Speaker of the House (Still Accepting Applicants)

Washington, DC, USA
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Job Description

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.

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.

·      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.

·      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 Whol

Participation in Debate and Voting


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.


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. Sec. 6.