Speaker Eleanor Holmes Norton 2014!

I think an historic campaign to elect the first African-American Speaker of the House of Representatives is just the thing to improve the fortunes of the Democratic Party in the House. The politics are right. Republicans are looking forward to an election where people can vote against a black man but not for him. With a black woman as the face of their congressional campaign Democrats could look to maintain minority turnout with President Obama no longer on the ticket.

I’ve long thought the House Majority would be well served to choose a Speaker not already in the House. First of all, it gives you another vote. As a member ex officio the Speaker can vote even if not elected to Congress. As another bonus, shifting partisan leadership over to the Majority Leader creates political symmetry. The title of Majority Leader corresponds with that of the Minority Leader and mirrors the pecking order in the Senate.

Republicans will denounce this as tokenism but Democrats would be entrusting real power to Speaker Norton. Not only would she be the first representative from our capital city to have a full vote in Congress and 2nd in line for the Presidency but her increased visibility would give her clout. Norton’s Speakership would be an important rallying point every 2 years. A commitment to visit black churches in the home district would be a real benefit to vulnerable Representatives.

Not sure you can just name drop Eleanor Holmes in a thread and assume people will know who she is (I doubt most Americans even know her current Office exists, nevermind the name of the occupant).

Eleanor Holmes is the Congressional Representative for DC, which gets a non-voting Rep. as a sort of sop for not having any actual voting representatives at the Federal level.

Interesting idea. Not a chance in hell of it happening, even if the Democrats take the House in 2014. Internal Congressional politics works heavily on both seniority and a* quid pro quo *basis; Holmes would have no seniority and nothing to offer the others to nominate her (or else she’d have to promise everything to everyone which would make her a ridiculously ineffective Speaker).

What makes you think this?

That asked, this is really thinking outside the box, but will never happen. I would expect the next Democratic Speaker to be Steny Hoyer.

Never going to happen. Nobody votes for speaker of the house anyway, so… it’s a silly argument.

Campaigner:“Vote for a democrat this election year for congressional district you live in so that Eleanor Holmes can be Speaker of the House!”

Voter:“Huh? Who is she and how will my voting for a Democrat in my district result in her being elected speaker of the house? Also, what’s a speaker of the house, and what do they do?”



Rule I, Section 7

Rule XX limits voting to Members of the House (obviously) and so with I,7 requiring the Speaker to vote under certain conditions with no conditions that they be an elected Member, it seems that the only way the rules can be internally consistent is if the Speaker is in fact an ex-officio Member of the House.

But the Constitution requires Members to be chose by the people. I don’t think the House can choose a non-Member Speaker and make them a Member on its own.

Assuming we’re following the rules, it seems that the rules might restrict the office of Speaker to a current Member.

I have no doubt that a non-Member Speaker could vote in procedural matters, as delegates and resident commissioners have in the past. But since the Constitution explicitly says that “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states…” I think that provision is sufficiently clear that there is no such thing as an ex officio member of the House of Representatives for the purposes of final votes on bills, etc.

In any case, Eleanor Holmes Norton has no chance of being Speaker, and picking someone for a job specifically because of their demographics is awfully crass, and let’s face it, racist. Plus, nobody votes for a party based on that party’s leadership in Congress. I mean, get real. The leadership in Congress is a boogeyman that Americans vote against, not for. I really want to meet the voters who have ever said, “I’m an undecided voter, but I really like Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi/Dennis Hastert/Bob Michael so I’m going to vote for the candidate from their party!”

The rules make a tacit assumption that the Speaker is an elected Member and considering the Constitution allows the House to pick anyone (does not even have to be eligible for the House) to be the speaker. What I suspect is that is a non-Member were ever elected speaker then the rules would be rewritten or someone would sue if a bill passed based on the Speaker’s vote.

My point is to Frank that according to the Rules, 2sense is correct. Whether or not those Rules are Constitutional in that respect is a whole different question.

ETA: Same point to Ravenman. The Rules as interpreted would imply 2sense is correct but they IMHO they conflict with the Constitution but it would be up to SCOTUS to decide that.

I’m not suggesting that DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (thanks Simplicio for the clarification) be named the leader of the House Democrats but only to the Speakership in a reduced role. The Majority Leader would control committee seating and the agenda just like in the Senate. Speaker Norton would have influence because of her position at the “head of the ticket” as it were and there are also advantages to being the person with your hand on the tiller. Not every moment can be scripted by the party floor leaders.

