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The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the speaker of the House, is the
presiding officerIn a general sense, presiding officer is synonymous with chairperson. Politics *Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, the Speaker of the National Assembly for Wales *Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly *Presiding Offic ...
of the
United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the of the , with the being the . Together they compose the national of the . The House's composition is established by . The House is composed of representatives who sit in allocated to ea ...
. The office was established in 1789 by Article I, Section 2 of the
U.S. Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first t ...

U.S. Constitution
. The speaker is the political and parliamentary leader of the House of Representatives and is simultaneously the House's presiding officer, ''de facto'' leader of the body's majority party, and the institution's administrative head. Speakers also perform various other administrative and procedural functions. Given these several roles and responsibilities, the speaker usually does not personally preside over debates. That duty is instead delegated to members of the House from the majority party. Neither does the speaker regularly participate in floor debates. The Constitution does not require the speaker to be an
incumbent The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, administrative Work (human activity), work in order to support and realize objects an ...
member of the House of Representatives, although every speaker thus far has been. The speaker is second in the
United States presidential line of succession The United States presidential line of succession is the order Order or ORDER or Orders may refer to: * Orderliness Orderliness is associated with other qualities such as cleanliness Cleanliness is both the abstract state of being clean an ...
, after the
vice president A vice president, also director in British English, is an officer An officer is a person who has a position of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationsh ...
and ahead of the president ''pro tempore'' of the Senate. The current House speaker is
Democrat Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy, or democratic government; a form of government involving rule by the people. *A member of a Democratic Party: **Democratic Party (United States) (D) **Democratic Party (Cy ...
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
of
California California is a in the . With over 39.3million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the and the U.S. state by area. It is also the in North America and the in the world. The area and the are the nation's second and ...

California
. She was elected to a fourth (second consecutive) term as speaker on January 3, 2021, the first day of the
117th Congress The 117th United States Congress is the current meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. It convened in Washington, D.C., on January 3, 2021 ...
. She has led the Democratic Party in the House since 2003, and is the first woman to serve as speaker.


Selection

The House elects its speaker at the beginning of a new Congress (i.e. , after a general election) or when a speaker dies, resigns or is removed from the position intra-term. Since 1839, the House has elected speakers by
roll call vote Deliberative assemblies – bodies that use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, Procedural law, rules, and Norm (sociology), customs governing meetings and other operations of Club (organization), clubs, organiz ...
. Traditionally, each party's caucus or conference selects a candidate for the speakership from among its senior leaders prior to the roll call. Representatives are not restricted to voting for the candidate nominated by their party, but generally do, as the outcome of the election effectively determines which party has the
majority A majority, also called a simple majority to distinguish it from similar terms (see the "Related terms" section below), is the greater part, or more than half, of the total.See dictionary definitions of "majority" aMerriam-Webster
and consequently will organize the House. As the Constitution does not explicitly state that the speaker must be an
incumbent The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, administrative Work (human activity), work in order to support and realize objects an ...
member of the House, it is permissible for representatives to vote for someone who is not a member of the House at the time, and non-members have received a few votes in various speaker elections over the past several years. Every person elected speaker, however, has been a member. Representatives who choose to vote for someone other than their party's nominated candidate usually vote for someone else in their party or vote "present". Anyone who votes for the other party's candidate would face serious consequences, as was the case when
Democrat Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy, or democratic government; a form of government involving rule by the people. *A member of a Democratic Party: **Democratic Party (United States) (D) **Democratic Party (Cy ...
Jim Traficant Jim or JIM may refer to: * Jim, a diminutive form of the given name James * Jim, a short form of the given name Jimmy * OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism * ''Jim'' (comics), a series by Jim Woodring * ''Jim'' (album), by soul artist Jamie ...
voted for
Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, and is usually associated with the rule of law. ** Republicanism, the ideology in support of republics or against ...
Dennis Hastert John Dennis Hastert (; born January 2, 1942) is an American former politician and child molester who represented from 1987 to 2007 and served as the 51st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, the longest-ser ...

Dennis Hastert
in 2001 (
107th Congress File:Sarbanes bush and chao.jpg, Before the signing ceremony of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, President George W. Bush met with Senator Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and other dignitaries in the Blue Room ...
). In response, the Democrats stripped him of his seniority and he lost all of his committee posts. To be elected speaker, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast. If no candidate wins a majority, the roll call is repeated until a speaker is elected. Multiple roll calls have been necessary only 14 times (out of 126 speakership elections) since 1789; and not since 1923 (
68th Congress The 68th United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1923, t ...
), when a closely divided House needed nine ballots to elect Frederick H. Gillett speaker. Upon winning election the new speaker is immediately sworn in by the
dean of the United States House of Representatives The Dean of the United States House of Representatives is the longest continuously serving member of the House. The current Dean is Don Young, a Republican Party Republican Party is a name used by many political parties A political party is ...
, the chamber's longest-serving member.


History

The first speaker of the House,
Frederick Muhlenberg Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (; January 1, 1750 – June 4, 1801) was an American minister and politician A politician is a person active in party politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with m ...

Frederick Muhlenberg
of
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
, was elected to office on April 1, 1789, the day the House organized itself at the start of the 1st Congress. He served two non-consecutive terms in the speaker's chair, 1789–1791 (1st Congress) and 1793–1795 ( 3rd Congress). As the Constitution does not state the duties of the speaker, the speaker's role has largely been shaped by traditions and customs that evolved over time. Scholars are divided as to whether early speakers played largely ceremonial and impartial roles or whether they were more active partisan actors. From early in its existence, the speaker's primary function had been to keep order and enforce rules. The speakership was transformed into a position with power over the legislative process under
Henry Clay Henry Clay Sr. (April 12, 1777June 29, 1852) was an American attorney Attorney may refer to: Roles * Attorney at law, an official title of lawyers in some jurisdictions * Attorney general, the principal legal officer of (or advisor to) a gove ...

Henry Clay
(1811–1814, 1815–1820, and 1823–1825). In contrast to many of his predecessors, Clay participated in several debates and used his influence to procure the passage of measures he supported—for instance, the declaration of the
War of 1812 The War of 1812 (18 June 1812 – 17 February 1815) was a conflict fought by the and its against and its allies in , with limited participation by in . It began when the US declared war on 18 June 1812 and although peace terms were agreed i ...
, and various laws relating to Clay's " American System" economic plan. Furthermore, when no candidate received an
Electoral College An electoral college is a set of Voting, electors who are selected to elect a candidate to particular offices. Often these represent different organizations, political parties or Legal entity, entities, with each organization, political party or e ...
majority in the 1824 presidential election, causing the president to be elected by the House, Speaker Clay threw his support to
John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (; July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state ...

John Quincy Adams
instead of
Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman who served as the seventh from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the and served in ...

Andrew Jackson
, thereby ensuring Adams' victory. Following Clay's retirement in 1825, the power of the speakership once again began to decline, despite speakership elections becoming increasingly bitter. As the
Civil War A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independenc ...
approached, several sectional factions nominated their own candidates, often making it difficult for any candidate to attain a majority. In 1855 and again in 1859, for example, the contest for speaker lasted for two months before the House achieved a result. Speakers tended to have very short tenures during this period. For example, from 1839 to 1863 there were eleven speakers, only one of whom served for more than one term. To date,
James K. Polk James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the 11th president of the United States, serving from 1845 to 1849. He previously was Speaker of the House of Representatives (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841). ...

James K. Polk
is the only speaker of the House who was later elected president of the United States. Towards the end of the 19th century, the office of speaker began to develop into a very powerful one. At the time, one of the most important sources of the speaker's power was his position as Chairman of the Committee on Rules, which, after the reorganization of the committee system in 1880, became one of the most powerful standing committees of the House. Furthermore, several speakers became leading figures in their political parties; examples include Democrats ,
John Griffin Carlisle John Griffin Carlisle (September 5, 1834July 31, 1910) was an American politician from the commonwealth of Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Upland South region of the United ...

John Griffin Carlisle
, and
Charles F. Crisp Charles Frederick Crisp (January 29, 1845 – October 23, 1896) was a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located i ...
, and Republicans James G. Blaine,
Thomas Brackett Reed Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), was an American politician from the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...
, and
Joseph Gurney Cannon Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926) was a United States politician from Illinois Illinois ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. It has the List of U.S ...
. The power of the speaker was greatly augmented during the tenure of the Republican
Thomas Brackett Reed Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), was an American politician from the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...
(1889–1891, 1895–1899). "Czar Reed", as he was called by his opponents, sought to end the obstruction of bills by the minority, in particular by countering the tactic known as the " disappearing quorum". By refusing to vote on a motion, the minority could ensure that a quorum would not be achieved and that the result would be invalid. Reed, however, declared that members who were in the chamber but refused to vote would still count for the purposes of determining a quorum. Through these and other rulings, Reed ensured that the Democrats could not block the Republican agenda. The speakership reached its apogee during the term of Republican
Joseph Gurney Cannon Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926) was a United States politician from Illinois Illinois ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. It has the List of U.S ...
(1903–1911). Cannon exercised extraordinary control over the legislative process. He determined the agenda of the House, appointed the members of all committees, chose committee chairmen, headed the Rules Committee, and determined which committee heard each bill. He vigorously used his powers to ensure that Republican proposals were passed by the House. In 1910, however, Democrats and several dissatisfied Republicans joined together to strip Cannon of many of his powers, including the ability to name committee members and his chairmanship of the Rules Committee. Fifteen years later, Speaker
Nicholas Longworth Nicholas "Nick" Longworth III (November 5, 1869 – April 9, 1931) was an American politician who became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a United States Republican Party, Republican. A lawyer by training, he was ele ...
restored much, but not all, of the lost influence of the position. One of the most influential speakers in history was Democrat
Sam Rayburn Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was an American politician who served as the 43rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a three-time House Speaker, former House Majority Leader, two-time H ...

Sam Rayburn
. Rayburn had the most cumulative time as speaker in history, holding office from 1940 to 1947, 1949 to 1953, and 1955 to 1961. He helped shape many bills, working quietly in the background with House committees. He also helped ensure the passage of several domestic measures and foreign assistance programs advocated by Presidents
Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the De ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt
and
Harry Truman Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884December 26, 1972) was the 33rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the ...
. Rayburn's successor, Democrat John W. McCormack (served 1962–1971), was a somewhat less influential speaker, particularly because of dissent from younger members of the Democratic Party. During the mid-1970s, the power of the speakership once again grew under Democrat
Carl Albert Carl Bert Albert (May 10, 1908 – February 4, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 46th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 19 ...
. The Committee on Rules ceased to be a semi-independent panel, as it had been since 1910. Instead, it once again became an arm of the party leadership. Moreover, in 1975, the speaker was granted the authority to appoint a majority of the members of the Rules Committee. Meanwhile, the power of committee chairmen was curtailed, further increasing the relative influence of the speaker. Albert's successor, Democrat
Tip O'Neill Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician who served as the 47th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, representing northern Boston, Massachusetts, as a ...

Tip O'Neill
, was a prominent speaker because of his public opposition to the policies of President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Un ...

Ronald Reagan
. O'Neill is the longest continually serving speaker, from 1977 through 1987. He challenged Reagan on domestic programs and on defense expenditures. Republicans made O'Neill the target of their election campaigns in 1980 and 1982 but Democrats managed to retain their majorities in both years. The roles of the parties reversed in 1994 when, after spending forty years in the minority, the Republicans regained control of the House with the "
Contract with America The Contract with America was a legislative agenda advocated for by the Republican Party during the 1994 congressional election campaign. Written by Newt Gingrich Newton Leroy Gingrich (; né McPherson; born June 17, 1943) is an American po ...
", an idea spearheaded by
Minority Whip A whip is an official of a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about politics, and parti ...
Newt Gingrich Newton Leroy Gingrich (; né McPherson; born June 17, 1943) is an American politician and author who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1 ...

Newt Gingrich
. Speaker Gingrich would regularly clash with Democratic President
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton (; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of ...

Bill Clinton
, leading to the
United States federal government shutdown of 1995 and 1996 United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania United is located in Mount Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a community located near Norvelt, Pennsylvania. History In 1881, the United Coal Company, United Coal & Cok ...
, in which Clinton was largely seen to have prevailed. Gingrich's hold on the leadership was weakened significantly by that and several other controversies, and he faced a caucus revolt in 1997. After the Republicans lost House seats in 1998 (although retaining a majority) he did not stand for a third term as speaker. His successor,
Dennis Hastert John Dennis Hastert (; born January 2, 1942) is an American former politician and child molester who represented from 1987 to 2007 and served as the 51st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, the longest-ser ...

Dennis Hastert
, had been chosen as a compromise candidate since the other Republicans in the leadership were more controversial. Hastert played a much less prominent role than other contemporary speakers, being overshadowed by House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay Thomas Dale DeLay (; born April 8, 1947) is an American author and retired politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the of the , with the being the ...
and President
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Unit ...

George W. Bush
. The Republicans came out of the 2000 elections with a further reduced majority but made small gains in 2002 and 2004. The periods of 2001–2002 and 2003–2007 were the first times since 1953–1955 that there was single-party Republican leadership in Washington, interrupted from 2001 to 2003 as Senator of
Vermont Vermont () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Vermont
left the Republican Party to become independent and caucused with Senate Democrats to give them a 51–49 majority. In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats won a majority in the House.
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
became speaker when the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007, making her the first woman to hold the office. With the election of Barack Obama as president and Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, Pelosi became the first speaker since
Tom Foley Thomas Stephen Foley (March 6, 1929 – October 18, 2013) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 49th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, com ...
to hold the office during single-party Democratic leadership in Washington. During the
111th Congress into law, January 29, 2009. The 111th United States Congress was a List of United States Congresses, meeting of the United States Congress, legislative branch of the United States federal government from January 3, 2009, until January 3, ...
, Pelosi was the driving force behind several of Obama's major initiatives that proved controversial, and the Republicans campaigned against the Democrats' legislation by staging a "Fire Pelosi" bus tour and regained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections.
John Boehner John Andrew Boehner ( ; born , 1949) is an American retired politician who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 53rd speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015. A member of ...

John Boehner
was elected speaker when the 112th Congress convened on January 5, 2011, and was subsequently re-elected twice, at the start of the 113th and Congresses. On both of those occasions his remaining in office was threatened by the defection of several members from his own party who chose not to vote for him. Boehner's tenure as speaker, which ended when he resigned from Congress in October 2015, was marked by multiple battles with the conservatives in his own party related to "Obama Care,"
appropriations Appropriation may refer to: *Appropriation (art) the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation *Appropriation (law) as a component of government spending * Appropriation of knowledge :*Appropriation (sociology) in relat ...
, among other political issues. This intra-party discord continued under Boehner's successor,
Paul Ryan Paul Davis Ryan (born January 29, 1970) is an American retired politician who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 54th speaker of the United States House of Representatives from October 2015 to January ...

Paul Ryan
. Following the 2018 midterm elections which saw the election of a
Democratic PartyDemocratic Party most often refers to: *Democratic Party (United States) Democratic Party and similar terms may also refer to: Active parties Africa *Botswana Democratic Party *Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea *Gabonese Democratic Party *Democ ...
majority in the House of Representatives,
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
was elected speaker when the 116th Congress convened on January 3, 2019. When Republican leader John Boehner succeeded her as speaker in 2011, Pelosi remained the leader of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives and served as House minority leader for eight years before she led her party to victory in the 2018 elections. In addition to being the first woman to hold the office, Pelosi became the first speaker to return to power since Sam Rayburn in the 1950s.


Notable elections

Historically, there have been several controversial elections to the speakership, such as the contest of 1839. In that case, even though the 26th United States Congress convened on December 2, the House could not begin the speakership election until December 14 because of an election dispute in
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
known as the "
Broad Seal WarThe Broad Seal War was a controversy over the results of the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North Ame ...
". Two rival delegations, one
Whig Whig or Whigs may refer to: Parties and factions In the British Isles * A pejorative nickname for the Kirk Party The Kirk Party were a radical Presbyterian faction of the Scotland, Scottish Covenanters during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. ...
and the other Democrat, had been certified as elected by different branches of the New Jersey government. The problem was compounded by the fact that the result of the dispute would determine whether the Whigs or the Democrats held the majority. Neither party agreed to permit a speakership election with the opposite party's delegation participating. Finally, it was agreed to exclude both delegations from the election and a speaker was finally chosen on December 17. Another, more prolonged fight occurred in 1855 in the 34th United States Congress. The old Whig Party had collapsed but no single party had emerged to replace it. Candidates opposing the Democrats had run under a bewildering variety of labels, including Whig,
Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, and is usually associated with the rule of law. ** Republicanism, the ideology in support of republics or against ...
, American (
Know Nothing The Know Nothings were a Nativism in the United States, nativist Political parties in the United States, political party and Political movement, movement in the United States in the mid-1850s. Despite using the "Native American Party" name, its ...
), and simply "
Opposition Opposition may refer to: Arts and media * Opposition (Altars EP), ''Opposition'' (Altars EP), 2011 EP by Christian metalcore band Altars * The Opposition (band), a London post-punk band * ''The Opposition with Jordan Klepper'', a late-night tele ...
". By the time Congress actually met in December 1855, most of the northerners were concentrated together as Republicans, while most of the southerners and a few northerners used the American or Know Nothing label. Opponents of the Democrats held a majority in House, with the party makeup of the 234 representatives being 83 Democrats, 108 Republicans, and 43 Know Nothings (primarily southern oppositionists). The Democratic minority nominated
William Alexander Richardson William Alexander Richardson (January 16, 1811 – December 27, 1875) was a prominent Illinois Illinois ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. It has the List of U.S. states ...

