Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2007

Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

Each new House elects a Speaker by roll call vote when it first convenes. Customarily, the
conference of each major party nominates a candidate whose name is placed in nomination.
Members normally vote for the candidate of their own party conference, but may vote for any
individual, whether nominated or not. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute
majority of all the votes cast for individuals. This number may be less than a majority (now 218)
of the full membership of the House, because of vacancies, absentees, or Members voting
“present .”
This report provides data on elections of the Speaker in each Congress since 1913, when the rdth
House first reached its present size of 435 Members. During that period (63 through 110
Congresses), a Speaker was elected four times with the votes of less than a majority of the full
If a Speaker dies or resigns during a Congress, the House immediately elects a new one. Four
such elections have been necessary since 1913. In the earlier two cases, the House elected the
new Speaker by resolution; in the more recent two, the body used the same procedure as at the
outset of a Congress.
If no candidate receives the requisite majority, the roll call is repeated until a Speaker is elected.
Since 1913, this procedure has been necessary only in 1923, when nine ballots were required
before a Speaker was elected.
From 1913 through 1943, it usually happened that some Members voted for candidates other than
those of the two major parties. The candidates in question were usually those representing the
“progressive” group (reformers originally associated with the Republican party), and in some
Congresses, their names were formally placed in nomination on behalf of that group. From 1943
through 1995, only the nominated Republican and Democratic candidates received votes,
representing the culmination of the establishment of an exclusively two-party system at the
national level.
In four of the six elections since 1997 (105th, 107th-109th Congresses), however, some Members
voted for Members of their own party other than the party nominees. Also, some Members in
1997 voted for candidates who were not then Members of the House. Although the Constitution
does not so require, the Speaker has always been a Member. Further, in 2001, a Member affiliated
with one major party voted for the nominee of the other. Until then, House practice had long
taken for granted that voting for Speaker was demonstrative of party affiliation in the House.
The report will be updated as additional elections for Speaker occur.

Regular and Special Elections of the Speaker.................................................................................1
Size of the House and Majority Required to Elect..........................................................................1
Third and Additional Candidates.....................................................................................................2
Table 1. Individuals Receiving Votes for Speaker, 1913-2007........................................................4
Author Contact Information............................................................................................................7

The traditional practice of the House is to elect a Speaker by roll call vote upon first convening
after a general election of Representatives. Customarily, the conference of each major party in the
House selects a candidate whose name is formally placed in nomination before the roll call.
Members may vote for one of these nominated candidates or for another individual. Usually,
Members vote for the candidate nominated by their own party conference, since the outcome of
this vote in effect establishes which party has the majority, and therefore will organize the House.
Table 1 presents data on the votes cast for candidates for Speaker of the House of Representatives rdth
in each Congress from 1913 (63 Congress) through 2007 (110 Congress). It shows the votes
cast for the nominees of the two major parties, for other candidates nominated from the floor, and
for individuals not formally nominated.
Included in the table are not only the elections held regularly at the outset of each Congress, but
also those held during the course of a Congress as a result of the death or resignation of a sitting
Speaker. Such elections have occurred four times during the period examined:
• in 1936 (74th Congress) upon the death of Speaker Joseph Byrns (D-TN);
• in 1940 (76th Congress) upon the death of Speaker William Bankhead (D-AL);
• in 1962 (87th Congress) upon the death of Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX); and
• in 1989 (101st Congress) upon the resignation of Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX).
On the two earlier occasions among these four, the election was by resolution rather than by roll
call vote. On the more recent two, the same procedure was followed as at the start of a Congress.

