The House of Representatives is one of the two bodies that constitute Congress in the United States. It’s one of the most important branches of government in the country and has the Speaker as its head. While the Speaker has several powers, those powers aren’t absolute. So, who can remove the Speaker of the House?
The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House. Members of the House elect the Speaker with a simple majority, and they also have the power to remove the Speaker. Functions of the Speaker include appointments, signing house documents, and control of the chamber and rooms under house jurisdiction.
However, the process for removing a speaker is quite complex, and no speaker has ever been removed. Most times, speakers who sense that they’re losing the House and at risk of removal usually resign instead. Here, we discuss the office of the Speaker of the House and who can remove the Speaker.
Who is the Speaker?
The Speaker is the presiding officer for the House of representatives. The office is a constitutional office, and Chapter 34 provides for the role, term and office, and duties of the Speaker. The office has been in existence since its creation by Article 1 Section 2 of the US Constitution in 1789. In that role, the Speaker is the parliamentary leader of the House of Representatives and the de facto political leader of the majority party in the House. the roles and duties of the Speaker are quite numerous and clearly defined by the constitution. The Speaker is second in the line of succession to become the US president after the Vice President and before the senate president.
How Is the Speaker Chosen?
The House elects the Speaker at the start of a new congress, which is every two years. But the death, resignation, or removal of the person occupying the position midterm could also lead to an election to choose a new one anytime. Since 1839, The House has used roll call votes to elect speakers. Usually, each party will nominate a person from their party for the position, and the representatives will vote for who they want. Representatives aren’t bound to their party’s decision which means they don’t have to vote for who their party nominated. But this is what happens as the election will determine who has the majority in the House.
Since the constitution doesn’t provide that a speaker has to be an incumbent member of the House, it’s possible to nominate and vote for someone not currently in the House. This has happened many times in the past years, but no one who isn’t an incumbent has been able to win and become the Speaker of the House. Also, while representatives don’t have to vote according to party lines, it’s rare for a representative to vote for another party member. Doing this can attract serious punishment from the party. In most cases, representatives who don’t want to vote for whoever the party nominates will vote for another party member or vote present.
A candidate must get a majority vote to be elected, and if there’s no majority, they’ll repeat the roll call until there’s a majority. This has happened on a few occasions. Once the majority has voted for a person, such person would be sworn in as the Speaker by the Dean of the US House of Representatives, the longest-serving member of the House.
Functions of the Speaker
Functions of the Speaker include:
1. Presiding Officer
The Speaker is most importantly the presiding officer of the House, which means they have full powers. Such powers include preserving order and decorum in the House, which gives the Speaker power to order the galleries or lobbies to be cleared where disorderly conduct or disturbance occurs. The Speaker also has control over the chamber, corridors, passages, and rooms under the jurisdiction of the House except those that a law or rule provides otherwise. As the presiding officer, the Speaker has very extensive duties and can delegate that duty to other members of the parliament to act temporarily when the Speaker is absent.
The rules of the House require the Speaker to submit a confidential list of members designated to act as Speaker should the Speaker be incapable of performing their duties for one reason or another. As the presiding officer, the Speaker determines which committee entertains any matter before the House and can participate in the debate and vote. However, they rarely vote except when such a vote would be decisive or on important legislative matters where House engages in voting by ballot. The Speaker also presides over joint sessions when the House hosts the Senate, and the Speaker is the number one legislator in the country.
2. Signing House Documents
The Speaker also has to sign every document coming from the House. this includes acts, joint resolutions, addresses, writs, subpoenas, and warrants. It’s part of the duty also sign all abstracts for payments from funds meant for the House.
3. Appointment of Officers
The duty of the Speaker also includes appointing other officers of the House, such as the parliamentarian, general counsel, inspector general, and historian. In addition, if an elected office becomes vacant in the House, the Speaker has the power to designate someone to that position until the House eventually elects a replacement. The Speaker also chooses 9 of the 13 members of the Committee on Rules based on the approval of the majority party. The appointment of members for conference committees and select committees also falls to the Speaker.
Removal The Speaker
The House also has the power to remove the Speaker if the Speaker is found to have committed impeachable conduct. Of course, what determines if an action is impeachable isn’t defined by law which means it’s subjective. Any member of the House can propose a resolution asking for the removal of a speaker. All it takes to pass that proposal and remove a speaker is for a simple majority to vote for that resolution. While it’s simple theoretically, it’s much more complex in real life, which explains why no speaker has been removed before. Most speakers who have faced that situation usually opt to resign instead of being removed.
Only the House can remove the Speaker, which hasn’t happened before, even though there have been attempts to remove the Speaker. However, the Speaker can still leave office without finishing their term if they resign.