Once a person is sworn in as a Representative in the lower chamber of the US Congress (the House of Representatives), s/he has some obvious powers:

  • To vote for and against any legislation brought before the house
  • To propose new legislation
  • To propose discussions in the house

But even the last two items are not very clear to me (e.g. can an individual rep force a floor vote on moving his/her proposed act forward?), nor do I know whether the individual Representative has any additional powers. For example:

  • Can s/he join any Committee s/he likes? Just one or more than one?
  • Does s/he have stronger powers of access to government documents?
  • Are there budgets put at the Representative's disposal?
  • Can the single Representative force the high(est) ranking officers of the Executive Branch to explain certain matters, in less or in more depth, not in the context of a House Committee?
  • Does the Representative have any power relative to state-level officials or bodies?
  • Can s/he imbue certain spaces or people with immunity from searches and seizures?
  • etc.

2 Answers 2


can an individual rep force a floor vote on moving his/her proposed act forward?

No. This is why control of the chambers matter. The Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate control whether a given bill receives a floor vote. There may be particular circumstances when a member or members can force a vote, but this is not a generic power applicable to all bills.

In the House, the Rules committee determines how and when a bill will get a floor vote. Other committees may also be able to block (not force) a vote, although the Rules committee could override them by changing the rules. The Rules committee has nine members from the majority party and only four from the minority party.

Can s/he join any committee s/he likes? Just one or more than one?

Not any committee. Some committees are more prestigious and harder to get a slot. That said, they do try to accommodate requests if they can (and actively ask for requests). The majority and minority each get so many slots on each committee and the leadership of each party allocate committee assignments.

Representatives can ask for any committee, but they may not get it.

Some committees, like Ways and Means, are considered to be so busy that that will be the Representative's only committee assignment. Other committees allow for multiple memberships. Virtually every member of Congress will be on multiple subcommittees.

Are there budgets put at the representative's disposal?

As part of the House budget, each Representative gets funds for an office. They are assigned offices in the capitol. In their district, they can use their budget to rent space. They can also hire staffers in either place. A Representative can have multiple district offices if the funds will stretch that far. Large districts that need multiple offices tend to be rural districts, so office space will often be cheaper there.

A Representative may choose a new office by seniority. Of course most more senior Representatives already have nice offices, so it may not be worth switching. This matters when a Representative leaves office, as other Representatives may prefer that office to their current office. So the most senior who wants to switch can. Then that Representative's office becomes available and the most senior who wants it can switch. So on and so forth until everyone has an office.

I don't believe that Representatives can displace other Representatives. I believe that a Representative can only lose an office by stopping being a Representative or by voluntarily switching to another.

Can the single representative force the high(est) ranking officers of the executive branch to explain certain matters, in less or in more depth, not in the context of a house committee?

Not officially. However, since they can force them in the context of a committee, officials may choose to explain things to Representatives that they would not choose to explain to others. So not a power per se.

Does the representative have any power relative to state-level officials or bodies?

Not separate from legislative power. In the US, the federal and state governments are separate entities. The state legislatures used to have the power to appoint Senators, but that was repealed via a constitutional amendment.

Can s/he imbue certain spaces or people with immunity from searches and seizures?

This doesn't send like a Congressional power. Perhaps someone else can come up with some odd way of doing that. E.g. appointing an employee to do something that is protected from search/seizure.

Certainly the Representatives are themselves immune from search/seizure while traveling to and from a session. But I don't know that they can imbue others with that. Their local space may be safe from search/seizure--I'm not sure of the precedents there. I.e. it is possible that their personal immunity may extend to places under some circumstances.


A member of Congress can nominate people to the military academies to become officers.

A member of Congress may take guests on tours of the legislative buildings.

A member of Congress may submit a bill to the Congressional Budget Office and ask them to score it for budgetary impact.

A member of Congress may use the franking power to send mail. I.e. instead of a stamp, they can sign the envelope where a stamp would go.

I do not believe this to be an exhaustive list.

  • Very good answers, I'll put a few subdetails in: For Budgets: They get a budget for staff, office, a small amount to help with (not pay for) the DC house, etc. It's not unlimited. Except letters. They can send all the mail they want for free (theoretically to consituients only). As for special immunity to search/seizure, there are a couple special rules for them alone. If they are on their way to the capital for a session, they can only be arrested/detained for impeachable offenses.
    – Jesse
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 16:54
  • You mentioned "the leadership of each party", but AFAIK, there's no inherent party affiliation for Representatives. Suppose I'm not a member of a party; or I'm a member, but I'm at odds with my party leadership. Can I join a committee without the approval of anybody else?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 20:58
  • @einpoklum No, you'd have to join (caucus with) one of the two major parties. I.e. one of the two parties would have to give you a slot (or slots). Or they would have to change the rules. There is power to being on a committee. The current system gives the minority some power in committee assignments, but committees aren't a constitutional power. A Representative has no "right" to be on committees except in tradition and House rules (which are changeable by votes in the House). So someone with no party would not get assigned committee slots from either party until they join a caucus.
    – Brythan
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 23:05
  • @Brythan: But surely that can't be the case. I mean, party affiliation is not a basis for your election - how can it be a requirement for joining any committees? Specifically, what if you're an independent who opposes both parties?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 0:36
  • @einpoklum As I understand it: if you're not willing to work with either party, then no committees for you. In practice though, negotiation happens. I think that, in the Senate, Bernie Sanders gets committee seats as if he were a Democrat, in exchange for voting with the Democrats when needed, and it sounds like the situation was (eventually) similar when he was in the House. See politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/feb/23/… , particularly the section titled "Partly in the club".
    – owjburnham
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 10:45

In addition to the powers mentioned in the question, a U.S. Representative is exclusively granted the following powers:

  • initiation of revenue bills
  • initiation of impeachment of federal officers
  • a vote for the selection of a U.S. President, when no candidate received a majority of electoral votes
  • 1
    1. Revenue bills are a kind of legislation, but ok. 2. Not an individual power. 3. Not an individual power.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 23:51
  • 2
    1. Only House members can initiate revenue bills. 2. An individual member can initiate impeachment proceedings. 3. An individual vote in the House can make the difference in an electoral college tie scenario. @einpoklum Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 23:54
  • Initiate a function of the house and vote as a member of the house seem to be covered in the question.
    – user9389
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 20:50

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