The data presented here cover the period during which the permanent size of the House has been
set at 435 Members. This period corresponds to that since the admission of Arizona and New thth
Mexico as the 47 and 48 States in 1912. The actual size of the House was 436, and then 437,
for a brief period between the admission of Alaska and Hawaii (in 1958 and 1959) and the
reapportionment of Representatives following the 1960 census.
By practice of the House going back to its earliest days, an absolute majority of the Members
present and voting is required in order to elect a Speaker. A majority of the full membership of the
House (218, in a House of 435) is not required. Precedents emphasize that the requirement is for a 1
majority of “the total number of votes cast for a person by name.” A candidate for Speaker may
receive a majority of the votes cast, and be elected, while failing to obtain a majority of the full
membership, because some Members either are not present to vote, or vote “present” rather than
voting for a candidate. During the period examined, this kind of result has occurred four times:
• in 1917 (65th Congress), “Champ” Clark (D-MO) was elected with 217 votes;

1 The Clerk,Parliamentary Inquiry, remarks from the chair, Congressional Record, vol. 143, Jan. 7, 1997, p. 117.

• in 1923 (68th Congress), Frederick Gillett (R-MA) was elected with 215 votes;
• in 1943 (78th Congress), Sam Rayburn (D-TX) was elected with 217 votes; and
• in 1997 (105th Congress), Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was elected with 216 votes.
Also, in 1931 (72nd Congress), the candidate of the new Democratic majority, John Nance Garner
of Texas (later Vice President), received 218 votes, a bare majority of the membership. The table
does not take into account the number of vacancies existing in the House at the time of the
election; it therefore cannot show whether or not any Speaker may have been elected lacking a 2
majority of the then qualified membership of the House.
If no candidate obtains the requisite majority, the roll call is repeated. On these subsequent
ballots, Members may still vote for any individual; no restrictions have ever been imposed, such
as that the lowest candidate on each ballot must drop out, or that no new candidate may enter.
Because of the predominance of the two established national parties throughout the period 3
examined, only once during that period did the House fail to elect on the first roll call. In 1923 th
(68 Congress), in a closely divided House, both major party nominees initially failed to gain a
majority because of votes cast for other candidates by Members from the Progressive Party, or
from the “progressive” wing of the Republican Party. Progressives agreed to vote for the
Republican candidate only on the ninth ballot, after the Republican leadership had agreed to
accept a number of procedural reforms favored by the progressives. Thus the Republican was
ultimately elected, although (as noted earlier) still with less than a majority of the full 4

The opening of the 105th Congress in 1997 marked the first time since 1943 that anyone other
than the two major party candidates received votes for Speaker. Exclusively two-party voting had
characterized the entire period since World War II, and the entire period of the “modern

2 The existence of vacancies at the point when a new House first convened was more common before the 20th
Amendment took effect in 1936. Until that time, a Congress elected in one November did not begin its term until
March of the following year, and did not convene until December of that year, unless the previous Congress provided
otherwise by law.
3 This occurrence, however, was more common before the period covered in this report, when the two-party system had
not become as thoroughly established, nor the discipline accompanying it as pronounced.
4 Full results were as follows:
Ballot and Date Gillett (R) Garrett (D) Cooper Madden Present
1 December 3, 1923 197 195 17 5 4
2 December 3 194 194 17 6 3
3 December 3 195 196 17 5 3
4 December 3 197 196 17 5 3
5 December 4 197 197 17 5 3
6 December 4 195 197 17 5 3
7 December 4 196 198 17 5 3
8 December 4 197 198 17 5 3
9 December 5 215 197 0 2 4

