By: No Labels
A strong majority (74 percent) of Americans believe that the Speaker of the House, who controls the flow of legislation in the chamber and sets its agenda, should be elected by both parties, according to the latest No Labels-Harris Poll.
The current system requires a simple majority of the House, which almost always come from the majority party.
How the Speaker is elected is important because it helps set the power dynamic in the chamber. As it stands, a small group of lawmakers can gain undue influence by threatening to replace the Speaker, and the current system would allow them to do so.
The majority largely held up across party lines. Fully 81 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of independents said the Speaker should be elected by a majority of both political parties. The number fell to 60 percent among Republicans, who currently control the House.
Among those who identify themselves as liberals, 81 percent supported the idea, along with 77 percent of moderates and 63 percent of conservatives.
The majority support held among both men and women, across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, and in every region of the country.
Support for the current system, electing the Speaker with votes from only one party, was far lower. Forty percent of Republicans support that idea, along with 19 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents.
The poll, conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics, took place Feb. 22 to March 1 and surveyed 2,041 American adults.
As it stands, the Speaker is elected by a majority of the party in power. That means he or she is beholden to that party’s agenda, with no incentive to work across the aisle. In fact, Speakers are often attacked within their own party and threatened with replacement if they work with the opposition party.
However, the mechanism for electing a Speaker can be vastly improved with a simple rules change at the beginning of the new Congress next year. In fact, changes to the several House rules could be altered to promote bipartisan cooperation.
In the case of electing a Speaker, rather than a simple majority of the House (218 of 435 lawmakers), the rules should specify that 60 percent of members are needed (261 of 435). Lawmakers from both parties would be required to put a Speaker in power, and that Speaker would have to promote a bipartisan agenda.
No Labels will encourage lawmakers in both parties to support this change and other changes to House rules that can make the chamber more bipartisan and more productive. We are also asking our supporters to get involved. Whatever the outcome of November’s election, we’ll have a new House next year and that House should operate differently.
New House, new rules.