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Speaker of the United States House of Representatives


Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Flag of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Seal of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
John Boehner

since January 5, 2011
Style Mr. Speaker
(Informal and within the House)
The Honorable
Appointer U.S. House of Representatives
(Elected by)
Term length No term limits are imposed; elected by the House at the start of each session, and upon a vacancy
Constituting instrument U.S. Constitution
Formation March 4, 1789
First holder Frederick Muhlenberg
April 1, 1789
Succession Second in the Presidential Line of Succession
Website Speaker of the House John Boehner

The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the chamber. The office was established in 1789 by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which states in part, "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker..." The current Speaker is John Boehner, a Republican who represents Ohio's 8th congressional district. The Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an elected House Representative, though all Speakers have been an elected Member of Congress.[1]

The Speaker is second in the United States presidential line of succession, after the Vice President and ahead of the President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate.[2] Unlike some Westminster system parliaments, in which the office of Speaker is considered non-partisan, in the United States, the Speaker of the House is a leadership position and the office-holder actively works to set the majority party's legislative agenda. The Speaker usually does not personally preside over debates, instead delegating the duty to members of the House from the majority party.

Aside from duties relating to heading the House and the majority political party, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and represents his or her Congressional district.


  • Selection 1
  • History 2
    • Notable elections 2.1
  • Partisan role 3
  • Presiding officer 4
  • Other functions 5
  • List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives 6
    • List of Speakers by time in office 6.1
    • Number of Speakers per State 6.2
    • List of living former Speakers 6.3
  • Recent election results 7
    • Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2007 7.1
    • Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2009 7.2
    • Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2011 7.3
    • Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2013 7.4
  • See also 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The House of Representatives elects the Speaker of the House on the first day of every new Congress and in the event of the death or resignation of an incumbent Speaker. The Clerk of the House of Representatives requests nominations: there are normally two, one from each major party (each party will have previously met to decide on its nominee). The Clerk then calls the roll of the Representatives-elect, each Representative-elect indicating the surname of the candidate he or she is supporting. Representatives-elect are not restricted to voting for one of the nominated candidates and may vote for any person, even for someone who is not a member (or member-elect) of the House at all. They may also abstain by voting "present".[3]

To be elected as Speaker, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of all votes cast for individuals, i.e. excluding those who abstain. If no candidate wins such a majority, then the roll call is repeated until a Speaker is elected. The last time repeated votes were required was in 1923, when the Speaker was elected on the ninth ballot.[3]

The new Speaker is then sworn in by the Dean of the United States House of Representatives, the chamber's longest-serving member.

In modern practice, the Speaker is chosen by the majority party from among its senior leaders either when a vacancy in the office arrives or when the majority party changes. It is usually obvious within two or three weeks of a House election who the new Speaker will be. Previous Speakers have been minority leaders (when the majority party changes, as they are already the House party leader, and as the minority leader are usually their party's nominee for Speaker), or majority leaders (upon departure of the current Speaker in the majority party), assuming that the party leadership hierarchy is followed. In the past, other candidates have included chairpersons of influential standing committees.

So far, the Democrats have always elevated their minority leader to the Speakership upon reclaiming majority control of the House. However, Republicans have not always followed this leadership succession pattern. In 1919, Republicans bypassed James Robert Mann, R-IL, who had been Minority Leader for eight years, and elected a backbencher representative, Frederick H. Gillett, R-MA, to be Speaker. Mann had "angered many Republicans by objecting to their private bills on the floor" and was also a protégé of autocratic Speaker Joseph Cannon, R-IL (1903–1911), and many members "suspected that he would try to re-centralize power in his hands if elected Speaker."[4] More recently, although Robert H. Michel was Minority Leader in 1994 when the Republicans regained control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections, he had already announced his retirement and had little or no involvement in the campaign. Including the "Contract with America", which was unveiled six weeks before Election Day. Michel opted not to seek re-election because he had been isolated in the caucus by Minority Whip Newt Gingrich and other younger and more aggressive Congressmen.

It is expected that members of the House vote for their party's candidate. If they do not, they usually vote for someone else in their party or vote "present". Those who vote for the other party's candidate often face serious consequences, up to and including the loss of seniority. The last instance where a representative voted for the other party's candidate was in 2000, when Democrat Jim Traficant of Ohio voted for Republican Dennis Hastert. In response, the Democrats stripped him of his seniority and he lost all of his committee posts.

If the Speaker's party loses control of the House in an election, and if the Speaker and Majority Leader both remain in the leadership hierarchy, they would become the Minority Leader and Minority Whip, respectively. As the minority party has one less leadership position after losing the Speaker's chair, there may be a contest for the remaining leadership positions. Most Speakers whose party has lost control of the House have not returned to the party leadership (Tom Foley lost his seat, Dennis Hastert returned to the backbenches and resigned from the House in late 2007). However, Speakers Joseph William Martin, Jr. and Sam Rayburn did seek the post of Minority Leader in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Nancy Pelosi is the most recent example of an outgoing Speaker who was elected Minority Leader, after the Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 elections.


Frederick Muhlenberg (1789–1791, 1793–1795), was the first Speaker.

