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A congressional caucus is a group of members of the United States Congress that meets to pursue common legislative objectives. Formally, caucuses are formed as Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) through the United States House of Representatives and governed under the rules of that chamber. They are not always called caucuses, and are sometimes titled coalitions, study groups, task forces, or working groups.

Contents

Party conferences

The largest caucuses are the party conferences, which are the partisan caucuses comprising all members of one house from one party (either the Democrats or the Republicans). These are the House Democratic Caucus and House Republican Conference in the House of Representatives and the Senate Democratic Caucus and Senate Republican Conference in the Senate.

The caucuses meet regularly in private closed sessions to set legislative agendas, select committee members and chairs, and hold elections to choose various floor leaders. They also oversee the four Hill committees, political party committees that work to elect members of their own party to Congress.

Ideological conferences

Other caucuses are organized political factions with a common ideological orientation:

Other groups are associated with members of Congress (such as the Democratic Leadership Council and Republican Main Street Partnership) but are not considered caucuses.

Racial and ethnic caucuses

Among the most visible caucuses are those composed of members sharing the same race or ethnic group.

The Congressional Black Caucus for African-Americans has included members of both chambers, but the election of Barack Obama as President had left no black Senators, making the CBC exclusively Representatives. Roland Burris is currently (2009) the only black senator in the caucus. There are two Hispanics caucuses: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for Hispanic Democrats, and the Congressional Hispanic Conference, for Hispanic Republicans. Congressional Republicans formerly belonged to the Hispanic Caucus but later split off to form the Hispanic Conference. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is for Asian American and Pacific Islander American members, however it is not exclusive to such members.

Interest group caucuses

The most common caucuses consist of members united as an interest group. These are often bipartisan (comprising both Democrats and Republicans) and bicameral (comprising both Representatives and Senators). For example, the Congressional Bike Caucus works to promote cycling.

Rules

The House Committee on House Administration prescribes certain rules for Congressional Member Organizations. Each Congress, CMOs must electronically register with the Committee on House Administration, providing the name of the caucus, a statement of purpose, the CMO officers, and the employee designated to work on issues related to the CMO.

The Committee on House Administration rules include:

  • Members of both the House and Senate may participate in CMO, but at least one of the Officers of the CMO must be a Member of the House. The participation of Senators in a CMO does not impact the scope of authorized CMO activities in any regard.
  • CMOs have no separate corporate or legal identity. A CMO is not an employing authority. The Members' Representational Allowance (MRA) may not directly support a CMO as an independent entity. A CMO may not be assigned separate office space.
  • Neither CMOs nor individual Members may accept goods, funds, or services from private organizations or individuals to support the CMO. Members may use personal funds to support the CMO.
  • A Member of a CMO, in support of the objectives of that CMO, may utilize employees (including shared employees) and official resources under the control of the Member to assist the CMO in carrying out its legislative objectives, but no employees may be appointed in the name of a CMO.
  • CMOs may not use the frank, nor may a Member lend his or her frank to a CMO.
  • A Member may use official resources for communications related to the purpose of a CMO. Any such communications must comply with the Franking Regulations.
  • Members may devote a section of their official Web site to CMO issues, but CMOs may not have independent Web pages.
  • A Member may use inside mail to communicate information related to a CMO.
  • Members may prepare material related to CMO issues for dissemination.
  • Official funds may not be used to print or pay for stationery for the CMO.
  • Members may refer to their membership in a CMO on their official stationery.

References

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