In case you missed it, former president Donald Trump is now toying with the ploy of becoming Speaker of the House-if the GOP regains control of that chamber in 2022. But wait. Don’t you have to be a House member to be the House Speaker?
Actually, the Constitution does not specify that the House Speaker must be a House member. It says instead, “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” Although that language is implicit, not explicit, it has worked 126 times since 1789 at the beginning of each of the 117 Congresses, and on 10 occasions when a vacancy occurred due to death or resignation.
Fifty-four people have served as House Speaker over the past 232 years. Of those, 32 served multiple terms and seven served nonconsecutive terms, including current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA. So far, every House Speaker has been chosen from within the House.
Given that track record, Trump’s chances of becoming House Speaker from without are, in my view, somewhere between slim and none, like they were, according to the so-called “experts” in 2016. He could improve his chances by running for and winning a House seat in his recently minted home of residence in Florida. Too bad his House district is distinctly Democratic, so much so, he lost there to Joe Biden by double digits in 2020.
However, according to our Constitution, Trump does not have to run in his home district. Incredible as that may seem, here’s what it says about that, “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
Theoretically, Trump’s chances of becoming Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, from without or within the House, appear to be long shots. But the fear of that fantasy turning into reality has caused consternation among some House Democrats.
Now comes House Representative Brendan Boyle, D-PA, with a bill that would limit the Speakership to sitting House members only. “The Speaker of the U.S. House is second in the U.S. 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,” he warned.
Whether Boyle’s bill makes it through the House is an open question, especially given the hectic schedule of higher Biden and Pelosi priorities. Still, we can expect the usual progressives to support the bill enthusiastically.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.