About the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Second in the Line of Presidential Succession

USA, Washington DC, Capitol building at dusk
Capitol building, Washington DC. Dennis Flaherty/DigitalVision/Getty Images

The position of Speaker of the House of Representatives is created in Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states, "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; ..."

How the Speaker Is Chosen

As the highest-ranking member of the House, the Speaker is elected by a vote of the members of the House. While it is not required, the Speaker usually belongs to the majority political party.

The Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an elected Member of Congress. No non-member has ever been elected Speaker.

The Speaker is elected following each mid-term election held an every-other-year and serves a two-year term. Along with the title and duties, the Speaker of the House continues to serve as the elected representative from his or her congressional district and takes part in the debate and votes like all other representatives.

Powers Duties and Privileges of the Speaker

Typically the head of the majority party in the House, the speaker outranks the Majority Leader. The salary of the Speaker is also higher than that of the Majority and Minority Leaders in both the House and Senate.

The Speaker rarely presides over regular meetings of the full House, instead delegating the role to another representative. The Speaker does, however, typically presides over special joint sessions of Congress in which the House hosts the Senate.

The Speaker exerts power over the legislative process by setting the House legislative calendar determining when bills will be debated and voted on. The Speaker often utilizes this power to help fulfill his or her responsibility of making sure bills supported by the majority party are passed by the House.

The Speaker also serves as chair of the majority party's House steering committee.

Perhaps most clearly indicating the importance of the position, the Speaker of the House stands second only to the Vice President of the United States in the line of presidential succession.

The first Speaker of the House was Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, elected during the first session of Congress in 1789.