The first Speaker was Frederick Muhlenberg, who was elected as a Federalist for the first four Congresses.[5]

The position of Speaker started to gain its partisan role and its power in legislative development under Henry Clay (1811–1814, 1815–1820, and 1823–1825).[6] In contrast to many of his predecessors, Clay participated in several debates, and used his influence to procure the passage of measures he supported—for instance, the declaration of the War of 1812, and various laws relating to Clay's "American System". Furthermore, when no candidate received an Electoral College majority in the 1824 presidential election causing the President to be elected by the House, Speaker Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams instead of Andrew Jackson, thereby ensuring Adams' victory. Following Clay's retirement in 1825, the power of the Speakership once again began to decline, despite Speakership elections becoming increasingly bitter. As the Civil War approached, several sectional factions nominated their own candidates, often making it difficult for any candidate to attain a majority. In 1855 and again in 1859, for example, the contest for Speaker lasted for two months before the House achieved a result. During this time, Speakers tended to have very short tenures. For example, from 1839 to 1863 there were eleven Speakers, only one of whom served for more than one term. To date, James K. Polk is the only Speaker of the House later elected President of the United States.

Henry Clay (1813–1814, 1815–1820, 1823–1825) used his influence as speaker to ensure the passage of measures he favored
Joseph Gurney Cannon (1903–1911) was one of the most powerful speakers.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the office of Speaker began to develop into a very powerful one. At the time, one of the most important sources of the Speaker's power was his position as Chairman of the Samuel J. Randall, John Griffin Carlisle, and Charles F. Crisp, and Republicans James G. Blaine, Thomas Brackett Reed, and Joseph Gurney Cannon.

The power of the Speaker was greatly augmented during the tenure of the Republican Thomas Brackett Reed (1889–1891, 1895–1899). "Czar Reed", as he was called by his opponents,[7] sought to end the obstruction of bills by the minority, in particular by countering the tactic known as the "disappearing quorum".[8] By refusing to vote on a motion, the minority could ensure that a quorum would not be achieved, and that the result would be invalid. Reed, however, declared that members who were in the chamber but refused to vote would still count for the purposes of determining a quorum. Through these and other rulings, Reed ensured that the Democrats could not block the Republican agenda.

The Speakership reached its apogee during the term of Republican Joseph Gurney Cannon (1903–1911). Cannon exercised extraordinary control over the legislative process. He determined the agenda of the House, appointed the members of all committees, chose committee chairmen, headed the Rules Committee, and determined which committee heard each bill. He vigorously used his powers to ensure that Republican proposals were passed by the House. In 1910, however, Democrats and several dissatisfied Republicans joined together to strip Cannon of many of his powers, including the ability to name committee members and his chairmanship of the Rules Committee.[9] Fifteen years later, Speaker Nicholas Longworth restored much, but not all, of the lost influence of the position.

One of the most influential Speakers in history was Democrat Sam Rayburn.[10] Rayburn was the longest-serving Speaker in history, holding office from 1940 to 1947, 1949 to 1953, and 1955 to 1961. He helped shape many bills, working quietly in the background with House committees. He also helped ensure the passage of several domestic measures and foreign assistance programs advocated by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Rayburn's successor, Democrat John William McCormack (served 1962–1971), was a somewhat less influential speaker, particularly because of dissent from younger members of the Democratic Party. During the mid-1970s, the power of the Speakership once again grew under Democrat Carl Albert. The Committee on Rules ceased to be a semi-independent panel, as it had been since 1910. Instead, it once again became an arm of the party leadership. Moreover, in 1975, the Speaker was granted the authority to appoint a majority of the members of the Rules Committee. Meanwhile, the power of committee chairmen was curtailed, further increasing the relative influence of the Speaker.

Albert's successor, Democrat Tip O'Neill, was a prominent Speaker because of his public opposition to the policies of President Ronald Reagan. O'Neill is the longest continually serving Speaker, from 1977 through 1987. He challenged Reagan on domestic programs and on defense expenditures. Republicans made O'Neill the target of their election campaigns in 1980 and 1982 but Democrats managed to retain their majorities in both years.

The roles of the parties reversed in 1994 when, after spending forty years in the minority, the Republicans regained control of the House with the "Jim Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party to become independent and caucused with Senate Democrats to give them a 51-49 majority.

In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats won a majority in the House. Nancy Pelosi became Speaker when the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007, making her the first female to hold the office. With the election of Barack Obama as President and Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, Pelosi became the first Speaker since Tom Foley to hold the office during single-party Democratic leadership in Washington.[11] During the 111th Congress, Pelosi was the driving force behind several of Obama's major initiatives that proved controversial, and the Republicans campaigned against the Democrats' legislation by staging a "Fire Pelosi" bus tour[12] and regained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections. House Minority Leader John Boehner was elected as Speaker.[13]

Notable elections

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the United States

Historically, there have been several controversial elections to the Speakership, such as the contest of 1839. In that case, even though the 26th United States Congress convened on December 2, the House could not begin the Speakership election until December 14 because of an election dispute in New Jersey known as the "Broad Seal War". Two rival delegations, one Whig and the other Democrat, had been certified as elected by different branches of the New Jersey government. The problem was compounded by the fact that the result of the dispute would determine whether the Whigs or the Democrats held the majority. Neither party agreed to permit a Speakership election with the opposite party's delegation participating. Finally, it was agreed to exclude both delegations from the election and a Speaker was finally chosen on December 17.

