The “well” refers to the area at the front of the chamber where the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other leaders of the House sit.
This area is also known as the “Presiding Officer’s desk” and is typically reserved for members of the House leadership.
The origins of the term are unknown, although the Oxford English Dictionary gives one definition of ‘well’ as: “The space on the floor of a law court (between the judge’s bench and the last row of seats occupied by counsel) where the solicitors sit.”
It is possible that, as legislatures used to serve judicial functions, the term was transferred to legislative bodies.
The Speaker, who is the leader of the majority party in the House, sits in the center of the well. The Speaker is responsible for maintaining order in the chamber and for recognizing members who wish to speak. The Speaker also has the authority to make rulings on parliamentary procedures and to enforce the rules of the House.
To the left and right of the Speaker in the well are the Majority and Minority Leaders, respectively.
These are the leaders of the majority and minority parties in the House, and they are responsible for coordinating their parties’ positions and strategies on legislative matters.
In addition to the Speaker and party leaders, other members of the House leadership may also sit in the well.
These may include the Majority and Minority Whips, who are responsible for helping to ensure that their parties have enough votes to pass or defeat legislation, as well as other members of the leadership team who have specific responsibilities such as managing the House calendar or overseeing the House budget.
The well of the House is also the location where members who have been recognized by the Speaker can come to speak on the floor.
Members are typically allowed to speak for up to one minute on any given issue, and the Speaker has the authority to limit the number of members who can speak on a particular topic.
Members wishing to speak generally do so from the well, and Congressmen who are censured are required to stand in the well to hear the resolution condemning them. Generally, presidents who address Congress do so from the rostrum, but Franklin Roosevelt’s last speech to Congress was given from the well, in a rare acknowledgment of his disability.
Examples of “well” in a sentence
- The Speaker of the House sat in the well of the chamber, overseeing the proceedings of the House.
- Members who wished to speak on the floor came to the well to be recognized by the Speaker.
- The Majority and Minority Leaders sat in the well to the left and right of the Speaker, coordinating their parties’ positions on legislative matters.