Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021




Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021
Updated January 25, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
RL30857




Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021

Summary
Each new House elects a Speaker by roll cal vote when it first convenes. Customarily, the
conference of each major party nominates a candidate whose name is placed in nomination. A
Member normal y votes for the candidate of his or her own party conference but may vote for any
individual, whether nominated or not. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute
majority of al the votes cast for individuals. This number may be less than a majority (now 218)
of the full membership of the House because of vacancies, absentees, or Members answering
“present.”
This report provides data on elections of the Speaker in each Congress since 1913, when the
House first reached its present size of 435 Members. During that period (63rd through 117th
Congresses), a Speaker was elected six times with the votes of less than a majority of the full
membership.
If a Speaker dies or resigns during a Congress, the House immediately elects a new one. Five
such elections occurred since 1913. In the earlier two cases, the House elected the new Speaker
by resolution; in the more recent three, the body used the same procedure as at the outset of a
Congress.
If no candidate receives the requisite majority, the roll cal is repeated until a Speaker is elected.
Since 1913, this procedure has been necessary only in 1923, when nine bal ots were required
before a Speaker was elected.
From 1913 through 1943, more often than not, some Members voted for candidates other than
those of the two major parties. The candidates in question were usual y those representing the
“progressive” group (reformers original y associated with the Republican Party), and in some
Congresses, their names were formal y placed in nomination on behalf of that group. From 1945
through 1995, only the nominated Republican and Democratic candidates received votes,
reflecting the establishment of an exclusively two-party system at the national level.
In 11 of the 14 elections since 1997, however, some Members have voted for candidates other
than the official nominees of their parties. Only in the initial election in 2015, however, were any
such candidates formal y placed in nomination. Usual y, the additional candidates receiving votes
have been other Members of the voter’s own party, but in one instance, in 2001, a Member voted
for the official nominee of the other party. In the 1997, 2013, 2015 (both instances), 2019, and
2021 elections, votes were cast for candidates who were not then Members of the House,
including, in the initial 2015 election, the 2019 election, and the 2021 election, sitting Senators.
Although the Constitution does not so require, the Speaker has always been a Member of the
House.
The report wil be updated as additional elections for Speaker occur.
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Contents
Regular and Special Elections of the Speaker ...................................................................... 1
Size of the House and Majority Required to Elect ................................................................ 1
Third and Additional Candidates ....................................................................................... 3

Tables
Table 1. Individuals Receiving Votes for Speaker, 1913-2021................................................. 5

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 10
Acknowledgments......................................................................................................... 10

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Regular and Special Elections of the Speaker
The traditional practice of the House is to elect a Speaker by roll cal vote upon first convening
after a general election of Representatives.1 Customarily, the conference of each major party in
the House selects a candidate whose name is formal y placed in nomination before the roll cal . A
Member may vote for one of these nominated candidates or for another individual.2 In the great
majority of cases, Members vote for the candidate nominated by their own party conferences,
since the outcome of this vote in effect establishes which party has the majority and therefore wil
organize the House.
Table 1 presents data on the votes cast for candidates for Speaker of the House of Representatives
in each Congress from 1913 (63rd Congress) through 2021 (117th Congress). It shows the votes
cast for the nominees of the two major parties, other candidates nominated from the floor, and
individuals not formal y nominated.
Included in the table are not only the elections held regularly at the outset of each Congress but
also those held during the course of a Congress as a result of the death or resignation of a sitting
Speaker. Such elections have occurred five times during the period examined:
 in 1936 (74th Congress) upon the death of Speaker Joseph Byrns;
 in 1940 (76th Congress) upon the death of Speaker Wil iam Bankhead;
 in 1962 (87th Congress) upon the death of Speaker Sam Rayburn;
 in 1989 (101st Congress) upon the resignation of Speaker Jim Wright; and
 in 2015 (114th Congress) upon the resignation of Speaker John Boehner.
On the two earlier occasions among these five, the election was by resolution rather than by roll
cal vote. On the more recent three, the same procedure was followed as at the start of a Congress.
Size of the House and Majority Required to Elect
The data presented here cover the period during which the permanent size of the House has been
set at 435 Members. This period corresponds to that since the admission of Arizona and New
Mexico as the 47th and 48th states in 1912. The actual size of the House was 436, and then 437, for
a brief period between the admission of Alaska and Hawai (in 1958 and 1959) and the
reapportionment of Representatives following the 1960 census.
By practice of the House going back to its earliest days, an absolute majority of the Members
present and voting is required in order to elect a Speaker. A majority of the full membership of the
House (218, in a House of 435) is not required. Precedents emphasize that the requirement is for a
majority of “the total number of votes cast for a person by name.”3 A candidate for Speaker may

