To Fix the House, Start With the Speaker

Congress would be more bipartisan if the minority party had a say in the selection.

Longtime observers of congressional races believe that when the dust settles in November, the victorious party will have only a slim majority, probably fewer than 10 seats. If so, members determined to create space for bipartisan legislation would be able to use their leverage by withholding their votes for the majority’s candidate for speaker until the candidate agrees to support reforms in the way the House does business.

  • .. demand an end to “closed” rules that prevent members from offering floor amendments to contested bills; they could
  • ban the consideration of legislative language that members have not had a chance to read and ponder; they could
  • insist that both parties be represented in conference committees.

.. After the midterm election of 1922, the Republicans were left with a narrow majority of 225 seats. A small band of Republican progressives refused for eight ballots to support Frederick Gillett, their party’s anointed candidate for speaker, until he agreed to a package of procedural reforms prior to the ninth.

.. As things now stand, successful candidates need only a simple majority of members present and voting for a candidate. Suppose that the threshold were raised to 60%.

.. The odds of achieving bipartisan solutions to pressing problems would increase significantly.