Congress,” usually reckoned from the implementation in 1947 (80th Congress) of the Legislative
Reorganization Act of 1946 (P.L. 79-601, 60 Stat. 812).
Earlier, however, the presence of votes for other candidates was normal, occurring in 11 of the 16 rdth
Congresses (63 through 78) that convened from 1913 through 1943. On seven of those 11
occasions, candidates for Speaker, in addition to those of the two major parties, were formally
nominated. These events reflect chiefly the influence in Congress, during those three decades, of
the progressive movement. The additional nominations were offered in the name of that
movement, and the votes cast for Members other than the major party nominees also generally
represent an expression of progressive sentiments.
The pattern of occurrence of additional nominations (displayed in the table) reflects changing
views of Members identifying themselves as “progressives” about whether to constitute
themselves in the House as a separate Progressive Party caucus or as a wing of the Republican
Party. So does the pattern of shifts in the party labels by which these nominees and others
receiving votes chose to designate themselves. The last formal Progressive Party nominee th
appeared in 1937 (75 Congress). After defeats in the following election, the only two remaining
Members representing the Progressive Party were reduced to voting for each other for Speaker, th
and beginning in 1947 (80 Congress), the last standard bearer of the tendency accepted the
Republican label. The demise of this movement in the House represented the final stage in the
establishment of a two-party system at the national level.
In 1997, 2001, 2003, and 2005 at least one Member voted for a member of their own party who
was not that party’s official nominee. These events may indicate the emergence of a new period in
voting for Speaker. Votes cast for other candidates in these years reflected specific circumstances
and events, however, rather than established factions or even identifiable political groupings.
The 1997 ballot was also notable because votes were cast for candidates who were not Members
of the House at the time. Although the Constitution does not require the Speaker (or any other
officer of either chamber) to be a Member, he has always been so, and it is not known that any
votes for individuals other than Members to be Speaker had ever previously been cast in the
entire history of the House.
Finally, in 2001, a Member who bore the designation of one major party voted for the nominee of
the other. Although the table below does not indicate the party affiliation of the Members voting
for each candidate, examination of other available records confirms that no such action had
occurred at least for the previous half century. Rather, House practice had long taken for granted
that the vote for Speaker determines, or at least demonstrates, not only which parties command
majority and minority status, but also of which Members each of these parties is composed. th
Subsequently, in organizing for that Congress (the 107), the party caucus against whose nominee
the Member in question voted did not formally expel him, but declined to provide him with
committee assignments.

Table 1. Individuals Receiving Votes for Speaker, 1913-2007
Year Republican Nominee Votes Democratic Nominee Votes Others Receiving Votes Votes
1913 James R. Mann (NY) 111 James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO) 272 * Victor Murdock (P-KS) 18
Henry A. Cooper (R-WI) 4
John M. Nelson (R-WI) 1
1915 James R. Mann (NY) 195 James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO) 222
1917 James R. Mann (NY) 205 James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO) 217 Irvine L. Lenroot (R-WI) 2
Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA) 2
1919 Frederick H. Gillett (MA) 228 James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO) 172
1921 Frederick H. Gillett (MA) 297 Claude Kitchin (NC) 122
1923 (first ballot) Frederick H. Gillett (MA) 197 Finis J. Garrett (TN) 195 * Henry A. Cooper (R-WI) 17
* Martin B. Madden (R-IL) 5
(ninth ballot) Frederick H. Gillett (MA) 215 Finis J. Garrett (TN) 197 * Martin B. Madden (R-IL) 2
iki/CRS-RL308571925 Nicholas Longworth (OH) 229 Finis J. Garrett (TN) 173 * Henry A. Cooper (R-WI) 13
g/w1927 Nicholas Longworth (OH) 225 Finis J. Garrett (TN) 187
leak1929 Nicholas Longworth (OH) 254 John N. Garner (TX) 143
1931 Bertrand H. Snell (NY) 207 John N. Garner (TX) 218 George J. Schneider (R-WI) 5
://wiki1933 Bertrand H. Snell (NY) 110 Henry T. Rainey (IL) 302 * Paul J. Kvale (F-L-MN) 5
1935 Bertrand H. Snell (NY) 95 Joseph W. Byrns (TN) 317 * George J. Schneider (P-WI) 9
W.P. Lambertson (R-KS) 2
1936 (June 4)a William B. Bankhead (AL) (H.Res. 543)b voice vote
1937 Bertrand H. Snell (NY) 83 William B. Bankhead (AL) 324 * George J. Schneider (P-WI) 10
Fred L. Crawford (R-MI) 2
1939 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 168 William B. Bankhead (AL) 249 Merlin Hull (P-WI) 1
Bernard J. Gehrmann (P-WI) 1
1940 (Sept. 16)a Sam Rayburn (TX) bvoice vote
(H.Res. 602)
1941 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 159 Sam Rayburn (TX) 247 Merlin Hull (P-WI) 2
Bernard J. Gehrmann (P-WI) 1

