The Speaker of the House of Representatives performs a variety of duties.  Democrat Nancy Pelosi—our current Speaker and the first woman, Californian, and Italian American to hold the position—serves in three main roles: representing her district, leading both her party and the House as a whole, and ensuring respectful behavior on the House floor.

As presiding officer, the Speaker calls on members at will, resulting in some control over the course of debate, but perhaps the most influential aspect of the Speaker’s job is the fact that they decide which legislation gets voted on, and when.  Third in line to take over if the President is unable to fulfill their duties, the Speaker also selects nine of the thirteen members of the Committee on Rules, and appoints all members of select and conference committees.  Then, when a bill is presented, it is the Speaker that decides which committee will consider it.

The Speaker, as a member of the House, is entitled to debate and vote, but they traditionally only do so in decisive circumstances involving high-profile subjects, like constitutional amendments.  Considered a partisan role, when the Speaker and the President share a common party, there is less for the Speaker to do, but when they come from opposite parties—such as when Pelosi was part of the Bush cabinet—the friction can be fierce.

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