The idea of personalizing a campaign to elect representatives to pick that person is not unknown in the United States. We call it the Electoral College. Nor is that the only precedent. The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates were for a pre-17th Amendment Senate seat. In other words, they were supporting state legislators who would choose the next senator.

I didn’t invent the idea that a non-Representative chosen as Speaker could vote. I’ve read it in a few different places IIRC though I can’t cite any of those at the moment. I don’t see anything in the Constitution contradicting the idea that the presiding officer is not entitled to vote as a member because of his or her office. It says that the Vice President, "shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided." The bolding is mine. It seems to me that the Constitution doesn’t grant the VP a vote in the case of a tie. It limits the vote of the office to that situation.

As a Washingtonian, I take every opportunity to state that I can’t stand Eleanor Holmes Norton. She manages to be a sellout without having actually gotten anything in the sellingout and don’t get me started on her toadying to the DNC for voting rights that are never going to come. It’s clear that no one at the national level in the DNC gives a shit about DC.

It’s a principle of parliamentary law that only Members of the deliberative body vote. Hence that the rules that allow (and in fact require) a potential non-Member Speaker to vote contradicts the Constitution saying a Member must be voted in by the people and thus there are no ex-officio Members of the House. If the two came into conflict it would be an interesting battle considering each House can make their own rules and SCOTUS can always punt by making it a political question. IMO, the Rule to allow Speakers to vote would be changd in your scenerio to only allow Speaker-Members to vote, either by the courts or more likely the House itself.

Oh, sure, give the black woman a job and take most of the power away. This would be the single most unbelievable political gaffe in American history.

Did you read the part of Article I that I posted? Where the House of Representatives is defined? It seems perfectly clear to me that a non-elected individual is not a member of the House of Representatives.

Late to the thread, but I don’t see how this could work.

This seems rather clear that the Speaker is required to vote, when the House is voting by ballot. If the Speaker is a non-voting member, then he or she could not vote when required to do so, and therefore is ineligible to the office.

So the idea seems to be to get people to vote Democratic so the Dems will have a chance to pick a Speaker who isn’t eligible for the position, purely because she is black.

Great idea - maybe they can run Barack Obama for the White House in 2016, too.


My understanding was that the presiding officer was considered a member. The line I quoted from the Constitution seems to imply that. But looking more closely over Robert’s Rules it seems they imply that you are correct. Hurm. The extra vote was a key part of the idea and I’m not sure how things would work without it. It would be a much more difficult sell to House Democrats I would think.

Obviously the Democrats would want to keep in mind that their opponents are going to push this narrative. Countering that is made easier by the fact that Speaker Norton would have real political power, as I’ve discussed.

Often when things seem perfectly clear is exactly the time you should examine your assumptions. I have read the first article of the Constitution and I disagree. It contains the sentence you quoted, to be sure, but lays out no rules for voting in the House (unlike the Senate). It says the House shall choose its own speaker and determine for itself its own rules and qualifications for membership. It seems to me that the main clue we are given is the treatment of the Vice President (who isn’t a Senator) which again implies that the designated presiding officer is normally accorded a vote.

This would be an odd way to resolve disagreements. The rules also require Representatives stand to participate on the Floor. Should this mean all people in wheelchairs are ineligible to serve in Congress?

Having a minority candidate should help with minority turnout, yes. That’s what’s in it for the House Dems but that’s not all there is to it. It would finally redress a national disgrace in disenfranchising DC residents (assuming the Speaker is automatically a voting member). That historic achievement alone would be worth it. And more than simple justice in giving representation to the citizens of our nation’s capital this would give minorities a strong voice in a Democratic Party that many feel is ignoring them.

How dare she try to get you representation in Congress! And hey, the Democrats did grant this in the past, so why would you say it’s never going to happen?

Where does everyone get this idea that DC or its residents are disenfranchised? The whole reason it exists at all is because if the capital were in any state, that state would be overenfranchised. I have one Representative and two Senators representing me, but a resident of DC has 435 Representatives and 100 Senators representing them.

You think so? Let’s say I write a letter to 100 senators asking them to do a routine constituent service - like I lost my Social Security check and need a new one. You think all 100 senators would look into the issue for me?

Also, there are several issues that are totally I controversial here in DC, like using public funds for abortions. All 535 members of Congress are representing us on that matter too, huh?

Do you have a cite for that being the reason DC doesn’t have representation? Because the American Bar association has concluded that it was an oversight by the framers of the constitution

Why not reapportion DC back to Maryland & Virginia?