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49 Speaker of the House of Representatives

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49. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. The Constitution of the United States provides that: The House of Representatives shall choose a speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.) Even if the power to choose a speaker had not been expressly conferred by the Constitution, the House, as a legislative body, would have possessed the inherent au thority to elect or appoint a presiding officer and such other officials as might be necessary to enable it to transact its business in an orderly and regular manner, and to make and preserve a record of its proceedings. As the Constitution does not prescribe the manner in which the speaker shall be chosen, the House itself must determine the mode of election, and, therefore, may order a vote to be taken in any way that will ascertain the choice of a majority, or the choice of a plurality, in case it shall have previously been determined that a plurality may elect. Although no rule has been adopted upon this subject, it is custom ary to choose a speaker by calling the names of the members present who have filed regular credentials with the clerk, and by recording their votes in the journal. Pending the elec tion, the clerk of the last preceding House of Representatives presides, and it is his duty to preserve order and decorum and to decide all questions of order, subject, however, to appeal by any member. The speaker is nominally elected to preside during the Con gress then existing, but there is no constitu tional or statutory provision, nor any rule of the House fixing the term of office, and, as he is merely an officer of the House, it would seem that he might be lawfully deposed at any time by the election of another to take his place. By statute, in England, it is pro vided that, in case of a dissolution of Parlia ment, the then speaker of the House of Com mons shall continue in office until one shall be chosen by the new Parliament, and that, in case of his death, disability or absense from the realm during any dissolution or proro gation, three of the commissioners of the House of Commons shall act for him in regard to the offices of the Rouse. In this country, the office becomes vacant immediately upon the adjournment of Congress (see CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES), and there is no one au thorized to act until a new speaker is elected by the next House, hut as already stated, the clerk presides over the new Rouse until a speaker is chosen. During the sitting of Congress the

speaker may designate a member to discharge the duties of the office in his stead, but this substitution cannot extend beyond an adjourn ment. In case of his illness, however, he may, with the approval of the House, make such appointment for a period not exceeding 10 days; but, if he is absent and has omitted to make an appointment, the House elects a speaker pro tempore.

The speaker is nominated and elected by the members of the party with which he is affili ated, and the office is one of great political importance. His powers and duties differ in many respects from those appertaining to the office of speaker of the House of Commons, and he exercises much greater influence An directing the course of legislation and in politi cal matters generally than the presiding officer of any other legislative body in the world. He not only presides over the deliberations of the House and preserves order and decorum, but until 1911 he appointed all standing commit tees and all select and conference committees ordered by the House, and, inasmuch as the member first named on the committee becomes its chairman, the speaker determined who should occupy all those important positions. In con stituting the important standing committees, chairmanships are always given to members of the speaker's political party, and this is also gen erally the case in the appointment of select and conference committees. This power to appoint the standing and select committees is generally exercised by the presiding officers of legislative bodies in the United States, but it is not vested in the speaker of the English House of Com mons or in the speaker of the House of Com mons of the Dominion of Canada. Originally the House of Representatives appointed all the important committees by ballot, and the speaker appointed only such as consisted of not more than three members, an arrangement which con fined his power to control legislation, otherwise than by the exercise of his personal and official influence, within very narrow limits as corn-. pared with the present system.

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