The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer (chair) of a deliberative assembly, especially 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 person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations. The title was first recorded in 1377 to describe the role of Thomas de Hungerford in the Parliament of England. By convention, Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as Mister Speaker, if a man, or Madam Speaker, if a woman. In most other cultures other styles are used, mainly language equivalents of English "chairman" or "president". In Canadian French, the Speaker of the House of Commons or of a legislature is referred to as Président.
Many bodies also have a speaker pro tempore or deputy speaker, designated to fill in when the speaker is not available.
United Kingdom and other "Westminster system" countries
In Westminster-style chambers, the speaker does not have a deliberative vote, but only a tiebreaker. In some countries such as the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, this has developed into a convention of scrupulous political neutrality and the speaker resigns from his party, votes only by convention to ensure the government does not fall, and is either not challenged (in the UK) or automatically deemed elected if re-election is sought (in Ireland). Despite these conventions, the speaker is usually elected from among the members of the assembly by the members, and whips are not allowed to be among the selection. In the United Kingdom, a speaker is normally chosen from one of the two largest parties.
These conventions do not apply in all countries. In Canada, major parties routinely field candidates against a speaker seeking re-election. In Australia, the speakership is a partisan position and the politically neutral position of the UK has been criticised by the Clerk of the Senate as potentially disenfranchising voters in the Speaker's seat.
Upper Houses in Westminster style Parliaments often have a presiding office which works differently, following the different conventions that apply in the British House of Lords. The officer may still be titled Speaker, as (since 2006) in the House of Commons, or use a different title, such as "President" as in the Australian Senate.
In the United States, in the 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 speakers are supposed to be fair, they use procedural rulings to advance the agenda of their own party. Ceremonially, the speaker represents the whole house, but politically 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.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is second in the presidential line of succession, becoming President of the United States if the president and Vice President are unable to serve. Some scholars, however, have argued that this provision of the succession statute is unconstitutional.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is currently John Boehner.
The Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an elected Member of Congress. No non-member has ever been elected Speaker.
According the Constitution, the Senate is presided over by the Vice President of the United States as ex officio President of the Senate. In practice, this role is delegated to a Senator elected as President pro tempore, who normally further delegates to a deputy.
The presiding officer for an upper house of a bicameral legislature usually has a different title, although substantially the same duties.
When the upper house is called a senate, the equivalent title is often President of the Senate. Australia, Chile, the United States and many other countries have upper houses with presiding officers titled "president". In several American republics, the vice president of the country serves as the president of the upper house.
In the United Kingdom, 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. The Lord 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 Baroness Hayman took the woolsack as the first Lord Speaker.) (The office of Lord Chancellor remains, though with a modified role and duties.)
The Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly which fulfil the same role as the speaker.
List of current Speakers
- President of Congress (disambiguation)
- President of the Legislative Assembly (disambiguation)
- President of the National Assembly (disambiguation)
- President of the Senate
- Speaker of the House
- Speaker of the House of Assembly (disambiguation)
- Speaker of the House of Commons (disambiguation)
- Speaker of the House of Representatives (disambiguation)
- Speaker of the Legislative Assembly (disambiguation)
- Speaker of the National Assembly (disambiguation)
- Speaker of the Senate
- Speaker of the Canadian Senate
- Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
- Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council
- Cathaoirleach (Speaker of the Irish Senate)
- Lord Speaker (Speaker of the United Kingdom House of Lords)
- Marshal of the Senate, Poland
- President of the European Parliament
- President of the National Assembly of Quebec
- President of the Senate of Romania
- Presiding Officer of the United States Senate
- Bergougnous, Georges. Presiding Officers of National Parliamentary Assemblies: A World Comparative Study. Trans. Jennifer Lorenzi. Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union, 1997. ISBN 92-9142-028-X.
- ^ The Australian. (2010-08-31). Independent speaker not fair on voters, warns Clerk of Senate. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
- ^ 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
- ^ "01 September confirmed as date for Vanuatu Presidential Election". Islands Business. 2009-09-02. http://www.islandsbusiness.com/news/index_dynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=130/focusContentID=16428/tableName=mediaRelease/overideSkinName=newsArticle-full.tpl. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
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