Speaker (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms


Frederick Muhlenberg, 1st Speaker of the House of Representatives
Frederick Muhlenberg, 1st Speaker of the House of Representatives

The presiding officer of the House of Representatives, selected by the caucus of the party to which she belongs and formally elected by the whole House.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” And when Congress first convened in 1789, the House chose Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg as its Speaker. The Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles: the institutional role of presiding officer and administrative head of the House, the partisan role of leader of the majority party in the House, and the representative role of an elected Member of the House. The Speaker of the House is second in line to succeed the President, after the Vice President, and preceding the President Pro Tempore (3 U.S.C. § 19).


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The position of Speaker is established by the Constitution in Article. I. Section. 2. The House. The Speaker is the most senior officer of the House and third most senior official in the federal government. Institutionally, the Speaker presides over the House, refers measures to committee, makes rulings on points of order, has priority right of recognition on the floor, and sets the agenda. The Speaker appoints members to task forces, commissions, conference committees, some legislative committees, and select and special committees. The Speaker oversees the management of support functions. By tradition, the Speaker only occasionally participates in floor debate and seldom votes.

The Speaker is elected by majority vote of the House. Candidates are nominated by their respective party caucus or conference. On rare occasions, such as at the beginning of the 109th Congress, other candidates, in addition to those nominated by the party caucus or conference, have had their names put in nomination. The Speaker does not have to be a member of Congress, but all Speakers have been representatives.

The Role of the Speaker of the House


Also see Presiding Officer; Clerk of the House; A Note About Usage: ‘Congress’; Congressional Leadership and Committees.






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