What does the Speaker of the House do?

Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House, announced this week he will retire from Congress.

What does the speaker do?

Second in the line of presidential succession after the vice president, the speaker occupies a central role in our national government.

Most people think the speakership is a party office. It’s not. The speaker is selected by the full House membership, though the majority party’s voting power ensures that the role is occupied by one of their own.

From legislation to accounting

The speaker fills three primary roles.

First, they are the most visible and authoritative spokesperson for the majority party in the House. Speakers articulate an agenda and explain legislative action to other Washington officials as well as the public. They oversee House committee assignments and collaborate with the powerful House Rules Committee to structure floor debate.

Second, the speaker manages business on the floor and navigates legislative rules, structuring House debate in a way that will advantage their legislative priorities. Adherence to strict rules and procedures is necessary to overcome the difficulty of managing a large legislative body like the House of Representatives.

Third, the speaker oversees everything from accounting to procurement for the House.