The Republican Party is the majority party in the House of Representatives, holding 233 out of the 435 seats in the chamber. Historically, this has led to the election of a Speaker of the House from the party, tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations of government. However, there are a growing number of Republicans who are questioning the need for a Speaker, or at least for a Speaker from their party.
This recent debate over the Speaker’s role in the government has partly been sparked by Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Jordan has pushed to “eliminate the post all together”, arguing that the position of Speaker is “an anachronism” and a waste of taxpayer money. Another Republican representative, Chip Roy of Texas, has argued that the people of his district know best and that he should have the power to “represent them—not throw a vote away on someone who may or may not have their best interests in mind”. He goes on to say that a strong Speaker might not be needed thanks to “the House Rules which firmly dictate which bills are taken up for consideration”.
These views have been echoed by other Republicans, who point out that while a Speaker is a symbolic figurehead, it isn’t necessary to have one. They argue that the House majority should be enough to guide the legislative agenda and even elect officers without a Speaker’s influence. For example, the Republican majority could elect a Chairman of the Rules Committee each Congress, who would help to decide which bills are brought up for consideration.
Despite the growing idea of the Republican Party not needing a Speaker, there is also push-back from those who argue the office still serves an important purpose. For instance, Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio, has argued that having a Speaker is important for “making sure… bills get passed and… the government runs the way it’s supposed to”. He goes on to say that having a Speaker provides support and debate to help ensure “both sides of the aisle [are] working together”. Stivers also points out that the Speaker’s importance is increased during difficult times – “when we talk about… a pandemic or natural disaster… a Speaker of the House helps to shape [a] response”.
Ultimately, the question of whether or not the Republican Party needs a Speaker remains to be answered. While there are those who are in favor of eliminating the position, there are others who argue that a Speaker can provide valuable guidance that is necessary in times of crisis. Ultimately, the future of this office will likely be decided in the 2022 midterms, when the Republican majority will come up for re-election – the outcome may determine whether a Speaker is still necessary for the GOP.