Ilona Nickels
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Accountability of Elected Officials
Career Paths to Congress
Chaplains in the U.S. Congress
House Ethics Process
House/Senate Differences
Lame Duck Congress: Attendance and Voting
Members of Congress: A Job Description
Members of Congress: Who Do They Represent?
Oath of Office for Members of Congress
Pledge of Allegiance: Standing for the Pledge
Pledge of Allegiance: Use in Congress
Qualifications to Run for Congress
Senate: 50-50 Split?
Senate Majority Leader: A Job Description
Sessions of Congress: Lengths
Size of House and Senate
Speaker of the House: a Job Description
Amending the Constitution
Constitutionality of Legislation
August Recesses
First Congress
GOP: Origins of Term
Ideology: Left or Right
Lame Duck Congress: Definition
Party Animals: the Donkey and the Elephant
Statue of Freedom
U.S. Citizenship Test
Amendment Tree in the Senate
Changing a Law
Conference Committees: In Decline
Conference Committees: Procedures
“Deem and Pass” Procedure
Executive Orders
Holds in the Senate
How to Find Basic Legislative Information
How to Keep Up With Congress
Types of Legislation

Capitol Corner

Speaker of the House:
Resignation from Office

Is an ousted Speaker supposed to resign from office? When does the new leadership come into place?

Speaker of the House: Resignation from Office by Ilona NickelsThe new leadership assumes office, along with all Members of Congress, when they take the oath of office on the opening day of the new Congress, now scheduled for January 3, 2011. The new leaders will be chosen within their party caucuses, by secret ballot – and those internal party choices for the nominations to the office of Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Majority Whip, Minority Whip, and conference/caucus chairs are expected to take place in mid-November, 2010.

There is no requirement that a Speaker, whose party has just lost the majority in the House, resign from office – but they usually do. It is difficult for any official to shrink back to a greatly reduced role in the House after having served as its top officer.

The reasons are easy to understand. Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who served as Speaker from 1999-2007, said when he resigned from the House, that he felt like a retired coach watching from the stands while others led his former team. He just didn’t want to stick around and watch.

But the bottom line is that any Speaker is also a duly elected Member of the House. Nancy Pelosi will no longer be Speaker when Republicans take the majority in the new Congress, but she will still be the elected representative from San Francisco, California. Only the voters of the 8th congressional district can remove her from that position. Assuming her re-election on November 2nd, it will be her decision whether or not to resign from the House entirely, or to stay in the House in a reduced role.

The Democratic Caucus of the House will have internal elections in mid-November to choose their leaders for the 112th Congress. Nancy Pelosi could run for the office of Minority Leader in the new Congress. However, her colleagues in the Democratic party might not want to have her keep any leadership role. After all, Speakers are judged on their ability to lead the majority party and expand its numbers, not shrink them. They are also judged on their ability to get the party’s legislative agenda enacted and on their ability to be an effective voice for the party’s policy goals in communicating with the public and the press. Rep. Pelosi herself may choose not to seek any leadership position or her fellow Democrats may make it clear that they will not nominate her for the post.

Here’s what other recent Speakers have done: