With the news that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House, the job is now up for grabs for anyone who is interested. Literally anyone, even Donald Trump.
The U.S. Constitution gives the House of Representatives the right to “chuse [sic] their Speaker and other Officers,” but does not say how they have to do it or who is eligible. That means the House could technically nominate any person they want, even if that person has never been in Congress, or has never been an elected official, or owns several bankrupt casinos… you get the idea.
In all of U.S. history, the House has never taken advantage of this opportunity, and has consistently selected someone from within the chamber. However, in the past some members have voted individually for people outside of congress to be Speaker. In 2012 when the 113th Congress convened after the election, one defiant Republican nominated former Congressman and conspiracy theorist Allen West, even though West had just lost his seat. Another Republican nominated former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Powell, who was not and has never been, a member of Congress.
The current system, developed by Thomas Jefferson, has been the standard for most of American history, though Congress has deviated from it from time to time. Under those rules the Speaker of the House must obtain the support of a majority of the chamber and not just a plurality. That doesn’t speak well for Trump’s chances, given he has never even broken above 50 percent among Iowa caucus goers, let alone sitting members of Congress.
Nevertheless, there remains an opportunity for the House of Representatives to select a non-member and, given Congress’ current approval rating, that might not be such a bad idea. For what it’s worth Fusion’s own Katie McDonough has, as of this posting, thrown her hat into the ring.
To my knowledge, she has never voted to raise the debt ceiling or compromised with President Obama, so she may be an ideal candidate.