Another, more prolonged fight occurred in 1855 in the 34th United States Congress. The old Whig Party had collapsed but no single party had emerged to replace it. Candidates opposing the Democrats had run under a bewildering variety of labels, including Whig, Republican, American (Know Nothing), and simply "Opposition". By the time Congress actually met in December 1855, most of the northerners were concentrated together as Republicans, while most of the southerners and a few northerners used the American or Know Nothing label. Opponents of the Democrats held a majority in House, with the party makeup of the 234 Representatives being 83 Democrats, 108 Republicans, and 43 Know Nothings (primarily southern oppositionists). The Democratic minority nominated William A. Richardson of Illinois as Speaker, but because of sectional distrust, the various oppositionists were unable to agree on a single candidate for Speaker. The Republicans supported Nathaniel Prentiss Banks of Massachusetts, who had been elected as a Know Nothing but was now largely identified with the Republicans. The southern Know Nothings supported first Humphrey Marshall of Kentucky, and then Henry M. Fuller of Pennsylvania. The voting went on for almost two months with no candidate able to secure a majority, until it was finally agreed to elect the Speaker by plurality vote, and Banks was elected.[14] The House found itself in a similar dilemma when the 36th Congress met in December 1859. Although the Republicans held a plurality, the Republican candidate, John Sherman, was unacceptable to southern oppositionists due to his anti-slavery views, and once again the House was unable to elect a Speaker for several months. After Democrats allied with southern oppositionists to nearly elect the North Carolina oppositionist William N. H. Smith, Sherman finally withdrew in favor of compromise candidate William Pennington of New Jersey, a former Whig of unclear partisan loyalties, who was finally elected Speaker at the end of January 1860.[15]

The last Speakership elections in which the House had to vote more than once occurred in the 65th and 72nd United States Congress. In 1917, neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidate could attain a majority because three members of the Progressive Party and other individual members of other parties voted for their own party. The Republicans had a plurality in the House but James "Champ" Clark remained Speaker of the House because of the support of the Progressive Party members. In 1931, both the Republicans and the Democrats had 217 members with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party having one member who served as the deciding vote. The Farmer-Labor Party eventually voted for the Democrats' candidate for Speaker, John Nance Garner, who later became Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt.

In 1997, several Republican congressional leaders tried to force Speaker Newt Gingrich to resign. However, Gingrich refused since that would have required a new election for Speaker, which could have led to Democrats along with dissenting Republicans voting for Democrat Dick Gephardt (then Minority Leader) as Speaker. After the 1998 midterm elections where the Republicans lost seats, Gingrich did not stand for re-election. The next two figures in the House Republican leadership hierarchy, Majority Leader Richard Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, chose not to run for the office. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Bob Livingston, declared his bid for the Speakership, which was unopposed, making him Speaker-designate. It was then revealed, by Livingston himself, who had been publicly critical of President Bill Clinton's perjury during his sexual harassment trial, that he had engaged in an extramarital affair. He opted to resign from the House, despite being urged to stay on by House Democratic leader Gephardt. Subsequently, chief deputy whip Dennis Hastert was selected as Speaker. The Republicans retained their majorities in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections.

Former Speaker 2007 State of the Union Address making history as the first woman to sit behind the podium at such an address. President Bush acknowledged this by beginning his speech with the words, "Tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own — as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker".[16]

The Democrats won a majority of seats in the 2006 midterm elections. On November 16, 2006, Nancy Pelosi, who was then Minority Leader, was selected as Speaker-designate by House Democrats.[17] When the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007, she was elected as the 60th Speaker by a vote of 233-202, becoming the first woman elected Speaker of the House. Pelosi remained Speaker through the 111th Congress. For the 112th Congress, Republican John Boehner was unanimously designated Speaker-designate by House Republicans and was elected the 61st Speaker of the House. As a show of dissent, nineteen Democratic representatives voted for Democrats other than Pelosi, who had been chosen as House Minority Leader and the Democrats' candidate for Speaker.

Partisan role

The Constitution does not spell out the political role of the Speaker. As the office has developed historically, however, it has taken on a clearly partisan cast, very different from the Speakership of most Westminster-style legislatures, such as the Speaker of the British House of Commons, which is meant to be scrupulously non-partisan. The Speaker in the United States, by tradition, is the head of the majority party in the House of Representatives, outranking the Majority Leader. However, despite having the right to vote, the Speaker usually does not participate in debate and rarely votes.

The Speaker is responsible for ensuring that the House passes legislation supported by the majority party. In pursuing this goal, the Speaker may use his or her power to determine when each bill reaches the floor. They also chair the majority party's steering committee in the House. While the Speaker is the functioning head of the House majority party, the same is not true of the President pro tempore of the Senate, whose office is primarily ceremonial and honorary.

