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A congressional caucus is a group of congress members who share common interests and goals. The members of the caucus periodically meet together to discuss issues of interest, and to direct actions which will further various causes, from sponsoring legislation to meeting with other congress members. Numerous congressional caucuses have been organized, ranging from the large Party Conferences to smaller caucuses for causes which vary from preserving open space to promoting initiatives which benefit urban areas.
The rules to organize a congressional caucus are fairly simple. Each legislative session, a prospective caucus must register as a Congressional Member Organization through the House of Representatives by providing its name and purpose, along with a list of the caucus officers. Both House and Senate members may belong to a Congressional Member Organization, and these organizations must follow specific rules of conduct, such a rule which disallows the use of government funds to support the operating expenses of the caucus.
Some caucuses are organized along political lines, like the Democratic and Republican Party Conferences. Others link congress members by shared racial or religious heritage, such as the National Black Caucus and the Prayer Caucus. The bulk of the congressional caucuses, however, have been formed to support specific causes, and they include congresspeople who are interested in those particular causes.
Some caucuses include a mixture of people from both political parties, reflecting a desire to work across party lines to accomplish common goals. Others are divided, and in some cases, separate caucuses can be found for Democratic and Republican supporters; Hispanic congresspeople, for example, can belong to a Republican or Democrat-oriented caucus, depending on their party affiliation.
In addition to congressional caucuses, the House of Representatives and Senate are also broken up into committees which deal with various issues of interest. Unlike committees, caucuses lack the ability to review legislation to determine whether or not it should be brought to the floor for a vote. However, caucus members are often encouraged to talk with members of committees about issues of shared interest, and some people may have memberships on committees which deal with causes which they support in a congressional caucus.
In some cases, a congressional caucus may become quite strong, thanks to the efforts of its members and its large size. These groups can work to help to elect people who will support their causes, ensuring that the strength of the caucus continues to grow over time. A political caucus may also be referred to as a coalition, task force, or study group.