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Old 06-19-2006, 11:20 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Congress: What's the difference between the Speaker and the Majority leader?

What's the difference in function between the Speaker of the House of Reps and the Majority Leader in the House of Reps? They're both normally fropm the same party, the one that has the majority in the House, and I understand that the Speaker is a partisan position, unlike the Speaker in the parliamentary tradition.

So why do you need to have two leaders of the majority caucus?
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Old 06-19-2006, 11:22 PM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper
So why do you need to have two leaders of the majority caucus?
Isn't one a position within a single party, and the other a position in the Congress itself?

Tris
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Old 06-19-2006, 11:31 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triskadecamus
Isn't one a position within a single party, and the other a position in the Congress itself?
That's what I'd have thought too. The Speaker is an "official" functionary of the Congress with specific rights and duties. Isn't he in the presidential line of succession?
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Old 06-19-2006, 11:37 PM
brianjedi brianjedi is offline
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Originally Posted by Cunctator
That's what I'd have thought too. The Speaker is an "official" functionary of the Congress with specific rights and duties. Isn't he in the presidential line of succession?
Right behind the VP in the line.

The Speaker is the highest ranking House member, and is selected by the party with the majority in Congress. There actually is nothing requiring the Speaker to be elected to the House, as the Constitution is silent on requirements to hold the position.

The idea of having a separate Majority Leader didn't come about until 1899, when Speaker David B. Henderson decided it was necessary to have a leader who wasn't burdened with the responsibilities of being Speaker.
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Old 06-19-2006, 11:38 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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True, but it seems to me from news items that he also exercises considerable control over what matters will come to the floor of the Reps, and does so from a partisan perspective. In a parliamentary system, that would be the role of the majority house leader, so what does the Majority Leader in the Reps do?
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Old 06-20-2006, 05:11 AM
brianmelendez brianmelendez is offline
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The Speaker presides over the House. The Majority Leader manages the House's business on the floor -- calls up bills for consideration, makes motions, and allocates and yields time among the majority, among other functions, none of which can be performed by the presiding officer. The Minority Leader plays the same role for the minority, but can't control the calendar as the Majority Leader can.
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Old 06-20-2006, 05:56 AM
crowmanyclouds crowmanyclouds is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianjedi
...selected by the party with the majority in Congress...
Quote:
Selection of the Speaker

When the House of Representatives convenes at the beginning of a new Congress, its first order of business is to elect a Speaker. Because the House dissolves at the end of a Congress and must start anew at the beginning of each new Congress, the clerk of the House presides over the House under general parliamentary law until a Speaker is elected. For its first 50 years, the House elected the Speaker by ballot. In 1839, this method was changed to election by vive voce meaning that each Member names aloud whom he or she favors for Speaker. Tellers then record the result. In modern practice, each party places the name of a single Member in nomination for the position, but otherwise virtually the same vive voce method is used to elect the Speaker. Because the election of the Speaker typically takes place before the House adopts its rules of procedure, the election process is defined by precedent and practice rather than by any formal rule.

To be elected Speaker a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast, which may be less than a majority of the full membership of the House because of vacancies, absentees, or Members voting "present." Although the major parties nominate candidates for the position of Speaker, there is no limitation on whom Members may vote for. In fact, there is no requirement that the Speaker be a Member of the House. None of the other officers of the House is a Member.

If no candidate receives the requisite majority, the roll call is repeated until a Speaker is elected. Again, Members may continue to vote for any individual, and no restrictions, such as eliminating minority candidates or prohibiting new candidates from being named, are imposed...
Both parties nominate candidates for the position (last time the Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi, the Republicans Dennis Hastert), all members (can) vote.

CMC fnord!
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Old 06-20-2006, 10:59 AM
Freddy the Pig Freddy the Pig is online now
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper
So why do you need to have two leaders of the majority caucus?
There's really no answer except "it just worked out that way".

In the Nineteenth Century, the presiding officers of both houses exercised real power--the Speaker in the House, and the Vice President or the President pro tempore in the Senate. (Nineteenth Century VP's had the life expectancy of gangsta rappers, so the office was often vacant.)

The power derived from the traditional prerogatives of a presiding officer--naming committee members, controlling the schedule, managing debate, and issuing parliamentary rulings. The Speaker's role tended to be more muscular, only because Senators were and are more independent-minded and less likely to defer to an unelected VP who might not even be from the partisan majority. But even the VP/PPT exercised some power.

In the Twentieth Century, within the Senate, leaders elected by the party caucuses emasculated the VP/PPT to the point where presiding was delegated to junior senators as a chore. All of the functions formerly performed by the VP/PPT (except for sitting in the chair and calling on senators) are performed by the Majority Leader. The VP shows up only for ceremonial occasions and to break ties.

Within the House, a parallel process has taken place, but because the Speakers were themselves leaders elected by party caucuses, they've been better able to resist the erosion of their power. The Majority Leader tends to fill a role more like the Whip in other bodies, and the Majority Whip . . . is more like an assistant whip. Such is the modus vivendi that has evolved over the last 100 years.
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