[House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House]
[Chapter 34. Office of the Speaker]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


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                   CHAPTER 34 - OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER

                              HOUSE PRACTICE

  Sec. 1. Role of Speaker
  Sec. 2. Term of Office; Vacancy
  Sec. 3. Election
  Sec. 4. Jurisdiction and Duties; Rulings
  Sec. 5. Participation in Debate and Voting
  Sec. 6. The Speaker Pro Tempore
        Research References
          1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 186-234; 2 Hinds Sec. Sec. 1307-1412
          6 Cannon Sec. Sec. 23, 24, 247-282
          Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 1-14
          Manual Sec. Sec. 621-639, 970

  Sec. 1 . Role of Speaker

      The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House and is charged 
  with numerous duties and responsibilities by law and by the House 
  rules. As the presiding officer of the House, the Speaker maintains 
  order, manages its proceedings, and governs the administration of its 
  business. Manual Sec. 622; Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 2-8. The major 
  functions of the Speaker with respect to the consideration of measures 
  on the floor include recognizing Members who seek to address the House 
  (Manual Sec. 949), construing and applying the House rules (Manual 
  Sec. 627), and putting the question on matters arising on the floor to 
  a vote (Manual Sec. 630).
      The Speaker's role as presiding officer is an impartial one, and 
  his rulings serve to protect the rights of the minority. 88-1, June 4, 
  1963, pp 10151-65. In seeking to protect the interests of the 
  minority, he has even asked unanimous consent that an order of the 
  House be vacated where the circumstances so required. 89-1, May 18, 
  1965, p 10871.

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  Sec. 2 . Term of Office; Vacancy

                                Term Limit

      The Speaker's term of office begins on his taking of his oath of 
  office, which immediately follows his election and opening remarks. 
  The term ends on the expiration of the Congress in which he was 
  elected, unless he has resigned, died, or been removed from office. 
  Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 2. During the 104th through 107th Congresses, the 
  Speaker's term of office was limited for four consecutive Congresses. 
  That rule was repealed in the 108th Congress. Manual Sec. 635.

                                  Vacancy

      The Office of Speaker may be declared vacant by resolution, which 
  may be offered as a matter of privilege. Manual Sec. 315; 6 Cannon 
  Sec. 35. Under rule I clause 8(b)(3), adopted in the 108th Congress, 
  the Speaker is required to deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in 
  the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore in the case 
  of a vacancy in the Office of Speaker. The Member acting as Speaker 
  pro tempore under this provision may exercise such authorities of the 
  Office of Speaker as may be necessary and appropriate pending the 
  election of a Speaker or Speaker pro tempore. A vacancy in the Office 
  may exist by reason of the physical inability of the Speaker to 
  discharge the duties of the Office.


  Sec. 3 . Election

                        Speaker Chosen from Members

      Article I, section 2 of the Constitution directs that the House 
  choose its Speaker and other officers. The Speaker is the only House 
  officer who traditionally has been chosen from the sitting membership 
  of the House. Manual Sec. 26. The Constitution does not limit his 
  selection from among that class, but the practice has been followed 
  invariably. The Speaker's term of office thus expires at the end of 
  his term of office as a Member, whereas the other House officers 
  continue in office ``until their successors are chosen and 
  qualified.'' Rule II clause 1; 1 Hinds Sec. 187.

                            Nomination and Vote

      The general practice for election of Speaker begins with 
  nominations from each party caucus followed by a viva voce vote of the 
  Members-elect. Relying on the Act of June 1, 1789, the Clerk 
  recognized for nominations for Speaker as being of higher 
  constitutional privilege than a resolution to postpone the election of 
  a Speaker and instead provide for the election of