When the Speaker and the President belong to the same party, the Speaker tends to play the role in a more ceremonial light, as seen when Democratic-Republican Henry Clay, who personally ensured the presidential victory of fellow Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams. On the other side of the aisle, Democrat Sam Rayburn was a key player in the passing of New Deal legislation under the presidency of fellow Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Republican Joseph Gurney Cannon (under Theodore Roosevelt) was particularly infamous for his marginalization of the minority Democrats and centralizing of authority to the Speakership. In more recent times, Speaker Nancy Pelosi played a role in continuing the push for health care reform during the presidency of fellow Democrat Barack Obama.[18] The Republicans campaigned against Pelosi and the Democrats' legislation with their "Fire Pelosi" bus tour.[12][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

On the other hand, when the Speaker and the President belong to opposite parties, the public role and influence of the Speaker tend to increase. As the highest-ranking member of the opposition party (and in effect a de facto Leader of the Opposition), the Speaker is normally the chief public opponent of the President's agenda. In this scenario, the Speaker is known for undercutting the President's agenda by blocking measures by the minority party or rejecting bills by the Senate. One famous instance came in the form of Thomas Brackett Reed (under Grover Cleveland), a Speaker notorious for his successful attempt to force the Democrats to vote on measures where the Republicans had clear majorities, which ensured that Cleveland's Democrats were in no position to challenge the Republicans in the House. Joseph Cannon was particularly unique in that he led the conservative "Old Guard" wing of the Republican Party, while his President - Theodore Roosevelt - was of the more progressive clique, and more than just marginalizing the Democrats, Cannon used his power to punish the dissidents in his party and obstruct the progressive wing of the Republican Party.

More modern examples include Iraq War;[13] and current Speaker John Boehner, who clashes with President Barack Obama over budget issues and health care.[27]

Presiding officer

As presiding office of the House of Representatives, the Speaker holds a variety of powers over the House but usually delegates them to another member of the majority party. The Speaker may designate any member of the House to act as Speaker pro tempore and preside over the House. During important debates, the Speaker pro tempore is ordinarily a senior member of the majority party who may be chosen for his or her skill in presiding. At other times, more junior members may be assigned to preside to give them experience with the rules and procedures of the House. The Speaker may also designate a Speaker pro tempore for special purposes, such as designating a Representative whose district is near Washington, DC to sign enrolled bills during long recesses.

On the floor of the House, the presiding officer is always addressed as "Mister Speaker" or "Madam Speaker," even if it is a Speaker pro tempore, and not the Speaker him- or herself. When the House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole, the Speaker designates a member to preside over the Committee as the Chairman, who is addressed as "Mister Chairman" or "Madam Chairwoman." To speak, members must seek the presiding officer's recognition. The presiding officer may call on members as they please, and may therefore control the flow of debate. The presiding officer also rules on all points of order but such rulings may be appealed to the whole House. The Speaker is responsible for maintaining decorum in the House and may order the Sergeant-at-Arms to enforce House rules.

The Speaker's powers and duties extend beyond presiding in the chamber. In particular, the Speaker has great influence over the committee process. The Speaker selects nine of the thirteen members of the powerful Committee on Rules, subject to the approval of the entire majority party. The leadership of the minority party chooses the remaining four members. Furthermore, the Speaker appoints all members of select committees and conference committees. Moreover, when a bill is introduced, the Speaker determines which committee will consider it. As a member of the House, the Speaker is entitled to participate in debate and to vote but, by custom, only does so in exceptional circumstances. Ordinarily, the Speaker votes only when his or her vote would be decisive or on matters of great importance, such as constitutional amendments or major legislation.

Other functions

The speaker's office in the US Capitol, during the term of Dennis Hastert (1999 to 2007).

Because joint sessions and joint meetings of Congress are held in the House chamber, the Speaker presides over all such joint sessions and meetings. However, the Twelfth Amendment and 3 U.S.C. § 15 require that the President of the Senate preside over joint sessions of Congress assembled to count electoral votes and to certify the results of a presidential election.

The Speaker is also responsible for overseeing the officers of the House: the Clerk, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Chief Administrative Officer, and the Chaplain. The Speaker can dismiss any of these officers. The Speaker appoints the House Historian and the General Counsel and, jointly with the Majority and Minority Leaders, appoints the House Inspector General.

The Speaker is second in the presidential line of succession, immediately after the Vice President, under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. The Speaker is followed in the line of succession by the President pro tempore of the Senate and by the heads of federal executive departments. Some scholars argue that this provision of the succession statute is unconstitutional.[28]

To date, the implementation of the Presidential Succession Act has never been necessary and no Speaker has ever acted as President. Implementation of the law almost became necessary in 1973 after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. At the time, many believed that President Richard Nixon would resign because of the Watergate scandal, allowing Speaker Carl Albert to succeed to the Presidency. However, before he resigned, Nixon appointed Gerald Ford as Vice President in accordance with the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Nevertheless, the United States government takes the Speaker's place in the line of succession seriously enough that, for example, since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Speakers used military jets to fly back and forth to their districts and for other travel until Speaker Boehner discontinued the practice in 2011. The Speaker of the House is one of the officers to whom declarations of presidential inability or ability to resume the Presidency must be addressed under the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

List of Speakers of the United States House of Representatives

It includes the congressional district and political affiliation of each speaker as well as the number of their Congress and time they spent in the position.

