-budget amendment, and increases in defense spending. Gingrich managed to win House approval of most parts of the program, but resistance from the Senate and the White House killed several key elements. In 1996 Gingrich, who had pushed for Wright's resignation, came under fire for failing to inform Congress about his role in a political action committee (PAC). The House voted to censure Gingrich in 1997, the first time in history that the chamber voted to impose such a rebuke on the Speaker. In late 1998, after a personal scandal and disappointing midterm election results, Gingrich resigned from the House. When his likely successor, Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, also acknowledged a personal scandal, House Republicans turned to a respected but low-key House insider, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois. House Republicans also took center stage in the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton. A prolonged investigation of Clinton uncovered evidence that he had conducted an affair with a White House intern and that he had lied about the affair in statements to a court and a grand jury. The House Judiciary Committee's Republican majority seized upon this evidence and eventually recommended four articles of impeachment to the full House. Although hardly anyone condoned the president's actions, the impeachment process was marked by noisy partisanship, both inside and outside the House chamber. Clinton's supporters accused House Republicans of trying to remove a democratically elected president from office and trying to discard his policies. His opponents saw him as a person who had disgraced his office and lied in judicial proceedings. On mostly partisan lines, the House approved two of the four articles of impeachment and sent them to the Senate, which held a brisk trial before voting against conviction of the president. See Impeachment: The Clinton Trial. By 2001 a series of close elections had whittled the Republican margin in the House to fewer than ten seats. The virtually equal partisan forces made it difficult to pass major legislation. The House manifested intense partisanship over issues such as the environment, trade, education, and social concerns such as abortion and gun control. These partisan divisions often resulted in harsh relations among members and produced a sense of stalemate. Strong showings by Republican candidates in the 2002 and 2004 elections enabled the party to expand its majority in the House. But Democrats regained a majority in the House for the first time in 12 years in the 2006 midterm elections. Polls showed that dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq played a major role in the Democratic victory. When the new Congress convened in January 2007, Nancy Pelosi of California became the first female Speaker of the House. Contributed By: Roger H. Davidson Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.