Speaker (politics)

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The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the house. The speaker often also represents the body in his or her person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations.

As a parliamentary title it is typically Anglo-Saxon, first recorded in the English parliament for Thomas de Hungerford in 1377; in most other cultures other styles are used, mainly translations of Chairman or President.


[edit] UK and "Westminster system" countries

In many nations, especially those with the Westminster System of government, the position of Speaker, modelled after the office in the British House of Commons, is ideally scrupulously politically neutral and is not concerned with substantive issues. In the event of a tie, the speaker is permitted to vote but only according to established conventions. In most cases the speaker is elected from among the members of the assembly by the members, and whips are not allowed to be among the selection. A speaker from the ruling party is usually chosen.

Despite being an impartial position, the Speaker in a Westminster system parliament has to stand for re-election if (s)he wishes to stay. In the Republic of Ireland the Speaker (Ceann Comhairle) is deemed to have been elected if he seeks re-election; in the United Kingdom it is a constitutional convention that no major party will put up a candidate against the 'Speaker seeking re-election'. However in recent times the Scottish National Party has put up candidates against the incumbent speaker (Michael Martin).

[edit] United States

In the United States, in the United States House of Representatives and in state legislatures and local government councils, the speaker is usually selected by the members of the majority party and functions as a leader of that party. Thus, though the speaker is expected to be fair, he or she uses procedural rulings to advance the causes and agenda of his or her own party. Ceremonially, the speaker may represent the whole house, but politically he or she is the legislative voice of the party in power.

There is one prominent case of a speaker who is not presiding officer. The New York City Council, the unicameral legislative body for New York City, has as its presiding officer the Public Advocate, a position formerly known as City Council President, who is elected by all the voters of the city. As the public advocate's role has changed with several city charter revisions, a post of Council Speaker was created. The speaker is, effectively, majority leader of the council.

According to the federal succession statute currently in effect,<ref>3 U.S.C. § 19</ref>, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress is third in line for succession to the presidency; should the president and vice president be unable to serve, the speaker would become president. Some scholars, however, have argued that this provision of the succession statute is unconstitutional.<ref>See Akhil Reed Amar & Vikram Amar,Is The Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 113 (1995). This issue is discussed in the entry on the United States Presidential Line of Succession</ref>

[edit] Similar posts

It is fairly rare for an upper house of a bicameral legislature to use the style 'speaker' - the term is generally restricted to lower houses (as the House of Commons in the UK, and the House of Representatives in the U.S.) - though the presiding officer of the upper house, whatever the title, has substantially the same duties.

For example, in the UK, the presiding officer of the House of Lords was until recently the Lord Chancellor, who was also a member of the government (a cabinet member) and the head of the judicial branch, though the chancellor did not have the same authority to discipline members of the Lords that the speaker of the Commons has in that house. (On 4 July 2006 the office was reformed, and the first Lord Speaker Baroness Haymen took to the woolsack.)

In the U.S., the Vice-President of the United States is the constitutionally-designated President of the Senate, the upper house of Congress. (Hence, the president of the United States begins his speeches to joint sessions of Congress addressing "Mr. President," meaning his own vice president as chair of the Senate). In practice, however, modern vice presidents almost never take the chair except on certain state occasions or to break a tie.

Similarly, most U.S. states have bicameral state legislatures with the lower house (variously called the House of Representatives, Assembly, or House of Delegates) led by a speaker, and the upper house (invariably called the Senate) led by a president or, less often, a speaker.

The upper houses in Australia and Chile have presidents. Examples of upper house leaders being styled 'speaker' include the presiding officer of the Canadian Senate.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

es:Presidente de la Cámara ja:議長 sv:Talman

Speaker (politics)

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