1 Until the 1830s, the Speaker was elected by secret ballot. See Asher C. Hinds, Hinds’ Precedents of the House of
Representative of the United States
, vol. I (Washington, DC: GPO, 1906), §§187, 204 -211. Also see Jeffrey A. Jenkins
and Charles Stewart III, Fighting for the Speakership: The House and the Rise of Party Governm ent (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2013).
2 Candidates may vote for themselves, although they have often declined to vote or voted “present.” For examples of
both party nominees voted for themselves, see Congressional Record, vol. 153, January 4, 2007, p. 3, and proceedings
on January 3, 2019.
3 T he Clerk, remarks from the chair (and parliamentary inquiry immediately following), Congressional Record, vol.
143, January 7, 1997, p. 117. See also Charles W. Johnson, John V. Sullivan, and T homas J. Wickham, Jr., House
Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House
(Washington, DC: GPO, 2017), ch. 34, §3,
which states that “the Speaker is elected by a majority of Members-elect voting by surname, a quorum being present.”
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Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021

receive a majority of the votes cast, and be elected, while failing to obtain a majority of the full
membership because some Members either are not present to vote or instead answer “present”
rather than voting for a candidate. During the period examined, this kind of result has occurred
five times:
 in 1917 (65th Congress), “Champ” Clark was elected with 217 votes;
 in 1923 (68th Congress), Frederick Gil ett was elected with 215 votes;
 in 1943 (78th Congress), Sam Rayburn was elected with 217 votes;
 in 1997 (105th Congress), Newt Gingrich was elected with 216 votes;
 in 2015 (114th Congress), John Boehner was elected with 216 votes; and
 in 2021 (117th Congress), Nancy Pelosi was elected with 216 votes.
In addition, in 1931 (72nd Congress), the candidate of the new Democratic majority, John Nance
Garner (later Vice President), received 218 votes, a bare majority of the membership. The table
does not take into account the number of vacancies existing in the House at the time of the
election; it therefore cannot show whether any Speaker may have been elected lacking a majority
of the then qualified membership of the House.4
If no candidate obtains the requisite majority, the roll cal is repeated. On these subsequent
bal ots, Members may stil vote for any individual; no restrictions have ever been imposed, such
as that the lowest candidate on each bal ot must drop out, or that no new candidate may enter.
Because of the predominance of the two established national parties during the period examined,
only once in the period did the House fail to elect on the first roll cal .5 In 1923 (68th Congress), in
a closely divided House, both major party nominees initial y failed to gain a majority because of
votes cast for other candidates by Members from the Progressive Party or from the “progressive”
wing of the Republican Party. Many of these Members agreed to vote for the Republican
candidate only on the ninth bal ot, after the Republican leadership had agreed to accept a number
of procedural reforms these Members favored. Thus the Republican was ultimately elected,
although (as noted earlier) stil with less than a majority of the full membership.6

See also U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives, One
Hundred Sixteenth Congress
, (compiled by) T homas J. Wickham, Parliament arian, 115th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Doc. 115-
177 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2019), §27.
4 T he existence of vacancies at the point when a new House first convened was more common before the 20 th
Amendment took effect in 1936. Until that time, a Congress elected in one November did not begin its term until
March of the following year, and did not convene until December of that year, unless the previous Congress provided
otherwise by law.
5 T his occurrence, however, was more common before the period covered in this report, when the two-party system had
not become as thoroughly established nor the discipline accompanying it as pronounced.
6 Full results were as follows:
Ballot and Date
Gillett (R)
Garrett (D)
Cooper
Madden
Present

