Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
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Posts tagged "Speaker of the House"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
can u impeach the speaker of hte house
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

As much as I would love to, I personally cannot impeach the Speaker of the House, but I assume you’re asking if Congress can impeach the Speaker.

There’s actually some disagreement about whether or not a member of the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives can be impeached or not because the Constitution provides for the impeachment of the President, Vice President, and “civil officers” of the United States.  It can be argued that members of Congress are not civil officers of the United States because they, in fact, represent the states that they come from.

No member of the House has ever been impeached and although one Senator was impeached very early in the history of the country, the Senate never put him on trial, so there was no decision about whether or not he was a “civil officer”.  

The House and the Senate both have the act of expulsion available as a punishment against Congressmen or Senators.  Typically, when a member of the House or Senate is charged with some violation or guilty of wrongdoing, they are either censured or expelled (or the threat of censure or expulsion leads them to resign).

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If the recount over the Bush-Gore election in 2000 had stretched out and not been solved by inauguration day what would have happened? Would Clinton have continued in office as an emergency president? I get confused by the succession rules.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You’re not the only person who gets confused by Presidential succession. I receive a lot of questions about who would become President in this-or-that instance.  One particular point that many people seem to be confused by can be answered easily:  there is never, ever an instance in which an outgoing President’s term is extended past the date that he is scheduled to leave office.  No emergency, no electoral dispute, nothing can ever extend a President’s term other than re-election.  If a President is scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20th, that’s the end of the line, no matter what happens.

As for your specific question, if the recount or the court battle over Bush vs. Gore in 2000 had continued into the new year and not been resolved by Inauguration Day 2001, the Presidency would have ended up with the person next in the line of succession.  President Clinton and Vice President Gore were both scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20, 2001, so if the election had not had a result by that point, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, would have become President at that time and served until the 2000 election was decided.  

The election dispute in 2000 ended up continuing into December before the Supreme Court ended the recount and Gore conceded to Bush.  Throughout Presidential campaigns, the two major party nominees — in this case Bush and Gore — receive CIA intelligence briefings so that they are up-to-date on what is going on around the world and prepared for if or when they become President.  As the dispute stretched on, President Clinton actually approved CIA briefings for Speaker Hastert in case he had to assume the Presidency on Inauguration Day.

No, I haven’t written anything about Tip O’Neill, but he’d be a great subject.  O’Neill was certainly a colorful figure, one hell of a politician, and a great Speaker of the House.  Our nation sorely misses politicians on both sides of the aisle who could get things in the House and the Senate.  If our chambers of Congress was populated today by people like Tip O’Neill, Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and Birch Bayh, among others, we’d be in much, much better shape.  Instead, we are in the midst of the 113th Congress, which is doing its best to surpass the 112th Congress as the least-effective, most-divisive, dangerous, least-popular, and all-around worst Congress in American history.

Most definitely.  Uncle Joe is a case where, at least towards the end of his Speakership, when William Howard Taft was President, the Speaker was probably the most powerful person in the United States instead of the President.  The rest of Cannon’s time as Speaker was during Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency, but Uncle Joe wasn’t too far behind TR on that list.

I’ve been thinking about the last question I got about Speaker John Boehner saying that he isn’t going to negotiate with President Obama anymore and about how generally terrible Congress is and I came to a thought.

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.  The Speaker controls the flow of legislation in the House and is easily the most influential member of the Legislative branch — probably the third or fourth most powerful person in the country.  The Speaker is an enormously important component to the political process in the United Sates.

It requires a simple majority of the votes of 435 people, many of whom are casting ballots on the first day of their new job in Congress, to elect the Speaker of the House.  The voting is almost always done along strict party lines.  John Boehner will probably be Speaker until January 3, 2015.  It only took 200 people to decide that.  Although the Speaker of the House is a tremendously powerful person who influences the lives of every American in many ways, John Boehner is really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of Ohio.  Nancy Pelosi was really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of California.

Understanding all of this, shouldn’t we choose the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in a national election?  Shouldn’t candidates for the Speaker have to face all of the voters of our country?  Shouldn’t all Americans help make that decision?


Thanks to everyone who pointed it out because I actually never knew this (and can’t believe I never knew this), but, no, the Speaker of the House does NOT have to be a member of the House of Representatives.  Every Speaker has been a Member, but it is not a requirement.

I love learning something new, but I hate being wrong, so I’m torn about this.  But, it’s such an interesting twist that I’m more excited than bothered about not being correct.