Caucuses, Congressional

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CAUCUSES, CONGRESSIONAL, informal groups of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Although their history dates back to the late nineteenth century, congressional caucuses proliferated after World War II and have increased significantly in number since the early 1970s. Caucuses are created by groups of representatives who decide they have enough in common to meet and communicate regularly; they expire when members no longer find it in their interest to sustain them. The objective of caucus members is to exercise influence in Congress, determine public policy, or simply share social and professional concerns. Members create caucuses because their constituents share common economic concerns (Steel Caucus, Textile Caucus, Arts Caucus), regional interests (Northeast-Midwest Coalition, Sunbelt Caucus), ethnic or racial ties (Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus), ideological orientation (Conservative Opportunity Society, Main Street Forum, Progressive Caucus), or partisan and policy ties (Chowder and Marching Society, Wednesday Group, Democratic Study Group).

One of the fastest-growing of these groups was the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, which admitted men in 1981. Caucuses range in size from a dozen members to, in a few instances, more than 150. Caucuses vary as to whether they have a paid staff, a formal leadership structure, division of labor among members, and a formal communications network. The larger groups have all of these features. Those that impose dues for paid staff are regulated by House rules. The two largest and most important caucuses are the majority and minority caucuses, which are made up of the members of the Republican and Democratic congressional delegations.


Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1992. New York: Amistad Press, 1992.

Gertzog, Irwin N. Congressional Women: Their Recruitment, Integration, and Behavior. New York: Praeger, 1984; Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995.

Schattschneider, E. E. Party Government. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1942.

Irwin N.Gertzog/a. g.

See alsoBlack Caucus, Congressional ; Congress .