# Speaker Party District Congress Tenure
1 Frederick Muhlenberg Pro-Administration Pennsylvania-AL 1st April 1, 1789 —
March 4, 1791
2 Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. Pro-Administration Connecticut-4 2nd October 24, 1791 —
March 4, 1793
3 Frederick Muhlenberg Anti-Administration Pennsylvania-AL 3rd December 2, 1793 —
March 4, 1795
4 Jonathan Dayton Federalist New Jersey-AL 4th December 7, 1795 —
March 4, 1797
5th May 15, 1797 —
March 4, 1799
5 Theodore Sedgwick Federalist Massachusetts-1 6th December 2, 1799 —
March 4, 1801
6 Nathaniel Macon Democratic-Republican North Carolina-5 7th December 7, 1801 —
March 4, 1803
North Carolina-6 8th October 17, 1803 —
March 4, 1805
9th December 2, 1805 —
March 4, 1807
7 Joseph Bradley Varnum Democratic-Republican Massachusetts-4 10th October 26, 1807 —
March 4, 1809
11th May 22, 1809 —
March 4, 1811
8 Henry Clay Democratic-Republican Kentucky-3 12th November 4, 1811 —
March 4, 1813
Kentucky-2 13th May 24, 1813 —
January 19, 1814
9 Langdon Cheves Democratic-Republican South Carolina-1 January 19, 1814 —
March 4, 1815
10 Henry Clay Democratic-Republican Kentucky-2 14th December 4, 1815 —
March 4, 1817
15th December 1, 1817 —
March 4, 1819
16th December 6, 1819 —
October 28, 1820
11 John W. Taylor Democratic-Republican New York-11 November 15, 1820 —
March 4, 1821
12 Philip Pendleton Barbour Democratic-Republican Virginia-11 17th December 4, 1821 —
March 4, 1823
13 Henry Clay Democratic-Republican Kentucky-3 18th December 1, 1823 —
March 4, 1825
14 John W. Taylor National Republican New York-17 19th December 5, 1825 —
March 4, 1827
15 Andrew Stevenson Democratic Virginia-9 20th December 3, 1827 —
March 4, 1829
21st December 7, 1829 —
March 4, 1831
22nd December 5, 1831 —
March 4, 1833
Virginia-11 23rd December 2, 1833 —
June 2, 1834
16 John Bell Whig Tennessee-7 June 2, 1834 —
March 4, 1835
17 James Polk Democratic Tennessee-9 24th December 7, 1835 —
March 4, 1837
25th September 4, 1837 —
March 4, 1839
18 Robert M. T. Hunter Whig Virginia-9 26th December 16, 1839 —
March 4, 1841
19 John White Whig Kentucky-9 27th May 31, 1841 —
March 4, 1843
20 John Winston Jones Democratic Virginia-6 28th December 4, 1843 —
March 4, 1845
21 John Wesley Davis Democratic Indiana-6 29th December 1, 1845 —
March 4, 1847
22 Robert Charles Winthrop Whig Massachusetts-1 30th December 6, 1847 —
March 4, 1849
23 Howell Cobb Democratic Georgia-6 31st December 22, 1849 —
March 4, 1851
24 Linn Boyd Democratic Kentucky-1 32nd December 1, 1851 —
March 4, 1853
33rd December 5, 1853 —
March 4, 1855
25 Nathaniel P. Banks American/Republican* Massachusetts-7 34th February 2, 1856 —
March 4, 1857
26 James Lawrence Orr Democratic South Carolina-5 35th December 7, 1857 —
March 4, 1859
27 William Pennington Republican New Jersey-5 36th February 1, 1860 —
March 4, 1861
28 Galusha A. Grow Republican Pennsylvania-14 37th July 4, 1861 —
March 4, 1863
29 Schuyler Colfax Republican Indiana-9 38th December 7, 1863 —
March 4, 1865
39th December 4, 1865 —
March 4, 1867
40th March 4, 1867 —
March 3, 1869
30 Theodore M. Pomeroy Republican New York-24 March 3, 1869 —
March 4, 1869
31 James G. Blaine Republican Maine-3 41st March 4, 1869 —
March 4, 1871
42nd March 4, 1871 —
March 4, 1873
43rd March 4, 1873 —
March 4, 1875
32 Michael C. Kerr Democratic Indiana-3 44th December 6, 1875 —
August 19, 1876
33 Samuel J. Randall Democratic Pennsylvania-3 December 4, 1876 —
March 4, 1877
45th October 15, 1877 —
March 4, 1879
46th March 18, 1879 —
March 4, 1881
34 J. Warren Keifer Republican Ohio-8 47th December 5, 1881 —
March 4, 1883
35 John G. Carlisle Democratic Kentucky-6 48th December 3, 1883 —
March 4, 1885
49th December 7, 1885 —
March 4, 1887
50th December 5, 1887 —
March 4, 1889
36 Thomas Brackett Reed Republican Maine-1 51st December 2, 1889 —
March 4, 1891
37 Charles Frederick Crisp Democratic Georgia-3 52nd December 8, 1891 —
March 4, 1893
53rd August 7, 1893 —
March 4, 1895
38 Thomas Brackett Reed Republican Maine-1 54th December 2, 1895 —
March 4, 1897
55th March 15, 1897 —
March 4, 1899
39 David B. Henderson Republican Iowa-3 56th December 4, 1899 —
March 4, 1901
57th December 2, 1901 —
March 4, 1903
40 Joseph Gurney Cannon Republican Illinois-18 58th November 9, 1903 —
March 4, 1905
59th December 4, 1905 —
March 4, 1907
60th December 2, 1907 —
March 4, 1909
61st March 15, 1909 —
March 4, 1911
41 Champ Clark Democratic Missouri-9 62nd April 4, 1911 —
March 4, 1913
63rd April 7, 1913 —
March 4, 1915
64th December 6, 1915 —
March 4, 1917
65th April 2, 1917 —
March 4, 1919
42 Frederick Gillett Republican Massachusetts-2 66th May 19, 1919 —
March 4, 1921
67th April 11, 1921 —
March 4, 1923
68th December 3, 1923 —
March 4, 1925
43 Nicholas Longworth Republican Ohio-1 69th December 7, 1925 —
March 4, 1927
70th December 5, 1927 —
March 4, 1929
71st April 15, 1929 —
March 4, 1931
44 John Nance Garner Democratic Texas-15 72nd December 7, 1931 —
March 4, 1933
45 Henry Thomas Rainey Democratic Illinois-20 73rd March 9, 1933 —
August 19, 1934
46 Joseph Wellington Byrns Democratic Tennessee-5 74th January 3, 1935 —
June 4, 1936
47 William B. Bankhead Democratic Alabama-7 June 4, 1936 —
January 3, 1937
75th January 5, 1937 —
January 3, 1939
76th January 3, 1939 —
September 15, 1940
48 Sam Rayburn Democratic Texas-4 September 16, 1940 —
January 3, 1941
77th January 3, 1941 —
January 3, 1943
78th January 6, 1943 —
January 3, 1945
79th January 3, 1945 —
January 3, 1947
49 Joseph William Martin, Jr. Republican Massachusetts-14 80th January 3, 1947 —
January 3, 1949
50 Sam Rayburn Democratic Texas-4 81st January 3, 1949 —
January 3, 1951
82nd January 3, 1951 —
January 3, 1953
51 Joseph William Martin, Jr. Republican Massachusetts-14 83rd January 3, 1953 —
January 3, 1955
52 Sam Rayburn Democratic Texas-4 84th January 3, 1955 —
January 3, 1957
85th January 3, 1957 —
January 3, 1959
86th January 7, 1959 —
January 3, 1961
87th January 3, 1961 —
November 16, 1961
53 John William McCormack Democratic Massachusetts-12 January 10, 1962 —
January 3, 1963
Massachusetts-9 88th January 9, 1963 —
January 3, 1965
89th January 4, 1965 —
January 3, 1967
90th January 10, 1967 —
January 3, 1969
91st January 3, 1969 —
January 3, 1971
54 Carl Albert Democratic Oklahoma-3 92nd January 21, 1971 —
January 3, 1973
93rd January 3, 1973 —
January 3, 1975
94th January 14, 1975 —
January 3, 1977
55 Tip O'Neill Democratic Massachusetts-8 95th January 4, 1977 —
January 3, 1979
96th January 15, 1979 —
January 3, 1981
97th January 5, 1981 —
January 3, 1983
98th January 3, 1983 —
January 3, 1985
99th January 3, 1985 —
January 3, 1987
56 Jim Wright Democratic Texas-12 100th January 6, 1987 —
January 3, 1989
101st January 3, 1989 —
June 6, 1989
57 Tom Foley Democratic Washington-5 June 6, 1989 —
January 3, 1991
102nd January 3, 1991 —
January 3, 1993
103rd January 5, 1993 —
January 3, 1995
58 Newt Gingrich Republican Georgia-6 104th January 4, 1995 —
January 3, 1997
105th January 7, 1997 —
January 3, 1999
59 Dennis Hastert Republican Illinois-14 106th January 6, 1999 —
January 3, 2001
107th January 3, 2001 —
January 3, 2003
108th January 7, 2003 —
January 3, 2005
109th January 3, 2005 —
January 3, 2007
60 Nancy Pelosi Democratic California-8 110th January 4, 2007 —
January 3, 2009
111th January 6, 2009 —
January 3, 2011
61 John Boehner Republican Ohio-8 112th January 5, 2011 –
January 2, 2013
113th January 3, 2013 –

