The question is based on an article from NPR which states that "there's no requirement that the speaker has to be an elected representative." Part of my question was not answered in the linked answers, and so I am re-asking it here with clarification.

Why was the US house designed in a way that allows for a non-elected speaker? Wouldn't this give a lot of power to a non-elected person? We could compare this to the cabinet members, but their role is to serve and aid the president. The Speaker of the House runs the house, putting members on committees, and directing different aspects of what is discussed when. This is a powerful position in the US House. How did it come about that this position is one that can be filled by a non representative? Can we go even further - can this position be held by someone who is not a legal citizen?

  • 1
    It’s not really a matter of us law, is it? This is really more about House rules. If a majority of the House wants X to be speaker, why would they limit their power to do so. And I’m not sure they even could: even if the rules blocked it, a majority could just change the rules
    – divibisan
    Oct 17, 2021 at 18:19
  • I'm guessing you were aware of the constitutional provision already, although given how you've phrased this Q, simply having that recited back is a valid answer (and in that sense even more of a duplicate of politics.stackexchange.com/questions/2090/… than your previous Q). If you mean to ask something else, please clarify the Q. "Why?" questions are generally vague. Valid answers: "1. because that's the law". "2. because he founders wrote the constitution that way." Etc., etc. Oct 17, 2021 at 18:31
  • 1
    Q seems a little bit contrived. That said, there are some non-elected administrative positions in US Congress that can pick up a fair amount of power. The Senate Parliamentarian seems to be one, lately. In any case, these unelected officials within the legislative branch are appointed by elected officials, so it isn't really that different than a powerful position in a Congressperson's staff (who actually reads writes the text, while the elected official smiles for the cameras).
    – Pete W
    Oct 17, 2021 at 22:13
  • 2
    @Fizz regarding your comment on the deleted answer: under the articles of confederation, delegates were "appointed" in a manner chosen by each state, so it was possible not only for the presiding officer of the congress to be unelected but also for the entire congress to be unelected (for example if every state provided for its governor or some other officer to appoint the delegates).
    – phoog
    Oct 18, 2021 at 6:56
  • The "Why" would be interesting. Might there be some information in the writings contemporaneous to the Federalist Papers? Jan 7, 2023 at 0:08

1 Answer 1


The Constitution does not give a lot of power to the Speaker. The original Constitution in fact gave zero power to the Speaker. The 25th Amendment does give some power to the Speaker, but it also gives power to the Secretaries who aren't elected either.

The House rules do give power to the Speaker, but they can, at least in theory, be changed just as easily as the Speaker can be replaced. It would be unusual to suddenly radically change the House rules, but not more unusual than it would be to choose a non-elected Speaker in the first place.

One example of a rule change the Constitution doesn't ban the House from adopting, is to give the Speaker only a symbolic role. In that case, it might make sense to allow non-members of the House to take the role. The House might, for example, choose to appoint a highly regarded and neutral judge as its Speaker if it wants the role to be non-partisan. Unless the Constitution is more specific about the role of the Speaker, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to be more specific about the identity of the Speaker.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .