President Trump walks past Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during his State of the Union address in February 2020. When I first heard the rumblings that Donald Trump could become the next speaker of the House, I rolled my eyes.
What fresh insanity, right? Like most people, I believed the speaker of the House had to be an elected member of Congress.
Think back to the speakers you’ve heard of. Not just the most recent ones, but also Sam Rayburn of Texas. Tip O’Neill, the Boston pol who dominated the House of Representatives when I was coming of age. Newt Gingrich, who changed the course of conservative American politics. James K. Polk! Henry Clay!
Every single one of them , and every single one of their predecessors going back to Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania in 1789, was a member of the House. So pardon my ignorance for thinking it was a requirement.
In fact, there is no law or constitutional mandate that limits the speakership to an elected representative. There isn’t even a House rule about it. It’s just a norm , and we know what those are worth these days.
To become speaker, all a person needs to do is win an absolute majority of votes cast by the elected members of the House. That person could be the D.C. dog catcher or some wild-eyed madman proclaiming the end of days outside the Capitol or a child chosen at random from a nearby fourth-grade classroom.
Or, worse yet, it could be Donald Trump.
The first I heard of this awful idea was back in June, when it was floated by Trump sycophant Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). He suggested that if the GOP were to win a majority in the House in the midterms — as it is expected to do — its members could then vote Trump in as their leader.
“Can you just imagine Nancy Pelosi having to hand that gavel to Donald J. Trump?” Gaetz crowed in a speech in June.
A Trump spokesman dismissed the idea, saying the former president had “zero desire” to be speaker.
But then in November, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested it again . “As you know, you don’t have to be an elected member of Congress to be speaker,” he added on Trump confidant Stephen K. Bannon’s "War Room" podcast.