A call of the house is a motion that can be adopted by a deliberative assembly. It has the authority to compel the attendance of absent members when a quorum is not present. The effect of the adoption of this motion is that the president of the assembly makes out arrest warrants that authorize the sergeant-at-arms to arrest any or all absent members and bring them to the meeting hall so that a quorum may be present. This motion is usually seen in houses of legislatures, such as the United States Senate.


In the third episode of Season 2, the Senate Democratic Leader delivers this motion. It is passed by the senators present in the Senate Chamber and Vice President Frank Underwood, in his role as President of the Senate, instructs the sergeant-at-arms to compel the attendance of absent senators. Several absent Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Hector Mendoza, are arrested and carried into the Senate Chamber by Capitol Police so that a quorum is present.

Behind the Scenes

  • The most notable example of a call of the house taking place in the real-life United States Senate was when the procedure was used in the early morning hours of February 25, 1988. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, then the Senate Majority Leader, moved a call of the house after the minority Republicans walked out in an attempt to deny the Senate a quorum after Senate aides began bringing cots into the Senate cloakrooms in preparation for an all-night session over campaign finance reform for congressional elections. Byrd's motion was approved 45-3 and arrest warrants were signed for all 46 Republicans. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K. Giugni and his staff searched the Capitol's corridor and Senate office buildings for absent Senators, and after checking several empty offices, spotted Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, who fled down a hallway and escaped arrest. After a cleaning woman gave a tip that Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon was in his office, Giugni opened the door with a skeleton key. Packwood attempted to shove the door closed, but Giugni and two assistants pushed it open. Packwood was "carried feet-first into the Senate chamber by three plainclothes officers" and sustained bruised knuckles.

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