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Does the House Speaker need to be in Congress

Talk about having a crystal ball, they certainly got this one right back in January. Honestly, I think Bill Burr would be an excellent choice.

Does the US speaker of the House need to be in Congress?

With Republicans in disarray, some are looking outside the chambers for a candidate

By Diego Lasarte, Quartz Media

January 5, 2023

Even if Kevin McCarthy is able to secure the role of speaker, he’ll likely have a tough time balancing a slim majority and a dissident wing of his own party.

As a group of Republican dissidents blocked Kevin McCarthy’s path to the speakership for the eighth straight time on Thursday, Matt Gaetz—a lawmaker from Florida—took the extraordinary step of voting for someone who does not even sit in the House of Representatives: former president Donald J. Trump.

McCarthy, meanwhile, failed to get the votes he needed two more times by the time of publishing.

Gaetz is among a growing number of people calling for an outsider to take on the leadership role instead. Some conservative commentators proposed Twitter CEO Elon Musk. The New York Post floated former gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin. And even former lawmaker Justin Amash suggested, well… himself.

But is someone outside the House, unelected by the American people, even allowed to hold the position of its speaker? What exactly does the US Constitution say about the requirements to be speaker of the House?

Constitutional ambiguity

In order to be elected speaker, a person first needs to be nominated by a sitting member of Congress. After that, they would need to be elected by a majority of the 535 voting lawmakers (not just a plurality).

However, a candidate can be elected with fewer than 218 votes if several House members abstain from voting and lower the threshold for a majority. This happened after the 2020 election when former majority speaker Nancy Pelosi won with just 216 votes after three lawmakers only voted “present.”

While there has never been a speaker elected from outside Congress, the Constitution only says: “The House of Representatives shall [choose] their Speaker and other Officers.” Many scholars argue that the founders would have assumed the speaker would be selected from among the elected members of the House, but the Constitution does not appear to prevent a congressperson from nominating an outsider.

While no one outside the House has ever been elected speaker, there is recent precedence for casting votes for someone on the outside. When Pelosi was elected speaker in 2019, both Georgia state lawmaker Stacey Abrams and then former-vice president Joe Biden received a vote. On the Republican side, both former secretary of state Colin Powell and senator Rand Paul have received votes in recent speakership elections.

With political gridlock showing no signs of easing, perhaps the Republican Party will continue its recent habit of shattering political norms and this time choose an outsider to lead them in the House of Representatives.

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