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Politics 101: What Does the Speaker of the House Do?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 8: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a news conference after a budget briefing at the U.S. Capitol March 8, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Something tells me there’s a lot of talking involved in being the Speaker of the House. But about what, exactly? Of what subjects does the Speaker of the House speak? Do they whisper spoilers to popular HBO shows in your ears? Do they speak on behalf of houses that can’t speak for themselves? Is the Monster House from the film of the same name represented by the speaker? Why don’t people listen when their houses creak and groan in the night trying to tell us their secrets? And finally, if the Speaker of the House tells such secrets, can they tell me once and for all where babies come from?

All this and more shall be answered. How do I know that my information is correct? I put my ear to the walls of my neighbors’ houses in the night, and they spoke their bounty of secrets to me.

How many votes are needed to become Speaker?

The houses say that the Speaker of the House needs an absolute majority of the House vote. Currently, that number is 218 votes. “But wait,” I’m sure you’re thinking, “there are MILLIONS of houses in this country. Most Americans are living in one right now. Do they simple not tally the votes of all the houses? Are only large and important houses such as mansions allowed to vote? Why is the humble townhouse excluded from the count? Or the shack? Or the boathouse? Does that even count as a house? I DEMAND EQUAL REPRESENTATION FOR ALL HOUSES IN AMERICA!”

Regrettably, none of the houses in this country are allowed to vote for the Speaker of the House. It is a travesty, I know. That honor instead belongs to the people who live in the House, specifically the House of Representatives, which is one-half of our government’s federal legislative body. It simply isn’t fair.

What does the Speaker of the House do?

Surely the Speaker of the House is working tirelessly to amend this domiciliary injustice, right? Wrong. Currently, the Speaker of the House does nothing in the battle for the rights of houses. Instead, the Speaker of the House focuses on less important matters, such as leading the majority party in the chamber. They decide what gets voted on and when, as well as assigning House members to committees designated to research specific bills and issues. They also chedule the vote calendar for everything (except for a vote on the rights for actual houses), and unify party members towards pursuing major political initiatives (such as barring houses from voting).

What happens if a Speaker of the House is not elected?


If only.

So, 2023’s Speaker of the House Election was unusual. They had multiple votes, but no one was able to receive the 218 votes necessary to take the position. This left the House of Representatives unable to move forward with any of its other duties, including establishing the chamber’s rules for sessions or swearing in new members. In short, it was a fiasco—almost as if the real houses planned it all along …

(featured image: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

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