William Alexander Richardson
of Illinois as speaker, but because of sectional distrust, the various oppositionists were unable to agree on a single candidate for speaker. The Republicans supported
Nathaniel Prentice Banks Nathaniel Prentice (or Prentiss) Banks (January 30, 1816 – September 1, 1894) was an American politician from Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New ...

Nathaniel Prentice Banks
of Massachusetts, who had been elected as a Know Nothing but was now largely identified with the Republicans. The southern Know Nothings supported first Humphrey Marshall of Kentucky, and then Henry M. Fuller of Pennsylvania. The voting went on for almost two months with no candidate able to secure a majority, until it was finally agreed to elect the speaker by plurality vote, and Banks was elected. The House found itself in a similar dilemma when the 36th Congress met in December 1859. Although the Republicans held a plurality, the Republican candidate,
John Sherman John Sherman (May 10, 1823October 22, 1900) was a politician from the U.S. state of Ohio Ohio () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. De ...

John Sherman
, was unacceptable to southern oppositionists due to his anti-slavery views, and once again the House was unable to elect a speaker. After Democrats allied with southern oppositionists to nearly elect the North Carolina oppositionist William N. H. Smith, Sherman finally withdrew in favor of compromise candidate
William Pennington William Pennington (May 4, 1796 – February 16, 1862) was an American politician and lawyer. He was the Governor of New Jersey The Governor of the State of New Jersey is head of the executive branch of New Jersey's state government. Th ...
of New Jersey, a former Whig of unclear partisan loyalties, who was finally elected speaker on February 1, 1860. The last time that an election for speaker went beyond one ballot was in December 1923 at the start of the
68th Congress The 68th United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1923, t ...
, when Republican Frederick H. Gillett needed nine ballots to win reelection.
Progressive Republican The Republican Party Republican Party is a name used by many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have si ...
s had refused to support Gillett in the first eight ballots. Only after winning concessions from Republican conference leaders (a seat on the
House Rules Committee The Committee on Rules, or more commonly, the Rules Committee, is a List of United States House of Representatives committees, committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is responsible for the rules under which Bill (law), bills w ...
and a pledge that requested House rules changes would be considered) did they agree to support him. In 1997, several Republican congressional leaders tried to force Speaker
Newt Gingrich Newton Leroy Gingrich (; né McPherson; born June 17, 1943) is an American politician and author who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1 ...

Newt Gingrich
to resign. However, Gingrich refused since that would have required a new election for speaker, which could have led to Democrats along with dissenting Republicans voting for Democrat
Dick Gephardt Richard Andrew Gephardt (; born January 31, 1941) is an American attorney, lobbyist, and politician who served as a United States Representative The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress ...

Dick Gephardt
(then minority leader) as speaker. After the 1998 midterm elections where the Republicans lost seats, Gingrich did not stand for re-election. The next two figures in the House Republican leadership hierarchy, Majority Leader Richard Armey and Majority Whip
Tom DeLay Thomas Dale DeLay (; born April 8, 1947) is an American author and retired politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the of the , with the being the ...
chose not to run for the office. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee,
Bob Livingston Robert Linlithgow Livingston Jr. (born April 30, 1943) is an American lobbyist and politician who served as a U.S. Representative from Louisiana from 1977 to 1999. A Republican, he was chosen as Newt Gingrich Newton Leroy Gingrich (; né McPh ...

