On the surface, elections for House Speaker are straightforward affairs: the majority party in the chamber votes for their top member, who in turn wields the gavel.
But the system includes a curious quirk: the Constitution does not require House members to choose one of their own for the Speaker's office. It's why, in recent years, we've seen a handful of instances in which lawmakers, reluctant to support their party's choice for one reason or another, cast a vote in support of someone who has nothing to do with Congress. Colin Powell has even received a few votes in the recent past.
As a practical matter, this hasn't made much of a difference. No outsider has ever been elected Speaker, or even come close. But as The Hill reported this week, one House Democrat believes now is the time to fix the glitch.
A new bill introduced on Monday by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) would allow only an elected House member to serve as Speaker.... Boyle argued that the statute should be made clear, even if electing someone outside of Congress to serve as Speaker remains a long shot. His bill, titled the Mandating That Being an Elected Member Be an Essential Requirement for Speakership Act, would explicitly limit eligibility to current House lawmakers.
There is an element of common sense at play: those who want to serve as Senate majority leader, for example, have to be members of the Senate, so it stands to reason that those in contention for House Speaker should be members of the House.
But Boyle didn't just introduce this proposal out of concern for a hypothetical scenario. On the contrary, it was Donald Trump last month who was asked about the possibility of serving as House Speaker as early as 2023, if Republicans retake the majority. The former president replied, "That's so interesting.... Yeah, you know it's very interesting.... It's very interesting."
Chatter in conservative media soon followed (Steve Bannon, in particular, has talked up the idea.) One of Trump's most sycophantic allies, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has already vowed to support the former president the next time members vote for Speaker.
With this in mind, Boyle said in a written statement this week, "The Speaker of the U.S. House is second in the United States presidential line of succession. That Donald Trump's name would even be tossed around as a potential speaker in the people's house, should serve as an alarm bell that our current requirements need to be amended in the name of protecting our nation and our democracy."
The Pennsylvania Democrat's bill doesn't yet have any cosponsors, so there's no reason to expect action anytime soon. That said, I have a hunch we haven't heard the last word on this.