United States House of Representatives Sergeant-at-Arms

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The House Sergeant-at-Arms is a person whose primary responsibility is to maintain security for the chamber of the United States House of Representatives, buildings, and grounds.

The Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader have the prerogative of selecting and nominating an individual for the post in their respective chambers. Their candidate must then be elected by majority vote of the full chamber, but this is usually a mere formality.

The Sergeant-at-Arms sits on the board which governs the sizeable Capitol Hill Police Force and sets its policies. He directly controls access to the chamber by supervising the doorkeepers, and is responsible for maintaining order in the galleries and on the floor. The Sergeant-at-Arms greets and escorts VIP and foreign visitors to the Capitol, e.g. on State of the Union night. The House Sergeant-at-Arms also has responsibility for transporting the bodies of deceased Members and making secure travel arrangements for Members attending funerals as an official delegation.

The House Sergeant-at-Arms has another function unique to that chamber. He is the keeper of the "Mace," the ebony and silver rod with a silver eagle on top, which represents the authority of the House. When the House convenes its daily session, it is the Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, who escorts the Speaker into the chamber. When the House transforms into the Committee of the Whole for certain legislative proceedings, the Sergeant-at-Arms can be seen moving the Mace from the top tier of the rostrum, at the Speaker's right, to a less visible position on a lower tier. This signals the House is no longer meeting but is now sitting as a Committee.

During its first 100 years, the House followed the practice of asking its Sergeant-at-Arms to quell disorder on the floor by parading around with the Mace. The sight of this symbol of order was supposed to be sufficient reminder to Members to resume parliamentary decorum.

The first Sergeant-at-Arms in the House was Joseph Wheaton, elected in 1789.

Related articles

External links

  • Who is the Sergeant-at-Arms, and what does he/she do? - CSPAN.org
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