Bob Livingston
, declared his bid for the speakership, which was unopposed, making him speaker-designate. It was then revealed, by Livingston himself, who had been publicly critical of President
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton (; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of ...

Bill Clinton
's
perjury Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is beha ...
during his sexual harassment trial, that he had engaged in an extramarital affair. He opted to resign from the House, despite being urged to stay on by House Democratic leader Gephardt. Subsequently, the chief deputy whip
Dennis Hastert John Dennis Hastert (; born January 2, 1942) is an American former politician and child molester who represented from 1987 to 2007 and served as the 51st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, the longest-ser ...

Dennis Hastert
was selected as speaker. The Republicans retained their majorities in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. The Democrats won a majority of seats in the 2006 midterm elections. On November 16, 2006,
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
, who was then minority leader, was selected as speaker-designate by House Democrats. When the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007, she was elected as the 52nd speaker by a vote of 233–202, becoming the first woman elected speaker of the House. Pelosi remained speaker through the 111th Congress.


Most recent election for speaker (2021)

The most recent election for House speaker took place January 3, 2021, on the opening day of the
117th United States Congress The 117th United States Congress is the current meeting of the United States Congress, legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate, U.S. Senate and the United States House of Representatives, ...
, two months after the 2020 House elections in which the Democrats won a majority of the seats. Incumbent speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, secured a narrow majority of the 427 votes cast and was elected to a fourth (second consecutive) term. She received 216 votes to Republican Kevin McCarthy's 209 votes, with two votes going to other persons; also, three representatives answered ''
present The present (or here and now) is the time that is associated with the events perception, perceived directly and in the first time, not as a recollection (perceived more than once) or a speculation (predicted, hypothesis, uncertain). It is a per ...

present
'' when their names were called.


Partisan role

The Constitution does not spell out the political role of the speaker. As the office has developed historically, however, it has taken on a clearly partisan cast, very different from the speakership of most Westminster-style legislatures, such as the speaker of the United Kingdom's House of Commons, which is meant to be scrupulously non-partisan. The speaker in the United States, by tradition, is the head of the majority party in the House of Representatives, outranking the majority leader. However, despite having the right to vote, the speaker usually does not participate in debate. The speaker is responsible for ensuring that the House passes legislation supported by the majority party. In pursuing this goal, the speaker may use their power to determine when each bill reaches the floor. They also chair the majority party's steering committee in the House. While the speaker is the functioning head of the House majority party, the same is not true of the president ''pro tempore'' of the Senate, whose office is primarily ceremonial and honorary. When the speaker and the president belong to the same party, the speaker tends to play the role in a more ceremonial light, as seen when
Dennis Hastert John Dennis Hastert (; born January 2, 1942) is an American former politician and child molester who represented from 1987 to 2007 and served as the 51st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007, the longest-ser ...

Dennis Hastert
played a very restrained role during the presidency of fellow Republican
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Unit ...

George W. Bush
. Nevertheless, when the speaker and the president belong to the same party, there are also times that the speaker plays a much larger role, and the speaker is tasked, e.g., with pushing through the agenda of the majority party, often at the expense of the minority opposition. This can be seen, most of all, in the speakership of
Democratic-Republican The Democratic-Republican Party, better known at the time under various other names, was an American political party founded by Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, l ...
Henry Clay Henry Clay Sr. (April 12, 1777June 29, 1852) was an American attorney Attorney may refer to: Roles * Attorney at law, an official title of lawyers in some jurisdictions * Attorney general, the principal legal officer of (or advisor to) a gove ...

Henry Clay
, who personally ensured the presidential victory of fellow Democratic-Republican
John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (; July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state ...

John Quincy Adams
. Democrat
Sam Rayburn Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was an American politician who served as the 43rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was a three-time House Speaker, former House Majority Leader, two-time H ...

Sam Rayburn
was a key player in the passing of
New Deal The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplina ...
legislation under the presidency of fellow Democrat
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician and attorney who served as the 32nd president of the United States The president of the United States ...
. Republican
Joseph Gurney Cannon Joseph Gurney Cannon (May 7, 1836 – November 12, 1926) was a United States politician from Illinois Illinois ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. It has the List of U.S ...
(under
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), often referred to as Teddy or his initials T. R., was an American politician, statesman, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and writer who served as the 26th president o ...

