Rep. John Boehner’s time in Congress is down to a number of weeks. After his decision to step down from Congress and resign his position as speaker of the House, talk of who will take over as the next speaker lingers.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who officially declared his candidacy for the House’s top spot on Monday, is widely expected to become the next speaker.
Considering the recent spotlight on the position, here are 10 facts about House speakership.
- The House speaker holds the most powerful position in the U.S. House of Representatives and is second in the U.S. presidential line of succession after the vice president. Boehner, R-Ohio, was elected the 53rd speaker in 2011.
- The first speaker of the House, Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, was elected in 1789 as Congress convened for the first time. The speaker position was established in the United States Constitution.
- All past speakers have been members of the House, although House membership is not required by the Constitution.
- At the start of each new Congress (every two years), each party nominates a candidate for the position. Votes are taken until one candidate has a majority of all votes cast. In the past, the speaker was typically from the majority party in Congress. The speaker is elected for two years and does not have a term limit.
- The speaker represents his constituents as well as presides over the House and manages administrative duties. Duties include items such as administering oaths of office to members and calling order to the House.
- Henry Clay of Kentucky gained national prominence during his term as speaker from 1811-1813, a trend that had yet to go along with the job.
- After the Civil War and the better development of a two-party system in American politics, the speaker’s power grew. Today the speaker, as a leader of the majority party, holds the responsibility to help pass legislation supported by that party.
- The Speaker Portrait Collection in the Capitol houses oil portraits of past leaders who have held the position. In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” John Boehner said he hopes that people will say at the unveiling ceremony of his portrait that “he was a good man.”
- The speaker before Boehner was Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the first woman to hold the speakership role.
- The longest serving speaker was Samuel Rayburn, D-Texas. He held the position for 17 years and is one of five speakers to have died in office.