Archive from October, 2015
5 Oct
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All you wanted to know about the Speaker of the House (but were afraid to ask)

The House of Representatives is poised to elect a new Speaker. Here’s what you Knowledge Junkies should know about the position:

-The position of Speaker of the House originates from Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution. It reads, “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers…”

-There are no term limits for Speaker (the longest serving Speaker was Samuel Rayburn at 17 years).

-The Speaker serves as the leader of the House of Representatives.

-As leader of the House, the Speaker acts as the presiding officer and administrative head of the House.

-The Speaker also has the partisan role of leader of the majority party in the House, and has the responsibility of implementing that party’s legislative agenda.

-Although almost never invoked, the Speaker is in charge of the Sergeant of Arms of the House of Representatives who has command of the Mace of the United States House of Representatives.  If a Representative becomes unruly, the Speaker can order the Sergeant at Arms to lift the mace and present it before an unruly Representative, thereby restoring order.  

-After the Vice President, the Speaker is second in line to succeed the President.

-The Speaker is elected at the start of each Congressional session or upon vacancy (as is the current case).

-Since 1839, the Speaker has been elected by roll call vote. This occurs after the party caucuses select their respective candidates.

-The first Speaker was Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania. But the rumors that he blocked the creation of German as our national language is false.

-James K. Polk is the only former Speaker to be elected President. The only other Speaker to be a major party’s nomination for President was James G. Blaine, who ran for President as a Republican in 1884, but lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland.

-The 1824 Presidential Election went to the House of Representatives when no candidate received a majority. Speaker Henry Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams, ensuring his election over Andrew Jackson. Adams in turn named Clay as Secretary of State, and heir apparent to the Presidency.

-The contest to choose the Speaker of the House for the 34th Congress lasted for two months, from December 3, 1855 to February 2, 1856. Nathaniel Banks, a Democrat turned Know Nothing turned Independent turned Republican, won on the 133rd ballot. Republican leaders at the time called the leadership fight one of the first national victories of the Republican Party, which was founded in 1855.

-The last Speaker replaced mid-term was Jim Wright (D-TX) in 1989.

-Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first female Speaker of the House. She was also the first female ex-Speaker of the House.