What is the process by which members are 'selected' to speak in the House and Senate - is it solely the Speaker (or the Speaker pro tempore) in the House, and President (or President pro tempore) of the Senate who determines at their discretion who gets to speak, the order in which they do so, and how long they are given?

Update - following the comments (and particularly the discrepancy between whether or not the president of the Senate does/doesn't control the process), I have added a 'bounty' to find a source for the rules in both the house and senate with regards to speaking order and time allocation.

  • The President of the Senate (the Senate has no speaker position) does not control anything. If they did, then when the Senate and presidency are held by different parties, the Vice-President would take control of the Senate from the President pro tempore. Instead, these rules are set by the House and Senate themselves. The rules can change in specific instances like the way that they have changed the rules so that a supermajority of Senators can close debate. The original rules required unanimous consent to stop someone from speaking.
    – Brythan
    Mar 20, 2016 at 18:04
  • 1
    @Brythan This is almost a complete answer to the question. All that would need would be a better explanation of what rules are usually in place and what's the process to change them.
    – Philipp
    Mar 20, 2016 at 18:19
  • @Brythan I believe the presiding officer still does make the selection of who speaks in either house, just in the senate any decision by the presiding officer is subject to appeal by the whole senate and in that case the majority party would assert their dominance.
    – Viktor
    Mar 20, 2016 at 18:29
  • @Brythan - are you sure on there being "no such thing" as a Speaker pro tempora in the House? - if you read the congressional record (e.g. gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2014-02-05/pdf/CREC-2014-02-05.pdf) the preceding decisions are often attributed to the Speaker pro tempora [... in the linked issue, the Speaker Pro tempore is noted as Mr Ribble, who was not the Speaker at the time ].
    – kyrenia
    Mar 23, 2016 at 18:25
  • @Brythan "If they did, then when the Senate and presidency are held by different parties, the Vice-President would take control of the Senate from the President pro tempore." You make it sound like that's the (sole) rationale for the Senate being more governed by its members, but I suspect that it's also a carry over from Westminster (where the Lord Speaker -- or at the time of independence, the Lord Chancellor -- has a similar lack of powers).
    – owjburnham
    Jun 11, 2018 at 8:09

1 Answer 1


As noted in the coments, the presiding officer of the House of Representatives (or of a committee) has the responsibility to recognize members and keep order. The detailed rule are found in http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/house-rules.pdf.

To wit:

Decorum 1. (a) A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who desires to speak or deliver a matter to the House shall rise and respectfully address the Speaker and, on being recognized, may address the House from any place on the floor. When invited by the Chair, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may speak from the Clerk’s desk. (b) Remarks in debate (which may include references to the Senate or its Members) shall be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.

Recognition 2. When two or more Members, Delegates, or the Resident Commissioner rise at once, the Speaker shall name the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who is first to speak. A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not occupy more than one hour in debate on a question in the House or in the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union except as otherwise provided in this rule. Managing debate 3. (a) The Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who calls up a measure may open and close debate thereon. When general debate extends beyond one day, that Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner shall be entitled to one hour to close without regard to the time used in opening. (b) Except as provided in paragraph (a), a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not speak more than once to the same question without leave of the House. (c) A manager of a measure who opposes an amendment thereto is entitled to close controlled debate thereon.

For the Senate, it is much the same:

  1. (a) When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.


In reality, I'm sure the details can get ugly.... But I do like the orderliness of the written procedures.

  • rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/116-1/…, new location of House Rules (I believe). As for "who speaks in US congress?" in the literal sense; and as a point of curiosity, can citizens speak in the House of Representatives?; I can't see anything which would exclude a non-Member citizen from speaking, but they are unlikely to receive recognition (or be let in).
    – Vix
    Sep 28, 2021 at 15:38

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