1 December 3, 1923
197
195
17
5
4

2 December 3
194
194
17
6
3

3 December 3
195
196
17
5
3

4 December 3
197
196
17
5
3

5 December 4
197
197
17
5
3

6 December 4
195
197
17
5
3

7 December 4
196
198
17
5
3

8 December 4
197
198
17
5
3
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Third and Additional Candidates
In the first portion of the period covered by Table 1, it was common for candidates other than
those of the two major parties to receive votes. Such action occurred in 11 of the 16 Congresses
(63rd-78th) that convened from 1913 through 1943. On 7 of those 11 occasions, candidates other
than those of the two major parties were formal y nominated. These events reflect chiefly the
influence in Congress, during those three decades, of the progressive movement. The additional
nominations were offered in the name of that movement, and the votes cast for Members other
than the major party nominees also general y represent an expression of progressive sentiments.
During this period, the occurrence of additional nominations (displayed in the table) reflects
changing views of Members identifying themselves as “progressives” about whether to constitute
themselves in the House as a separate Progressive Party caucus or as a wing of the Republican
Party. So does the pattern of shifts in the party labels by which these nominees and others
receiving votes chose to designate themselves. The last formal Progressive Party nominee
appeared in 1937 (75th Congress). After defeats in the following election, the only two remaining
Members representing the Progressive Party were reduced to voting for each other for Speaker,
and beginning in 1947 (80th Congress), the last standard-bearer of the tendency accepted the
Republican label. The demise of this movement in the House represented the final stage in the
establishment of a two-party system at the national level.
From 1945 through 1995 (79th-104th Congresses), only the official nominees of the two major
parties received votes for Speaker. This pattern, in other words, persisted from the end of World
War II and the advent of the “modern Congress”7 until after the Republicans had regained the
majority in the 104th Congress (1995-1996) after four decades as the minority party. During this
period, the presumption became firmly established that a Member’s vote for Speaker wil reliably
reflect his or her party membership.
The opening of the 105th Congress in 1997, accordingly, marked the first time since 1943 that
anyone other than the two major party candidates received votes for Speaker. In 11 of the 14
speakership elections since then (1997-2021), at least one Member has voted for a candidate other
than ones formal y nominated by the major party conferences. Early in this period, votes cast for
other candidates seem to have usual y reflected specific circumstances and events, but in the most
recent instances, some of them may be regarded as reflecting action by identifiable political
factions or groupings. During this period, only in the initial election of 2015 have the names of
any candidates other than those of the party conferences been formal y placed in nomination.
The bal ots in 1997, 2013, 2015 (both instances), 2019, and 2021 were also notable because votes
were cast for candidates who were not Members of the House at the time. In the initial election in
2015, two of the votes cast were for sitting Members of the Senate; in 2019 and 2021, one such
bal ot was cast. Although the Constitution does not require the Speaker (or any other officer of
either chamber) to be a Member, the Speaker has always been so; it is not known that any votes
for individuals other than Members to be Speaker had ever previously been cast in the history of
the House.


9 December 5
215
197
0
2
4

7 T he “modern Congress” is usually reckoned from the implementation in the 80 th Congress (1947-1948) of the
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (P.L. 79 -601, 60 Stat. 812).
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Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021

Notably, in 2001, a Member who bore the designation of one major party voted for the nominee
of the other. Although the table below does not indicate the party affiliation of the Members
voting for each candidate, examination of other available records confirms that no such action
had occurred at least for the previous half century.8

8 Subsequently, in organizing for that Congress (the 107th), the party caucus against whose nominee the Member voted
declined to provide him with committee assignments.
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Table 1. Individuals Receiving Votes for Speaker, 1913-2021
Year
Republican Nominee
Votes
Democratic Nominee
Votes
Others Receiving Votes
Votes
1913
James R. Mann (IL)
111
James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO)
272
Victor Murdock (P-KS)
18
Henry A. Cooper (R-WI)
4
John M. Nelson (R-WI)
1
1915
James R. Mann (IL)
195
James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO)
222


1917
James R. Mann (IL)
205
James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO)
217
Irvine L. Lenroot (R-WI)
2
Frederick H. Gil ett (R-MA)
2
1919
Frederick H. Gillett (MA)
228
James B. (“Champ”) Clark (MO)
172


1921
Frederick H. Gillett (MA)
297
Claude Kitchin (NC)
122


1923 (first bal ot)
Frederick H. Gil ett (MA)
197
Finis J. Garrett (TN)
195
Henry A. Cooper (R-WI)
17
Martin B. Madden (R-IL)
5
(ninth bal ot)
Frederick H. Gillett (MA)
215
Finis J. Garrett (TN)
197
Martin B. Madden (R-IL)
2
1925
Nicholas Longworth (OH)
229
Finis J. Garrett (TN)
173
Henry A. Cooper (R-WI)
13
1927
Nicholas Longworth (OH)
225
Finis J. Garrett (TN)
187


1929
Nicholas Longworth (OH)
254
John N. Garner (TX)
143


1931
Bertrand H. Snel (NY)
207
John N. Garner (TX)
218
George J. Schneider (R-WI)
5
1933
Bertrand H. Snel (NY)
110
Henry T. Rainey (IL)
302
Paul J. Kvale (F-L-MN)
5
1935
Bertrand H. Snel (NY)
95
Joseph W. Byrns (TN)
317
George J. Schneider (P-WI)
9
W.P. Lambertson (R-KS)
2
1936 (June 4)a


William B. Bankhead (AL)
voice vote


(H.Res. 543)b
1937
Bertrand H. Snel (NY)
83
William B. Bankhead (AL)
324
George J. Schneider (P-WI)
10
Fred L. Crawford (R-MI)
2
1939
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
168
William B. Bankhead (AL)
249
Merlin Hul (P-WI)
1
Bernard J. Gehrmann (P-WI)
1
1940 (Sept. 16)a