Theodore Roosevelt
) was particularly infamous for his marginalization of the minority Democrats and centralizing of authority to the speakership. In more recent times, Speaker
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
played a role in continuing the push for health care reform during the presidency of fellow Democrat
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
. On the other hand, when the speaker and the president belong to opposite parties, the public role and influence of the speaker tend to increase. As the highest-ranking member of the opposition party (and ''de facto''
leader of the opposition The leader of the opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest party not in government in a parliamentary democracy. The leader of the opposition is seen as the alternative prime minister, premi ...
), the speaker is normally the chief public opponent of the president's agenda. In this scenario, the speaker is known for undercutting the president's agenda by blocking measures by the minority party or rejecting bills by the Senate. One famous instance came in the form of
Thomas Brackett Reed Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), was an American politician from the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...
(under Grover Cleveland), a speaker notorious for his successful attempt to force the Democrats to vote on measures where the Republicans had clear majorities, which ensured that Cleveland's Democrats were in no position to challenge the Republicans in the House. Joseph Cannon was particularly unique in that he led the conservative "Old Guard" wing of the Republican Party, while his president – Theodore Roosevelt – was of the more progressive clique, and more than just marginalizing the Democrats, Cannon used his power to punish the dissidents in his party and obstruct the progressive wing of the Republican Party. More modern examples include
Tip O'Neill Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician who served as the 47th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, representing northern Boston, Massachusetts, as a ...

Tip O'Neill
, who was a vocal opponent of President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Un ...

Ronald Reagan
's economic and defense policies;
Newt Gingrich Newton Leroy Gingrich (; né McPherson; born June 17, 1943) is an American politician and author who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1 ...

Newt Gingrich
, who fought a bitter battle with President
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton (; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of ...

Bill Clinton
for control of domestic policy;
Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia Pelosi (; ; born March 26, 1940) is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, commonly known as the Speaker of the Ho ...

Nancy Pelosi
, who argued with President
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Unit ...

George W. Bush
over the Iraq War;
John Boehner John Andrew Boehner ( ; born , 1949) is an American retired politician who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 53rd speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015. A member of ...

John Boehner
, who clashed with President
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
over budget issues and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health care; and once again, Nancy Pelosi, who refused to support Donald Trump over funding for a border wall.


Presiding officer

As presiding officer of the House of Representatives, the speaker holds a variety of powers over the House and is ceremonially the highest-ranking legislative official in the US government. The speaker may delegate their powers to a member of the House to act as speaker ''pro tempore'' and to preside over the House in the speaker's absence; when this has occurred the delegation has always been to a member of the same party. During important debates, the speaker ''pro tempore'' is ordinarily a senior member of the majority party who may be chosen for his or her skill in presiding. At other times, more junior members may be assigned to preside to give them experience with the rules and procedures of the House. The speaker may also designate, with approval of the House, a speaker ''pro tempore'' for special purposes, such as designating a representative whose district is near Washington, D.C. to sign enrolled bills during long recesses. Under the Procedures of the United States House of Representatives, rules of the House, the speaker, "as soon as practicable after the election of the speaker and whenever appropriate thereafter", must deliver to the clerk of the House a confidential list of members who are designated to act as speaker in the case of a vacancy or physical inability of the speaker to perform their duties. On the floor of the House, the presiding officer is always addressed as "Mister Speaker" or "Madam Speaker", even if that person is serving as speaker ''pro tempore''. When the House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole (United States House of Representatives), Committee of the Whole, the speaker designates a member to preside over the committee, who is addressed as "Mister Chairman" or "Madam Chairwoman". To speak, members must seek the presiding officer's recognition. The presiding officer also rules on all points of order but such rulings may be appealed to the whole House. The speaker is responsible for maintaining decorum in the House and may order the Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives, Sergeant-at-Arms to enforce House rules. The speaker's powers and duties extend beyond presiding in the chamber. In particular, the speaker has great influence over the committee process. The speaker selects nine of the thirteen members of the powerful Committee on Rules, subject to the approval of the entire majority party. The leadership of the minority party chooses the remaining four members. Furthermore, the speaker appoints all members of select committees and conference committees. Moreover, when a bill is introduced, the speaker determines which committee will consider it. As a member of the House, the speaker is entitled to participate in debate and to vote. Ordinarily, the speaker votes only when the speaker's vote would be decisive or on matters of great importance, such as constitutional amendments or major legislation. Under the early rules of the House, the speaker was generally barred from voting, but today the speaker has the same right as other members to vote but only occasionally exercises it. The speaker may vote on any matter that comes before the House, and they are required to vote where their vote would be decisive or where the House is engaged in voting by ballot.