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  a Speaker pro tempore pending the disposition of certain ethics 
  charges against the nominee of the majority party. 2 USC Sec. 25; 
  Manual Sec. 27.
      Under the modern practice, the Speaker is elected by a majority of 
  Members-elect voting by surname, a quorum being present. Manual 
  Sec. 27; 1 Hinds Sec. 216; 6 Cannon Sec. 24. The Clerk appoints 
  tellers for this election. However, the House, and not the Clerk, 
  decides by what method it shall elect. 1 Hinds Sec. 210. For former 
  practices relating to the election of the Speaker, see Manual Sec. 27; 
  1 Hinds Sec. Sec. 212, 214, 218; 8 Cannon Sec. 3883.
      In two instances the House agreed to choose and subsequently did 
  choose a Speaker by a plurality of votes but confirmed the choice by 
  majority vote. In 1849 the House had been in session 19 days without 
  being able to elect a Speaker, no candidate having received a majority 
  of the votes cast. The voting was viva voce, each Member responding to 
  the call of the roll by naming the candidate for whom he voted. 
  Finally, after the fifty-ninth ballot, the House adopted a resolution 
  declaring that a Speaker could be elected by a plurality. 1 Hinds 
  Sec. 221. In 1856 the House again struggled over the election of a 
  Speaker. Ballots numbering 129 had been taken without any candidate 
  receiving a majority of the votes cast. The House then adopted a 
  resolution permitting the election to be decided by a plurality. 1 
  Hinds Sec. 222. On both of these occasions, the House ratified the 
  plurality election by a majority vote.


  Sec. 4 . Jurisdiction and Duties; Rulings

      The Speaker presides over the business of the House. In the 
  execution of his duties, the Speaker:

     Calls to order and the approval of the Journal. Manual 
         Sec. Sec. 621, 622.
     Refers bills and other matters to committee. Manual Sec. 816.
     Disposes of business on the Speaker's table. Manual 
         Sec. Sec. 873-875.
     Designates a Speaker pro tempore, and appoints Chairmen of the 
         Committee of the Whole. Manual Sec. Sec. 632, 970.
     Recognizes Members. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 3.16-3.23.
     States a question in prescribed form. Manual Sec. 630.
     Supervises the timing of debate and other proceedings in the 
         House. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 3.25.
     Rules on points of order and responds to parliamentary 
         inquiries. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 3.
     Makes appointments pursuant to statute, House rules, and House 
         resolutions. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 6. For appointments to 
         committees, see Committees.
     Certifies to a U.S. Attorney persons found to be in contempt 
         of a House committee. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 3.40.

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     Declares the House in recess in the event of an emergency 
         pursuant to his inherent power, pursuant to rule I clause 12, 
         or pursuant to a House resolution authorizing him to take such 
         action. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 3.44; see Recess.
     Changes convening time (within constitutional limit) during an 
         adjournment of not more than three days, in the case of 
         imminent impairment of the place of reconvening. Rule I clause 
         12(c).
     Convenes the House in a place at the seat of government other 
         than the Hall of the House whenever it is in the public 
         interest. Rule 1 clause 12(d).
     Signs various documents, including warrants and subpoenas. 
         Rule I clause 4.
     Makes preliminary decisions as to questions of privilege. 3 
         Hinds Sec. Sec. 2649, 2650, 2654.
     Determines the presence of a quorum, conducts quorum counts, 
         and counts certain votes. Manual Sec. Sec. 55, 630, 810, 1012; 
         4 Hinds Sec. 2932.
     Announces the absence of a quorum without unnecessary delay. 6 
         Cannon Sec. 652.
     Maintains order in debate. Manual Sec. 960.
     Administers censure by direction of the House. 6 Cannon 
         Sec. Sec. 236, 237.
     Designates Members to travel on official business of the 
         House. Manual Sec. 636.
     Appoints Members to conference committees. Manual 
         Sec. Sec. 536, 637.
     Rules on the validity of conference reports. Manual Sec. 628; 
         5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6409, 6410, 6414, 6416, 6409-6413; 8 Cannon 
         Sec. Sec. 3256, 3264.
     Declares the House adjourned when the hour previously fixed 
         for adjournment arrives. 5 Hinds Sec. 6735.
     Approves assignment of leadership staff to the floor. Rule IV 
         clause 2(a)