Year Republican Nominee Votes Democratic Nominee Votes Others Receiving Votes Votes
1943 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 206 Sam Rayburn (TX) 217 Merlin Hull (P-WI) 1
Harry Sauthoff (P-WI) 1
1945 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 168 Sam Rayburn (TX) 224
1947 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 244 Sam Rayburn (TX) 182
1949 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 160 Sam Rayburn (TX) 255
1951 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 193 Sam Rayburn (TX) 231
1953 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 220 Sam Rayburn (TX) 201
1955 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 198 Sam Rayburn (TX) 228
1957 Joseph W. Martin (MA) 199 Sam Rayburn (TX) 227
1959 Charles A. Halleck (IN) 148 Sam Rayburn (TX) 281
1961 Charles A. Halleck (IN) 170 Sam Rayburn (TX) 258
1962 (Jan. 10)a Charles A. Halleck (IN) 166 John W. McCormack (MA) 248
iki/CRS-RL308571963 Charles A. Halleck (IN) 175 John W. McCormack (MA) 256
s.or1965 Gerald R. Ford (MI) 139 John W. McCormack (MA) 289
leak1967 Gerald R. Ford (MI) 186 John W. McCormack (MA) 246
://wiki1969 Gerald R. Ford (MI) 187 John W. McCormack (MA) 241
http1971 Gerald R. Ford (MI) 176 Carl B. Albert (OK) 250
1973 Gerald R. Ford (MI) 188 Carl B. Albert (OK) 236
1975 John J. Rhodes (AZ) 143 Carl B. Albert (OK) 287
1977 John J. Rhodes (AZ) 142 Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA) 290
1979 John J. Rhodes (AZ) 152 Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA) 268
1981 Robert H. Michel (IL) 183 Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA) 233
1983 Robert H. Michel (IL) 155 Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA) 260
1985 Robert H. Michel (IL) 175 Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA) 247
1987 Robert H. Michel (IL) 173 Jim Wright (TX) 254
1989 Robert H. Michel (IL) 170 Jim Wright (TX) 253
1989 (June 6)a Robert H. Michel (IL) 164 Thomas S. Foley (WA) 251

Year Republican Nominee Votes Democratic Nominee Votes Others Receiving Votes Votes
1991 Robert H. Michel (IL) 165 Thomas S. Foley (WA) 262
1993 Robert H. Michel (IL) 174 Thomas S. Foley (WA) 255
1995 Newt Gingrich (GA) 228 Richard A. Gephardt (MO) 202
1997 Newt Gingrich (GA) 216 Richard A. Gephardt (MO) 205 James Leach (R-IA) c 2
Robert H. Michelc1
Robert Walker 1
1999 J. Dennis Hastert (IL) 220 Richard A. Gephardt (MO) 205
2001 J. Dennis Hastert (IL) 222 Richard A. Gephardt (MO) 206 John P. Murtha (D-PA) 1
2003 J. Dennis Hastert (IL) 228 Nancy Pelosi (CA) 201 John P. Murtha (D-PA) 1
2005 J. Dennis Hastert (IL) 226 Nancy Pelosi (CA) 199 John P. Murtha (D-PA) 1
2007 John A. Boehner (OH) 202 Nancy Pelosi (CA) 233
Source: Journals of the House of Representatives (for 2003-2007, Congressional Record, daily edition). Party designations are taken from the Congressional Directory for the
iki/CRS-RL30857respective years.
s.orElected candidate in bold.
* = “Other” candidate’s name formally placed in nomination.
://wikiParty designations of “other” candidates: R = Republican, P = Progressive, F-L = Farmer-Labor
a. Special election to fill a vacancy in the Speakership caused by death or resignation.
b. Elected by resolution, not by roll call from nominations.
c. Not a Member of the House at the time.

Richard S. Beth James V. Saturno
Specialist on the Congress and Legislative Process Section Research Manager
rbeth@crs.loc.gov, 7-8667 jsaturno@crs.loc.gov, 7-2381