The President claims that the House Speaker, John Boehner, is refusing to allow a vote on a so-called "clean spending bill" which many believe actually has the votes to pass (see for example http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-04/obama-tells-republicans-to-stop-shutdown-farce/4997874 ):

Mr Obama says there are enough Republicans willing to pass a spending bill immediately if House speaker John Boehner will allow a vote without partisan conditions attached - a so-called clean vote.

  • Is there a mechanism whereby the house can force such a vote to take place against the will of the speaker?

For example, in a Westminster-style parliament, any member could immediately move a motion to suspend standing orders in order to bring on a vote to either pass the bill or remove the Speaker. This would however require an absolute majority of the house. Does such a mechanism exist in the U.S. House?

  • Why is there no strong tradition of Speaker impartiality in the U.S. Congress? - Because that is not the style that was chosen of congress, after all the opposite of progress is... Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


Article One of the United States Constitution States:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

This is a common thing for many bodies which form to make discussions, and there can be as many 'rules' agreed upon by these bodies as there are 'rules' agreed upon for different types of rugby. In some ways the rules can be arbitrary, but generally they help to preserve order.

The Current House of Representatives have adopted Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice. Other's, like in the 2012 Republican primary caucuses adopted Robert's Rules of Order.

In Jefferson's manual, you will find your answer in section 14.

THE Speaker is not precisely bound to any rules as to what bills or other matter shall be first taken up, but is left to his own discretion, unless the House on a question decide to take up a particular subject. Hakew. 136.

In section 9:

A Speaker may be removed at the will of the House and a Speaker pro tempore appointed.

  • 1
    Also see The House Committee on Rules
    – Bobson
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 14:04
  • The manual of parliamentary practice was interesting reading. So basically, the answer to my question is that they could, but they won't. Thanks! Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 0:12

Is there a mechanism whereby the house can force such a vote to take place against the will of the speaker?

No. The House Amendment H.R. 368, to the Continuing Resolution bill specifically grants the Majority Leader or his designee that right. Even replacing him as in Mr.A would still require the will of the Speaker pro tempore, for this particular bill. Passing a different clean resolution might be possible, but this one specifically forbids it.

Resolved, That the House hereby (1) takes from the Speaker’s table the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 59) making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes, with the House amendment to the Senate amendment thereto, (2) insists on its amendment, and (3) requests a conference with the Senate thereon.

SEC. 2. Any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to House Joint Resolution 59 may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee.

  • 2
    There is such a mechanism. It's called a discharge petition. Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 16:58
  • @KeshavSrinivasan , How exactly would a discharge petition help? The replacement SotH could still block a vote on this bill, could they not?
    – user1873
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 19:11
  • 2
    I think you're confusing a discharge petition with a motion to remove the Speaker of the House. Look at the Wikipedia page for information about discharge petitions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discharge_petition Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 19:17

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