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What are the requirements to replace the Speaker of the House?

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    None of the answers detail how a Speaker gets removed (against their will). This is especially relevent in the current situation (Jan 2023) where the conservative minority inside the Republican party cites particularly that as a reason not to support the McCarthy speakership. A state-of-the-art on what the conditions are and were across the years would be appreciated. Jan 4, 2023 at 20:21
  • @Gouvernathor magnus.orion's answer covers it: the House adopts a resolution to that effect. What more detail is needed?
    – phoog
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:21

4 Answers 4

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A new speaker is selected whenever the conditions to pick a new speaker arise:

The House elects its speaker at the beginning of a new Congress (i.e. biennially, after a general election) or when a speaker dies, resigns or is removed from the position intra-term.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaker_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives

To remove a speaker requires the House to vote to do so:

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

A resolution declaring the Office of Speaker vacant presents a question of constitutional privilege, though the House has never removed a Speaker. It has on several occasions removed or suspended other officers, such as Clerk and Doorkeeper. A resolution for the removal of an officer is presented as a matter of privilege.

https://thinkprogress.org/how-the-house-can-remove-john-boehner-as-speaker-7f8901b26204/

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Q: Can the Speaker of the House of Representatives be replaced?

Explanations on what the conditions are and were across the years would be appreciated.

Removal of the Speaker requires a resolution. Such a resolution, to remove the Speaker, was introduced in the 114th Congress (2015) as H.Res.385 - Declaring the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives vacant.

Resolved, That the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared to be vacant.

Normally, such a resolution would be privileged; but that resolution, intentionally, was not introduced as a question of privilege.

No Speaker has been removed from the office; a vote on a resolution in 1910 declaring a vacancy in the Speaker’s office failed, and the sitting Speaker, Joseph Cannon, remained in the position until the end of the Congress. It was during these 1910 proceedings that the House established the precedent that resolutions declaring the office of the Speaker vacant “constitute a matter of high constitutional privilege.” [Footnote 2]

Any privileged business has priority over regular business. Had the above resolution (H.Res.385) been privileged, it would necessarily have been voted on quickly, by suspending all regular business.

A rule change was made for the 116th Congress to limit who could introduce a resolution to declare a vacancy in the office of the Speaker.

House Rule IX 2(a)(3)

A resolution causing a vacancy in the Office of Speaker shall not be privileged except if offered by direction of a party caucus or conference.

Assuming no change in the rule, only a party leader, with the agreement of their party members, could submit a resolution declaring the office of Speaker vacant. If that were to happen, regular business would be set aside to debate and vote on the resolution.

One of the rule changes, for the 118th Congress, demanded by the Freedom Caucus is reversal of that rule change.

The Freedom Caucus is angling to include a provision within the House Rules package allowing for any member to offer at any time motion to vacate the speaker's chair – a change it will push for assuming Republicans take control of the House. The parliamentary gambit would let hardline members force a vote on retaining the speaker, a process that conservatives used to paralyze the House during the Tea Party era.

When Democrats took control of the House in 2018, Speaker Nancy Pelosi changed the chamber's rules to specify that only a party leader could offer a motion to vacate.

"The House can't function if anyone can take the entire chamber hostage at any point over a petty disagreement with the speaker," said a senior House Republican aide said at the time.

While there is a procedure for removing the Speaker. it seems unlikely to ever happen again. However, under pressure, the Speaker may be forced to resign.

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The Speaker is elected by the entire House. Whoever has the majority vote gets the job. Theoretically, it’s a non-partisan vote, where anyone could convince enough of their colleagues (regardless of party) to support them as to win. In practice, the Speaker is whoever the majority of the majority party want it to be.

To replace the Speaker requires another majority vote. Former Speaker John Boehner resigned in 2015, in part because a large part of the Republicans in the House were unhappy with his leadership, triggering a vote.

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We can look at a historical precedent when Cannon was the speaker (1903-11). By 1910, due to certain circumstances, Rep. George Norris wanted to stage a coup and remove Cannon.

Norris introduced a resolution designed to strip Speaker Cannon of his broad authority to appoint the Rules Committee, calling for the members of the House to elect the Rules Committee.

Cannon chose to fight the battle out on the floor, delaying the vote long enough to round up members loyal to him, some of whom were absent because of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Speaker Cannon ruled that Norris’s resolution was out of order. Cannon declared that Norris’s resolution violated House rules. When the House voted to sustain the Speaker’s ruling, Cannon was surprised to find that he lost 182-163.

This vote then paved the way for the vote on Norris’s resolution to strip the Speaker of his control of the Rules Committee. Again Cannon lost, this time 191-152.

Then the House followed with a resolution to vacate the office of Speaker and elect a new one. Cannon had already been defeated and there was no stomach to humiliate him further, and the motion to vacate failed by 155-192.

Had that motion not failed, the Speaker would have been removed and new one elected as per usual rules.

A similar route would have to be taken today:

  1. Introduce the resolution to remove the Speaker
  2. The Speaker can delay for a bit. They can rule that the resolution is out-of-order which has to be voted on in the house - wherein the house must vote to oppose the speaker.
  3. Now the resolution to remove the Speaker will be voted upon - the house should vote against the speaker here too. Voila, Speaker removed.
  4. Next Speaker election process begins.

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