Did you know .....
the U.S. Constitution does not require the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be a member of that duly elected body?
By statute, the Speaker is second in line, after the Vice President of the United States, to succeed the President.
The U.S. Constitution does state the U.S. House of Representatives chooses the Speaker.
The Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives explains:
"1. What is the role of the Speaker of the House?
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives customarily has the following roles:
- Institutional, as presiding officer and administrative head of the House
- Representative, as an elected Member of the House
- Party leader, as leader of the majority party in the House.
By statute, the Speaker is second in line, after the Vice President of the United States, to succeed the President (3 U.S.C. §19)."
2. How is the Speaker of the House elected?
Although the Constitution does not require the Speaker to be a Member of the House, all Speakers have been Members.
When a Congress convenes for the first time, each major party conference or caucus nominates a candidate for Speaker. Members customarily elect the Speaker by roll call vote. A Member usually votes for the candidate from his or her own party conference or caucus but can vote for anyone, whether that person has been nominated or not.
To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast—which may be less than a majority of the full House because of vacancies, absentee Members, or Members who vote "present." If no candidate receives the majority of votes, the roll call is repeated until a majority is reached and the Speaker is elected."
3. What are the duties of the Speaker of the House?
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives:
- Presides over the House
- Administers the Oath of Office to House Members
- Communicates with the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate
- Leads his or her party conference or caucus
- Chairs his or her party’s steering committee, which is involved in the selection of party members for standing committees
- Nominates chairs and members of the Committee on Rules and the Committee on House Administration.
The Speaker also appoints:
- Speakers pro tempore
- The chair who presides over the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union
- Members to House-Senate conference committees
- A Member to the Committee on the Budget
- Select committees
- Certain House staff
The Speaker recognizes Members to speak on the House Floor or make motions during Floor proceedings. The Speaker makes many important rulings and decisions in the House. The Speaker may debate or vote, but typically only occasionally does so. The Speaker also serves as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence."
This Washington report from HuffPost elaborated on other short news accounts I had read elsewhere:
"Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) nominated Newt Gingrich for House speaker during his party's leadership elections on Wednesday, but nobody backed the idea, a GOP source in the closed-door meeting confirmed to HuffPost."
Mr. Gingrich, a former Republican Speaker is no longer an elected member of the House of Representatives. No non-member has ever been elected Speaker which is reassuring.
Still, in the recent past we have seen one party's members sign allegiance to a pledge from an individual, lobbyist Grover Norquist, who was not an elected member of Congress -- couldn't possibly have been a constituent of each of those Representatives from many states who signed his pledge.
That same party's voting and/or non-voting behaviors, fomenting from minority elements in the Republican Party this past four years, have defied typical legislating behaviors needed to resolve serious problems impacting every American. They've contributed to jeopardizing the credibility and viability of our nation which they continue to do. This set me to thinking about what could happen in an unusual situation affecting Presidential succession.
I cannot realistically believe circumstances would ever develop in election years to come that would result in an individual other than an elected Representative being chosen as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. But when I consider the chain of ascension to the Presidency, the degree to which some people or groups might go to acquire that position's power, I suppose anything is possible. We might conjure such a situation as only imaginative fantasy for a TV series, the plot for a book or a movie. Unfortunately, such fictions have become reality in some instances.
Consequently, I think we're wise to remind ourselves of our governmental system process, so we can be aware should any efforts develop that might circumvent our best interests as citizens in all future Congressional (every two years) and U. S. Presidential election years (every four years.)
Did you realize a Speaker of the House of Representatives didn't have to be an elected member of the House? I may have been taught this in Jr. High Civics many years ago, but I had forgotten. What are your thoughts?