      Many matters have been held to be beyond the scope of the 
  Speaker's responsibility under the rules. The Speaker does not:

     Construe the legislative or legal effect of a pending measure 
         or comment on the merits thereof. Manual Sec. 628; Deschler Ch 
         6 Sec. Sec. 4.20, 4.21.
     Determine whether Members have abused leave to print. Manual 
         Sec. 628.
     Respond to hypothetical questions, render anticipatory 
         rulings, or decide a question not directly presented by the 
         proceedings. Manual Sec. 628; Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 4.13, 
         4.14.
     Determine questions that are within the province of the 
         Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Manual Sec. 971; 5 
         Hinds Sec. 6987.
     Pass on the constitutional powers of the House, the 
         constitutionality of House rules, or the constitutionality of 
         amendments offered to pending bills. Manual Sec. 628.
     Resolve questions on the consistency of an amendment with the 
         measure to which it is offered, or with an amendment that 
         already has been adopted, or on the consistency of proposed 
         action with other acts of the House. Manual Sec. Sec. 466, 628; 
         5 Hinds Sec. 5781.

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     Answer inquiries as to the availability of amendments not yet 
         offered. Deschler Ch 27 Sec. 3.37.
     Decide whether a Member should be allowed to display an 
         exhibit in debate, except under the Speaker's duty to preserve 
         decorum. Manual Sec. 622; Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 4.10.
     Rule on the sufficiency or effect of committee reports or 
         whether the committee has followed instructions. Manual 
         Sec. 628; 2 Hinds Sec. 1338; 4 Hinds Sec. Sec. 4404, 4689; 
         Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 4.22, 4.23.
     Rule on the propriety or expediency of a proposed course of 
         action. Manual Sec. 628.
     Construe the consequences of a pending vote. Deschler Ch 6 
         Sec. Sec. 4.27, 4.28.
     Determine whether a Member should be censured or whether an 
         office he holds is incompatible with his membership, these 
         being matters for the House to decide. 2 Hinds Sec. 1275; 6 
         Cannon Sec. 253.
     Look behind the unambiguous language of a special order 
         adopted by the House when interpreting its language. Manual 
         Sec. 628.

      For jurisdiction and duties of the Chairman of the Committee of 
  the Whole, see Committees of the Whole.


  Sec. 5 . Participation in Debate and Voting

                                  Debate

      Although the Speaker's usual role is that of the presiding 
  officer, there have been many instances in which he has made a 
  statement from the Chair or in which he has relinquished the Chair and 
  participated in the debate on the floor. Manual Sec. 358. He may take 
  the floor for purposes of debate both in the House and in the 
  Committee of the Whole. If the Speaker is to participate in debate on 
  the floor of the House, he calls another Member to the Chair to serve 
  as Speaker pro tempore. Manual Sec. 358; 2 Hinds Sec. 1360.

                                  Voting

      Under the early rules of the House, the Speaker was barred from 
  voting except under certain circumstances. 5 Hinds Sec. 5964. Today, 
  the Speaker has the same right as other Members to vote but only 
  occasionally exercises it. Manual Sec. 631. The Speaker may vote on 
  any matter that comes before the House, and he is required to vote 
  where his vote would be decisive or where the House is engaged in 
  voting by ballot. Rule I clause 7; Manual Sec. 631. The duty of giving 
  a decisive vote may be exercised after the intervention of other 
  business, if a correction of the roll shows a condition wherein his 
  vote would be decisive. 5 Hinds Sec. Sec. 6061-6063. On an electronic 
  vote, the Chair may direct the Clerk to record him and verify that 
  instruction by submitting a vote card. Manual Sec. 631.