Other functions

In addition to being the political and parliamentary leader of the House of Representatives and representing their congressional district, the speaker also performs various other administrative and procedural functions, such as: * Oversees the officers of the House: the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the United States House of Representatives, sergeant-at-arms, the Chief Administrative Officer of the United States House of Representatives, chief administrative officer, and the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, chaplain; * Serves as the chairperson of the House Office Building Commission; * Appoints the House's Parliamentarian of the United States House of Representatives, parliamentarian, Historian of the United States House of Representatives, historian, general counsel, and inspector general; * Administers the House audio and video broadcasting system *In consultation with the minority leader, can devise a system of drug testing in the House. This option has never been exercised. * Receives reports or other communications from the president, government agencies, boards, and commissions. * Receives, along with the President pro tempore of the United States Senate, president pro tempore of the Senate, written declarations that a U.S. president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, or is able to resume them, under Sections 3 and 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Twenty-fifth Amendment. Additionally, the speaker is second in the United States presidential line of succession, presidential line of succession under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, immediately after the vice president and before the president pro tempore of the Senate (who is followed by members of the president's Cabinet of the United States, Cabinet). Thus, if both the presidency and vice-presidency were vacant simultaneously, then the speaker would become Acting president of the United States, acting president, after resigning from the House and as speaker. Ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, with its mechanism for filling an intra-term vice-presidential vacancy, has made calling on the speaker, president pro tempore, or a cabinet member to serve as acting president unlikely to happen, except in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. However, only a few years after it went into effect, in October 1973, at the height of Watergate scandal, Watergate, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned. With Agnew's unexpected departure and the state of Richard Nixon's presidency, Speaker
Carl Albert Carl Bert Albert (May 10, 1908 – February 4, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, 46th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 19 ...
was suddenly first in line to become acting president. The vacancy continued until Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president on December 6, 1973. Albert was also next in line from the time Ford assumed the presidency on August 9, 1974, following Nixon's resignation from office, until Ford's choice to succeed him as vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, was confirmed by Congress four months later.


See also

* Party leaders of the United States House of Representatives * Party leaders of the United States Senate


References


Bibliography

* Garraty, John, ed. ''American National Biography'' (1999) 20 volumes; contains scholarly biographies of all speakers no longer alive. * Green, Matthew N. ''The Speaker of the House: A Study of Leadership'' (Yale University Press; 2010) 292 pages; Examines partisan pressures and other factors that shaped the leadership of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; focuses on the period since 1940. * Grossman, Mark. ''Speakers of the House of Representatives'' (Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2009). The comprehensive work on the subject, covering, in depth, the lives of the speakers from Frederick Muhlenberg to Nancy Pelosi. * * Remini, Robert V. ''The House: the History of the House of Representatives'' (Smithsonian Books, 2006). The standard scholarly history. * Rohde, David W. ''Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House'' (1991). * Smock, Raymond W., and Susan W. Hammond, eds. ''Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries'' (1998). Short biographies of key leaders. * Zelizer. Julian E. ed. ''The American Congress: The Building of Democracy'' (2004). A comprehensive history by 40 scholars.


External links


"Capitol Questions."
C-SPAN (2003). Notable elections and role. * ''The Cannon Centenary Conference: The Changing Nature of the Speakership.'' (2003). House Document 108–204. History, nature and role of the speakership. * ''Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Congress'', 5th ed. (2000). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press. * Woodrow Wilson, Wilson, Woodrow. (1885). ''Congressional Government.'' New York: Houghton Mifflin. {{United States Congress, membersandleaders Speakers of the United States House of Representatives, Lists of office-holders in the United States, Speaker of the House Lists of members of the United States House of Representatives, Speakers 1789 establishments in the United States