Monday, December 10, 2012

CHAIN OF ASCENSION CONSIDERATIONS



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.


"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?


 













9 comments:

  1. It is scary to think what very powerful people might do to get what they want---AND, one forgets how close to the Presidency this positio is....Frightening!

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  2. Dear Joared, this is all new information to me. Like you, maybe I learned it as a freshman taking Civics in high school, but I certainly don't remember any of this. Quite frankly, it's scary, and a good writer of fiction--thrillers--could do a lot with this. Peace.

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  3. New to me, and bothersome. Things like this should be fixed. One would think some legislator interested in good government (there must be one somewhere!) would sponsor a constitutional amendment to require the speaker be elected by House members. The fix would take a long time, but cost nothing and apparently have no negatives.

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    1. The constitution does require the speaker be elected by House members, BUT "...the Constitution does not require the Speaker to be a Member of the House, all Speakers have been Members."

      You, Dick, or I, any other citizen, could become Speaker of the House if we could get enough Representatives to vote for us -- which is my point of concern if there was a worst case scenario involving enough Congresspersons.

      "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."

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  4. Joared: How often has this happened in our history? Has there ever been another person besides NG who was proposed for Speaker who was not an elected member of the House?

    The end is nigh.....

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    1. M.E.: Guess you overlooked in 2. "How the Speaker is elected" above that "all Speakers have been Members."

      I have not seen any information as to whether or not anyone not a member of the House other than N.G. has ever been nominated to be Speaker.

      My point is that though the possibility a Speaker -- third in succession to the Presidency -- is unlikely to be someone who is not a current elected member of the House, the U.S. Constitution permits that possibility.

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  5. I did not study the American system of government while growing up in France but have seen some surprising things happen here. For example, I agree with many people from other countries who believe that when President Bush was elected – well that he was not, that it was a coup d’├ętat as the Florida counts were not there for him. Foreign representatives wished to come and check the counting (as America does for some foreign countries when the election is in doubt) but were not allowed to come into Florida.

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    1. Yes, "some surprising things have happened here" which is why I wanted to bring to everyone's attention that legally we could have a House Speaker who wasn't an elected person -- if he/she could get sufficient House members votes.

      Since the Speaker is third in succession to the Presidency, I think it's important citizens know this if they never did, or be reminded of it. The desire for power and control by some individuals and groups has the potential for "surprising things." Hopefully, there would be checks in the House to prevent such from happening.

      Yes, there have been some who have questioned the outcome of a select few of our Presidential elections. I recall this was alleged about the first term of President John F. Kennedy, then years later that of President George W. Bush. Certainly when the candidate becomes President who wins the electoral college vote but has lost the popular vote there is a great deal of voter dissatisfaction and sometimes speculation about the election's validity. The Bush election validity raised considerable question since circumstances resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court actually ruling in such a way as to determine the election outcome.

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