* Note: Banks, a former Democrat originally elected as a Know Nothing, had come to be associated with the Republicans by the time the 34th Congress convened. Because the Republicans did not command a majority in Congress, and Banks did not receive any votes from Democrats or southern Know Nothings, Banks, after two months of deadlocked balloting, could only be elected after a motion was passed allowing the election of a speaker by plurality vote.

List of Speakers by time in office

17 years, 53 days
Sam Rayburn from 1940 to 1947,
1949 to 1953, and 1955 to 1961
9 years, 350 days
Tip O'Neill from 1977 to 1987
8 years, 344 days
John W. McCormack from 1962 to 1971
4 years
Nancy Pelosi from 2007 to 2011.
The first woman in United States history to serve as Speaker.
275 days
John Bell from 1834 to 1835
257 days
Michael C. Kerr from 1875 to 1876
1 day
Theodore M. Pomeroy in 1869

This list is based on the difference between dates; if counted by number of calendar days all the figures would be one greater. Time after adjournment of one Congress but before the convening of the next Congress is not counted. For example, Nathaniel Macon was Speaker in both the 8th and 9th Congresses, but the eight-month gap between the two Congresses is not counted toward his service.

Sam Rayburn is the only person to have served as Speaker of the House for more than ten years.

Theodore M. Pomeroy served as Speaker of the House for one day after Speaker Schuyler Colfax resigned to become Vice President of the United States; Pomeroy's term as a Member of Congress ended the next day.

