This question is related to this article from NPR. The article states that "there's no requirement the speaker has to be an elected representative." This is referring to to US House. The article talks about Donald Trump potentially becoming speaker of the house if the Republicans take the house in 2022, even though he himself would not be a member of the house. A few questions:

  1. Has there ever been a speaker that was not an elected representative?
  2. Wouldn't having a non-elected speaker give a lot of power to a non-elected person in the house, going against the entire purpose of elections?
  3. Is this a realistic possibility?
  • Trump would probably have no real problem getting himself elected in a R district, so without having read the article one could add 4. Why do it in that unusual way?
    – Fizz
    Oct 17 '21 at 1:51
  • 1
    @Fizz yes... but I doubt the guy would want any position lower than president of the U.S
    – Ray
    Oct 17 '21 at 2:05
  • About 1, here is the list of all speakers of the House: history.house.gov/People/Office/Speakers-List
    – markvs
    Oct 17 '21 at 2:49
  • A Wikipedia article says: The Constitution does not require the speaker to be an incumbent member of the House, although every speaker thus far has been. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – markvs
    Oct 17 '21 at 3:01

Regarding "1.": no, according to Wikipedia, which cites a CRS report for this info:

Every person elected speaker, however, has been a member.

The report itself says, in slightly more detail:

In the 1997, 2013, 2015 (both instances), 2019, and 2021 elections, votes were cast for candidates who were not then Members of the House, including, in the initial 2015 election, the 2019 election, and the 2021 election, sitting Senators. Although the Constitution does not so require, the Speaker has always been a Member of the House.

So, until 1997 there weren't even any votes for outsiders, it seems. The report only covers elections since 1913 though.

It's hard to say how real the prospect is (in the article you linked Trump has equivocated about it), but some Democrats appear to want to counter the possibility by passing a law.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced the MEMBERS Act – which stands for Mandating that being an Elected Member Be an Essential Requirement for Speakership – which, as its name suggests, requires House membership as a prerequisite for becoming speaker.

Boyle specifically cited the speculation about Trump as the motivation for the bill, calling it an “alarm bell” that the current requirements should be changed “in the name of protecting our nation and our democracy.”


As you point out, the speaker of the house need not be an elected member of the house. However, uptil now, all speakers have been. This answers your first question. Hence we can say it is customary and it is most likely because of the power wielded by the speaker that this is the case and which answers your secind question.

As for your third question, possibly. After all, I didn't expect to see an insurrection at Capitol Hill and a USA President questioning the validity of the nations electoral process and calling it a fraud as the former US President Trump did. (Well, I actually did with Trump).

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