Pre-University (CIE) Comparative Government: Specimen Questions with Answers 1 - 1 of 53

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Describe in Detail

Discuss the powers of Speaker of American House of Representatives.

Explanation

The Speakership has always been an important office. The powers of the speaker were substantially increased in the late 1880s and during the 1890s.

  • The power to preside and recognize: The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives. As such, he conducts the proceedings of the House and recognizes the members. The rules of the House provide that if two or more members rise, “the Speaker shall name the member who is the first to speak”. This is effect enabled the speaker to exercise wide control over the course of debate in the House. He always recognized his members’ only up to 1911. It may however, be mentioned that the scope of the power of recognition has been gradually reduced by the rules and precedents of the House. The consent calendar has done away with the Speaker’s discretion in according or denying recognition when unanimous consent is being asked.

  • The power to maintain order: The Speaker maintains order and decorum in the House. The rules of the House in this respect are strict. The members must address the Chair respectfully, must not wear hats or smoke in the House, and must obey the Speaker’s rulings. IF THE Speaker calls any member to order, he must immediately sit down. In case of disturbance or disorderly conduct, the Speaker may either suspend the business or instruct the Sergeant-at-Arms to quiet any disorder in the House. But the Speaker cannot censure, expel or punish a member. Only the House can do that.

  • The power to interpret the rules: the Speaker interprets the rules of the House and applies them. On many matters, the rules are simple and explicit and he must apply them according to their obvious meaning. He is also obliged to follow the precedents of the House, although it is within his powers to create new precedents, provided that the House so requires. The ruling of the Speaker, it may be noted, is not final. A majority of the House may overrule the interpretation made by the Speaker, though it rarely exercises this prerogative.

  • Chairmanship of Rules Committee (before and after 1910): before 1910 the Speaker used to be the chairman of the Rules Committee. Originally this Committee was a special Committee, its only function being to recommend a set of rules for the House at the beginning of each new Congress. This was not of any great consequence because the Committee recommended that the rules of the preceding Congress be adopted with perhaps a few minor changes. But in course of time, the Rules Committee became a regular Committee with the right to report a new rule at any time or for any purpose. The Speaker being its Chairman was well in a position to secure at any time the adoption of a special rule, prevent consideration of measures to which he was opposed and to advance measures which he favored.

  • The growth of the Speaker’s authority and his denial of the right to debate in many cases led to a revolt in 1910 against his legislative dictatorship. In that year, a group of insurgent Republicans combined with the Democrats and deprived the Speaker of the power to appoint the Committee on rules and provided that the Speaker should henceforth be ineligible for membership of the Rules Committee. In April, 1911, the Democrats who won at the polls, changed the rules of the House in such a way that it took away the selection of Standing Committees and Committee’ chairman entirely out of the Speaker’s hands. Thus, his powers were considerably curtailed.

  • His other powers:

    • The Speaker signs all acts, addresses, joint resolutions, writs, warrants, and subpoenas as ordered by the House.

    • Puts questions to vote.

    • Appoints such select and Conference Committees as from time to time are authorized.

    • If there is a doubt as to which Committee a particular bill be referred to, it is for the Speaker to decide the matter.

    • He can order thee lobbies to be cleared if he considers the same necessary.

    • He announces the order of business and also declares the result of voting.

    • As a member of the House, he has the right to speak and vote as other members, although he does not vote, except when the House is voting by ballot or when there is a tie. In case of a tie, he is apt to vote for his party.

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