Sam Rayburn, Henry Clay, Thomas Brackett Reed, Joseph William Martin, Jr., Frederick Muhlenberg, and John W. Taylor are the only Speakers of the House to have ever served in non-consecutive Congresses (i.e. another Speaker served in between each tenure).

# in
Speaker Time Rank
48/50/52 Sam Rayburn 17 years, 53 days 1
55 Tip O'Neill 9 years, 350 days 2
53 John W. McCormack 8 years, 344 days 3
59 Dennis Hastert 7 years, 359 days 4
41 Champ Clark 6 years, 357 days 5
08/10/13 Henry Clay 6 years, 231 days 6
54 Carl Albert 5 years, 337 days 7
40 Joseph Gurney Cannon 5 years, 285 days 8
57 Tom Foley 5 years, 209 days 9
31 James G. Blaine 5 years, 93 days 10
42 Frederick H. Gillett 4 years, 341 days 11
29 Schuyler Colfax 4 years, 176 days 12
36/38 Thomas Brackett Reed 4 years, 172 days 13
43 Nicholas Longworth 4 years, 133 days 14
47 William B. Bankhead 4 years, 102 days 15
15 Andrew Stevenson 4 years, 83 days 16
49/51 Joseph William Martin, Jr. 4 years 17
60 Nancy Pelosi 3 years, 363 days 18
58 Newt Gingrich 3 years, 361 days 19
06 Nathaniel Macon 3 years, 317 days 20
61 John Boehner 4 years, 19 days 21
35 John G. Carlisle 3 years, 267 days 22
33 Samuel J. Randall 3 years, 215 days 23
01/03 Frederick Muhlenberg 3 years, 64 days 24
07 Joseph Bradley Varnum 3 years, 49 days 25
04 Jonathan Dayton 3 years, 14 days 26
37 Charles Frederick Crisp 2 years, 295 days 27
17 James K. Polk 2 years, 268 days 28
24 Linn Boyd 2 years, 182 days 29
39 David B. Henderson 2 years, 182 days 30
56 Jim Wright 2 years, 151 days 31
19 John White 1 year, 277 days 32
28 Galusha A. Grow 1 year, 243 days 33
11/14 John W. Taylor 1 year, 198 days 34
45 Henry Thomas Rainey 1 year, 163 days 35
46 Joseph W. Byrns, Sr. 1 year, 153 days 36
02 Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. 1 year, 131 days 37
21 John Wesley Davis 1 year, 93 days 38
05 Theodore Sedgwick 1 year, 92 days 39
12 Philip Pendleton Barbour 1 year, 90 days 40
20 John Winston Jones 1 year, 90 days 41
34 J. Warren Keifer 1 year, 89 days 42
22 Robert Charles Winthrop 1 year, 88 days 43
26 James Lawrence Orr 1 year, 87 days 44
44 John Nance Garner 1 year, 87 days 45
18 Robert M. T. Hunter 1 year, 78 days 46
23 Howell Cobb 1 year, 72 days 47
09 Langdon Cheves 1 year, 44 days 48
27 William Pennington 1 year, 31 days 49
25 Nathaniel P. Banks 1 year, 30 days 50
16 John Bell 275 days 51
32 Michael C. Kerr 257 days 52
30 Theodore M. Pomeroy 1 day 53

Number of Speakers per State

  • Referring to individual
Number State
8 Massachusetts
4 Kentucky
3 Georgia
South Carolina
2 Maine
New Jersey
New York
1 Alabama
North Carolina

List of living former Speakers

Since the death of former Speaker Tom Foley on October 18, 2013, there are now four living former Speakers.

Speaker Years in office Up-arrow Date of birth (and age today)
Jim Wright 1987 – 1989 (1922-12-22) December 22, 1922
Newt Gingrich 1995 – 1999 (1943-06-17) June 17, 1943
Dennis Hastert 1999 – 2007 (1942-01-02) January 2, 1942
Nancy Pelosi 2007 – 2011 (1940-03-26) March 26, 1940

Recent election results

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2007

Source: Election of the Speaker Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. January 4, 2007.

Candidate Votes %
Nancy Pelosi (D) 233 53.6%
John Boehner (R) 202 46.4%
Total 435 100%

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2009

Source: Election of the Speaker Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. January 6, 2009.

Candidate Votes %
Nancy Pelosi (D) 255 58.6%
John Boehner (R) 174 40.1%
Not voting 5 0.9%
Total 434[1] 100%

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2011

Source: Election of the Speaker Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. January 5, 2011.

Candidate Votes %
John Boehner (R) 242 55.6%
Nancy Pelosi (D) 173 39.8%
Heath Shuler (D) 11 2.5%
John Lewis (D) 2 <1.0%
Dennis Cardoza (D) 1 <1.0%
Jim Costa (D) 1 <1.0%
Jim Cooper (D) 1 <1.0%
Steny Hoyer (D) 1 <1.0%
Marcy Kaptur (D) 1 <1.0%
Not voting[2] 2 <1.0%
Total 435 100%

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, 2013

Source: Election of the Speaker Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. January 3, 2013.