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  Sec. 6 . The Speaker Pro Tempore

                          Appointment or Election

      The Speaker may appoint a Speaker pro tempore. Such an appointment 
  may not exceed three legislative days, except that in the case of 
  illness the Speaker's appointment may extend to 10 days with the 
  approval of the House. Rule I clause 8. For longer periods, a Speaker 
  pro tempore is elected by the House. Manual Sec. 632. A Member 
  sometimes is designated Speaker pro tempore by the Speaker and 
  subsequently elected by the House. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 12.76. If the 
  Speaker appoints a Speaker pro tempore only for purposes of signing 
  enrolled bills and joint resolutions, such an appointment may extend 
  for a ``specified period of time'' with the approval of the House. 
  Rule I clause 8. The Speaker may appoint two alternate Members to sign 
  enrolled bills. Manual Sec. 634. Under rule I clause 8(b)(3), adopted 
  in the 108th Congress, the Speaker is required to deliver to the Clerk 
  a list of Members in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro 
  tempore in the case of a vacancy in the Office of Speaker.
      A Speaker pro tempore is elected pursuant to resolution. Deschler 
  Ch 6 Sec. 14.1. The resolution may be offered by the chairman of the 
  majority party caucus or by the Majority Leader. Deschler Ch 6 
  Sec. 14. A Speaker pro tempore by designation leaves the Chair pending 
  the offering of a resolution electing him as Speaker pro tempore. 
  Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 11.7, 14.1.

                              Oath of Office

      The oath of office is administered to an elected Speaker pro 
  tempore, but not to a designated Speaker pro tempore. Deschler Ch 6 
  Sec. 11. The oath is administered to an elected Speaker pro tempore by 
  the Speaker himself, by the Dean of the House, or by another Member. 
  Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 11.4-11.6.

                               Who May Serve

      Under rule I clause 8, the Speaker pro tempore must be a Member of 
  the House. Manual Sec. 632. He usually is a member of the majority 
  party (Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 10), such as the Majority Leader (Deschler 
  Ch 3 Sec. 17.5) or the Majority Whip (Deschler Ch 3 Sec. 23.5). 
  However, the Dean of the House also has served in that capacity. 89-1, 
  Jan. 19, 1965, p 946. On rare ceremonial occasions the Minority Leader 
  has been designated Speaker pro tempore. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 12.7.

                           Powers and Functions

      The Speaker pro tempore, as the occupant of the Chair, exercises 
  many functions that normally fall within the purview of the Speaker. 
  Routine

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  functions that are within the scope of authority of a Speaker pro 
  tempore are calling the House to order, making various announcements, 
  answering parliamentary inquiries, putting the question, counting for 
  a quorum, ruling on points of order, and designating another Speaker 
  pro tempore. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 9, 10. When the Office of Speaker 
  is vacant, the Member acting as Speaker pro tempore under rule I 
  section 8(b) may exercise such authorities of the Office as may be 
  necessary and appropriate pending the election of a Speaker or Speaker 
  pro tempore.
      The authority of a Speaker pro tempore to exercise certain powers 
  depends on whether he is designated, designated and approved, or 
  elected. The powers of a designated Speaker pro tempore, compared with 
  those of an elected Speaker pro tempore, are relatively limited. 
  Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 10, 14.
      Absent unanimous consent or specific House approval, a designated 
  Speaker pro tempore may not:

     Administer the oath of office to a Member-elect. Deschler Ch 6 
         Sec. 12.8.
     Announce appointments made by the Speaker pursuant to law. 96-
         1, Jan. 31, 1979, p 1511.
     Appoint conferees or make appointments of additional 
         conferees. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. Sec. 12.9, 12.10.
     Appoint Members to attend a funeral. Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 12.14.
     Spread upon the Journal a veto message from the President. 
         Deschler Ch 6 Sec. 12.11.

      By contrast, an elected Speaker pro tempore may, for example, 
  appoint conferees, administer the oath of office to a Member-elect, 
  and preside at a joint session of Congress. Deschler Ch 6 
  Sec. Sec. 12.8, 14, 14.8.