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How are Speakers of the House elected?

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Quick Answer

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected by a roll call voice vote in the House. This occurs at the beginning of each new Congress, as well as when a Speaker dies or retires or when the House majority changes hands between parties.

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Full Answer

In most cases, the vote for Speaker is merely a formality, since party discipline forces each party to vote for their own candidate. When a House member violates this practice, as Democrat Jim Traficant did in 1994 by voting for Republican Dennis Hastert, the offending representative is usually stripped of his seniority and committee positions. Therefore, in modern practice, the Speaker is simply chosen by the majority party from their ranks in private discussion before the beginning of the Congressional term. The new Speaker is sworn in by the Dean of the House of Representatives, the longest-serving member of the House.

In most cases, when the House majority changes hands, the minority leader becomes Speaker automatically. As of 2015, the Democrats have always followed this rule, while the Republicans have replaced the party leader on a few occasions due to internal political rivalries. Speakers who lose their post as the result of a majority change are not always retained as minority leaders.

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