In recent days, a handful of high-profile Republicans have made headlines by opining that the House of Representatives may not even need a Speaker of the House. Dissenting from the GOP leadership’s long-held support for a strong Speaker, the arguments of Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, former House member and current VP pick Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and other prominent voices question the conventional wisdom that a Speaker is a necessary part of a functioning democracy.
The idea behind having a Speaker of the House is that a single authoritative figure is needed to maintain order and decorum in the House chamber. Many of the players in this situation ultimately disagree with the extent to which a Speaker is needed for the House to function properly.
The key issue at hand here is the centralization of power. Without a powerful Speaker of the House in place to maintain order and act as a unified voice for the Republican majority, the potential for dealing and horse trading amongst individual Members of Congress increases dramatically. Power would become much more diffuse, and it’s conceivable that legislation could be more easily held hostage to pet issues of individual Representatives.
At the same time, some of the Republican voices making this argument suggest that a more decentralized House structure might not be all that bad, arguing that open debate and real deliberation might help eliminate much of the partisan gridlock we see far too often these days.
Ultimately, the future of the Speaker position is up to individual members of the House of Representatives and will be determined by the current political landscape. Change is always difficult, and it remains to be seen whether the GOP is willing to make the long-term change that may be necessary. One thing is for sure; as the Republican power base shifts, the push for a Speaker of the House is likely to remain a much-discussed topic.