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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Speaker of the House: House Officer, Party Leader, and Representative

Valerie Heitshusen
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is widely viewed as symbolizing the power and authority of the House. The Speaker’s most prominent role is that of presiding officer of the House. In this capacity, the Speaker is empowered by House rules to administer proceedings on the House floor, including the power to recognize Members on the floor to speak or make motions and the power to appoint Members to conference committees. The Speaker also oversees much of the non-legislative business of the House, such as general control over the Hall of the House and the House side of the Capitol and service as chair of the House Office Building Commission. The Speaker’s role as “elect of the elect” in the House also places him or her in a highly visible position with the public.

The Speaker also serves not only as titular leader of the House but also as leader of the majority party conference. The Speaker is often responsible for airing and defending the majority party’s legislative agenda in the House.

The Speaker’s third distinct role is that of an elected Member of the House. Although elected as an officer of the House, the Speaker continues to be a Member as well. As such the Speaker enjoys the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges of all Representatives. However, the Speaker has traditionally refrained from debating or voting in most circumstances, and does not sit on any standing committee of the House.

Date of Report: August 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: 97-780
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