What Is a Closed Meeting of the Members of Each Party in the House?

A closed meeting of each party in the U.S. House of Representatives is called a party caucus or conference, during which representatives vote and debate policy and leadership decisions. The Democratic Party uses the term caucus, while the Republican Party uses the term conference. These private meetings allow representatives to discuss issues openly with one another and provide congressional organization for the members during each legislative session.

Within the caucus or conference, members decide House party leadership. Members take nominations and vote on party committee leaders, as well as on Housewide leadership if the party is in the majority. Individual committees within the caucus or conference help the party define policy goals for the legislative session. Members vote and assign representatives to particular party committees. Members work within those committees to bring legislation to a party vote for a wider base of support than a representative independently initiating legislation can muster. In addition, official party reactions to legislation and press statements are a result of deliberation and agreement in the caucus or conference.

Each caucus or conference has rules that dictate how the party votes for legislation on the floor. Representatives often know the outcome of a floor vote before it occurs due to this procedure.