Candidate Votes %
John Boehner (R) 220 50.8%
Nancy Pelosi (D) 192 44.3%
Eric Cantor (R) 3 <1.0%
Jim Cooper (D) 2 <1.0%
Allen West (R)[3] 2 <1.0%
Justin Amash (R) 1 <1.0%
John Dingell (D) 1 <1.0%
Jim Jordan (R) 1 <1.0%
Raul Labrador (R) 1 <1.0%
John Lewis (D) 1 <1.0%
Colin Powell (R)[3] 1 <1.0%
David Walker[3] 1 <1.0%
Not voting[4] 7 1.6%
Total 433[5] 100%

See also


  • Garraty, John, ed. American National Biography (1999) 20 volumes; contains scholarly biographies of all Speakers no longer alive.
  • Green, Matthew N. The Speaker of the House: A Study of Leadership (Yale University Press; 2010) 292 pages; Examines partisan pressures and other factors that shaped the leadership of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; focuses on the period since 1940.
  • Remini, Robert V. The House: the history of the House of Representatives (Smithsonian Books, 2006), the standard scholarly history
  • Rohde, David W. Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House (1991)
  • Smock, Raymond W., and Susan W. Hammond, eds. Masters of the House: Congressional Leadership Over Two Centuries (1998) short biographies of key leaders
  • Zelizer. Julian E. ed. The American Congress: The Building of Democracy (2004) comprehensive history by 40 scholars


  1. ^ At the time of the election, one seat was vacant, leaving 434 voting representatives.
  2. ^ Of these 2, 1 member did not cast a vote and 1 cast a vote of "present".
  3. ^ a b c Not a sitting member of the House of Representatives.
  4. ^ Of these 7, 6 members did not cast a vote and 1 cast a vote of "present".
  5. ^ At the time of the election, two seats were vacant, leaving 433 voting representatives.


  1. ^ "Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives". Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ See the United States Presidential Line of Succession statute, 3 U.S.C. § 19
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Ripley, Party Leaders in the House of Representatives, pp. 98-99.
  5. ^ Oswald Seidensticker, "Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the First Congress, 1789," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jul. 1889), pp. 184-206 in JSTOR
  6. ^ C Stewart III, Architect or tactician? Henry Clay and the institutional development of the US House of Representatives" 1998, online
  7. ^ Robinson, William A. "Thomas B. Reed, Parliamentarian". The American Historical Review, October 1931. pp. 137–138.
  8. ^ Oleszek, Walter J. (December 1998). "A Pre-Twentieth Century Look at the House Committee on Rules". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved July 5, 2007. 
  9. ^ Charles O. Jones, "Joseph G. Cannon and Howard W. Smith: An Essay on the Limits of Leadership in the House of Representatives," Journal of Politics (1968), 30: 617-646 doi:10.2307/2128798
  10. ^ "Sam Rayburn House Museum". Texas Historical Commission. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved July 5, 2007. 
  11. ^ See Party Divisions of United States Congresses
  12. ^ a b Condon, Stephanie (August 6, 2010). "GOP to Launch "Fire Pelosi" Bus Tour". CBS News. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Sanchez, Ray (November 3, 2010). "Nancy Pelosi: House Speaker's Exclusive Interview With Diane Sawyer - ABC News". Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ Allan Nevins. Ordeal of the Union, Volume II: A House Dividing 1852-1857 (New York, 1947), 413-415.
  15. ^ Allan Nevins. The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume II: Prologue to Civil War, 1859-1861 (New York, 1950), 116-123.
  16. ^  
  17. ^ San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. City & County of San Francisco, November 16, 2006. Retrieved on July 5, 2007.
  18. ^ "Nancy Pelosi steeled White House for health push - Carrie Budoff Brown and Glenn Thrush". Politico.Com. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  19. ^ Braver, Rita (October 17, 2010). "Nancy Pelosi Fires Back". CBS News. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  20. ^ Lester, Kerry (October 14, 2010). "‘Fire Pelosi Bus Tour’ not joint endeavor". Daily Herald. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  21. ^ Gavin, Patrick (September 16, 2010). "The List: RNC's 'Fire Pelosi' Bus Tour". The Politico. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  22. ^ "RNC's "Fire Pelosi" bus tour stops in Waco". CBS. September 26, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  23. ^ Knickerbocker, Brad (September 15, 2010). "Michael Steele's 'Fire Pelosi' bus tour: 48 states or bust". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  24. ^ Krotzer, Chelsea (October 10, 2010). "Republican leader urges party faithful to ‘Fire Pelosi’". Billings Gazette. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  25. ^ Hamby, Peter (September 24, 2010). "Steele's bus tour draws crowds, but also critics". CNN. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  26. ^ Bowman, Quinn (September 15, 2010). "RNC Chairman Steele Urges Unity as He Rolls Out 'Fire Pelosi' Bus Tour". PBS. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  27. ^  
  28. ^ See Akhil Reed Amar & Vikram Amar,Is The Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 113 (1995). This issue is discussed in the entry on the United States Presidential Line of Succession

External links

  • "Capitol Questions." C-SPAN (2003). Notable elections and role.
  • The Cannon Centenary Conference: The Changing Nature of the Speakership. (2003). House Document 108-204. History, nature and role of the Speakership.
  • Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Congress, 5th ed. (2000). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives. (2005). Official Website. Information about role as party leader, powers as presiding officer.
  • Wilson, Woodrow. (1885). Congressional Government. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Vice President
Joe Biden
2nd in line Succeeded by
President pro tempore of the Senate
Patrick Leahy
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