The House Speaker's Role

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks in a press conference the day after Democrats took control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
Set to become the nation's first female speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi says Democrats are "ready to lead" in partnership with Republicans, "not in partisanship." President Bush called Pelosi with congratulations Wednesday morning after Democrats took firm control of the House, rebounding after a dozen years in the minority.

Who is Nancy Pelosi?

In the fall of 2002 as Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is the first woman in American history to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress. Pelosi has represented San Francisco in the House for 19 years. Pelosi has been the longest-serving member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1962. Pelosi and her husband have five children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul and Alexandra, and five grandchildren.

What are the Speaker's responsibilities?

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the symbol of the power and authority of the House. The Speaker's most prominent role is that of presiding officer of the House. In this capacity s/he administers proceedings on the House floor, including the power to recognize Members on the floor to speak or make motions and the power to appoint Members to conference committees. The Speaker also oversees much of the non-legislative business of the House, such as general control over the Hall of the House and the House side of the Capitol and service as the chairman of the House Office Building Commission.

What is the Speaker's role in succession?

In the Presidential Line of Succession, he or she is second in the line, after the Vice President of the United States and before the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate.

How many votes does the speaker need to be elected?

To be elected Speaker a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast, which may be less than a majority of the full membership of the House because of vacancies, absentees, or Members voting "present." Although the major parties nominate candidates for the position of Speaker, there is no limitation on whom Members may vote for. In fact, there is no requirement that the Speaker be a Member of the House. None of the other officers of the House is a Member. If no candidate receives the requisite majority, the roll call is repeated until a Speaker is elected.

To learn more about the election:

• Click here for all your political developments from

• To read more about Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, you can visit her website here.

• Click here for legislative information from the Library of Congress.