Parliamentarian of the United States House of Representatives
Seal of the United States House of Representatives
Jason Smith
since September 2020
Office of the Parliamentarian
AppointerSpeaker of the House
Term lengthServes at the pleasure of the Speaker
Constituting instrument2 U.S.C. ch. 9C
Formation1977 (office)
1927 (position)
First holderLewis Deschler
DeputyDeputy Parliamentarian

The parliamentarian of the United States House of Representatives manages, supervises, and administers the Office of the Parliamentarian, which is responsible for advising the House's presiding officers, members, and staff on procedural questions under the U.S. Constitution and House rules and precedents, as well as for preparing, compiling, and publishing the precedents of the House.[1]


The parliamentarian is appointed by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of fitness to perform the duties of the position.[2] Advice from the parliamentarian's office is confidential upon request.[3]

The parliamentarian, or an assistant parliamentarian, usually sits or stands to the right of the Speaker or Speaker pro tempore (or the Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, when the House has resolved into that forum) and advises that presiding officer how to respond to such things as parliamentary inquiries, points of order, and the ordinary workings of the procedures of the House.

The legitimacy of parliamentary procedure in the House depends on nonpartisan procedural advice that is transparently consistent. The parliamentarian achieves the requisite consistency by fidelity to precedent, and the requisite transparency by publication. The publications of the Office of the Parliamentarian range from a biennial deskbook to a decennial hornbook to a perennial series of formal precedents. The House Rules and Manual – comprising the Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and the rules of the House, each with parliamentary annotations – is the biennial publication that ensures that legislative practitioners have access to the most up-to-date citations of authority on legislative and parliamentary procedure. As such it might be the single most useful tool a legislative practitioner could have.

Probably the most important job of the Office of the Parliamentarian in the long term is the compilation of the precedents. The commitment of the House to the principle of stare decisis in its procedural practice – the idea that fidelity to precedent cultivates levels of consistency and transparency that, in turn, foster fairness in the resolution of questions of order – depends implicitly on the compilation of precedents. Being rigorous about what constitutes actual legal precedent and striving to apply pertinent precedent to each procedural question engenders consistency, and therefore transparency, in procedural practice and, consequently, enhances the perceived legitimacy and fairness, and therefore the integrity, of the proceedings of the House.

List of Parliamentarians

The position of parliamentarian was previously known as the "Clerk at the Speaker's table," in which capacity the noted parliamentarian Asher Hinds served as an adviser to the powerful Speakers "Czar" Reed and "Uncle Joe" Cannon, who used precedent and procedure to facilitate their assertive management of House business (both were excoriated by opponents as "czarlike" or "tyrannical").[4][5]

A parliamentarian has been appointed by the speaker in every Congress since 1927. In the 95th Congress, the House formally established an Office of the Parliamentarian to be managed by a nonpartisan parliamentarian appointed by the speaker (2 U.S.C. § 287). The compilation and distribution of the precedents of the House are authorized by law (2 U.S.C. § 28, et seq.). The current parliamentarian is Jason A. Smith.[6]

The following have served as House parliamentarian:[7]

Order Name Title Term Congress(es)
1 Thaddeus Morrice Messenger to the Speaker 1855–1865 34th38th
2 William D. Todd 1863–1869 38th40th
3 John M. Barclay Clerk at the Speaker's Table 1869–1875 41st43rd
4 William H. Scudder 1875–1877 44th, 45th
5 J. Randolph Tucker Jr. 1877–1879 45th
6 George P. Miller 1879–1880 46th
7 Michael Sullivan 1879–1881 46th
(5) J. Randolph Tucker Jr. 1879–1881 46th
(7) Michael Sullivan 1881–1883 47th
8 J. Guilford White 1881–1883 47th
9 Nathaniel T. Crutchfield 1883–1891 48th51st
10 Forrest Goodwin 1889–1891 51st
11 Charles Robert Crisp 1891–1895 52nd, 53rd
12 Asher Crosby Hinds 1895–1911 54th61st
(11) Charles Robert Crisp 1911–1913 62nd
13 Joel Bennett Clark 1913–1917 63rd, 64th
14 Clarence Andrew Cannon 1917–1919 65th
(13) Joel Bennett Clark 1917–1919 65th
15 Lehr Fess Clerk at the Speaker's Table

Parliamentarian (70th Congress)

1919–1927 66th70th
16 Lewis Deschler Parliamentarian 1927–1974 70th93rd
17 William Holmes Brown 1974–1994 93rd103rd
18 Charles W. Johnson 1995–2004 104th108th
19 John V. Sullivan 2004–2012 108th112th
20 Thomas J. Wickham Jr. 2012–2020 112th116th
21 Jason Smith 2020–present 116th118th

See also


  1. ^ 2 U.S.C. § 287, et seq.
  2. ^ 2 U.S.C. § 287a.
  3. ^ House Rules Committee. Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Bolles, Blair (1951). Tyrant from Illinois: Uncle Joe Cannon's Experiment with Personal Power. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  5. ^ Grant, James (2011). Mr. Speaker! The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed, the Man Who Broke the Filibuster. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  6. ^ "Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 160 Page H4437-4". Government Publishing Office. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Parliamentarians of the House". History, Art & Archives | United States House of Representatives. 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.

Further reading