Sam Rayburn (TX) (H.Res. 602)b
voice vote


1941
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
159
Sam Rayburn (TX)
247
Merlin Hul (P-WI)
2
Bernard J. Gehrmann (P-WI)
1
1943
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
206
Sam Rayburn (TX)
217
Merlin Hul (P-WI)
1
Harry Sauthoff (P-WI)
1
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Year
Republican Nominee
Votes
Democratic Nominee
Votes
Others Receiving Votes
Votes
1945
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
168
Sam Rayburn (TX)
224


1947
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
244
Sam Rayburn (TX)
182


1949
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
160
Sam Rayburn (TX)
255


1951
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
193
Sam Rayburn (TX)
231


1953
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
220
Sam Rayburn (TX)
201


1955
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
198
Sam Rayburn (TX)
228


1957
Joseph W. Martin (MA)
199
Sam Rayburn (TX)
227


1959
Charles A. Hal eck (IN)
148
Sam Rayburn (TX)
281


1961
Charles A. Hal eck (IN)
170
Sam Rayburn (TX)
258


1962 (Jan. 10)a
Charles A. Hal eck (IN)
166
John W. McCormack (MA)
248


1963
Charles A. Hal eck (IN)
175
John W. McCormack (MA)
256


1965
Gerald R. Ford (MI)
139
John W. McCormack (MA)
289


1967
Gerald R. Ford (MI)
186
John W. McCormack (MA)
246


1969
Gerald R. Ford (MI)
187
John W. McCormack (MA)
241


1971
Gerald R. Ford (MI)
176
Carl B. Albert (OK)
250


1973
Gerald R. Ford (MI)
188
Carl B. Albert (OK)
236


1975
John J. Rhodes (AZ)
143
Carl B. Albert (OK)
287


1977
John J. Rhodes (AZ)
142
Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA)
290


1979
John J. Rhodes (AZ)
152
Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA)
268


1981
Robert H. Michel (IL)
183
Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA)
233


1983
Robert H. Michel (IL)
155
Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA)
260


1985
Robert H. Michel (IL)
175
Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill (MA)
247


1987
Robert H. Michel (IL)
173
Jim Wright (TX)
254


1989
Robert H. Michel (IL)
170
Jim Wright (TX)
253


1989 (June 6)a
Robert H. Michel (IL)
164
Thomas S. Foley (WA)
251


1991
Robert H. Michel (IL)
165
Thomas S. Foley (WA)
262


1993
Robert H. Michel (IL)
174
Thomas S. Foley (WA)
255


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Year
Republican Nominee
Votes
Democratic Nominee
Votes
Others Receiving Votes
Votes
1995
Newt Gingrich (GA)
228
Richard A. Gephardt (MO)
202


1997
Newt Gingrich (GA)
216
Richard A. Gephardt (MO)
205
James Leach (R-IA)
2
Robert H. Michelc
1
Robert Walkerc
1
1999
J. Dennis Hastert (IL)
220
Richard A. Gephardt (MO)
205


2001
J. Dennis Hastert (IL)
222
Richard A. Gephardt (MO)
206
John P. Murtha (D-PA)
1
2003
J. Dennis Hastert (IL)
228
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
201
John P. Murtha (D-PA)
1
2005
J. Dennis Hastert (IL)
226
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
199
John P. Murtha (D-PA)
1
2007
John A. Boehner (OH)
202
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
233


2009
John A. Boehner (OH)
174
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
255


2011
John A. Boehner (OH)
241
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
173
Heath Shuler (D-NC)
11
John Lewis (D-GA)
2
Jim Costa (D-CA)
1
Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)
1
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
1
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
1
Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)
1
2013
John A. Boehner (OH)
220
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
192
Eric Cantor (R-VA)
3
Al en Westc
2
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
2
John Lewis (D-GA)
1
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
1
Colin Powel c
1
Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID)
1
Justin Amash (R-MI)
1
John Dingel (D-MI)
1
David Walkerc
1
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Year
Republican Nominee
Votes
Democratic Nominee
Votes
Others Receiving Votes
Votes
2015
John A. Boehner (OH)
216
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
164
Daniel Webster (R-FL)
12
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
3
Ted S. Yoho (R-FL)
2
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
2
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
1
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)c
1
Colin Powel c
1
Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
1
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
1
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
1
Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR)
1
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)c
1
John Lewis (D-GA)
1
2015 (Oct. 29)a
Paul D. Ryan (WI)
236
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
184
Daniel Webster (R-FL)
9
Colin Powel c
1
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
1
John Lewis (D-GA)
1
2017
Paul D. Ryan (WI)
239
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
189
Tim Ryan (D-OH)
2
Daniel Webster (R-FL)
1
Jim Cooper (D-TN)
1
John Lewis (D-GA)
1
2019
Kevin McCarthy (CA)
192
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
220
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
5
Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
4
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)c
2
Thomas Massie (R-KY)
1
Joseph Bidenc
1
John Lewis (D-GA)
1
Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA)
1
Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
1
Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH)
1
Stacey Abramsc
1

2021
Kevin McCarthy (CA)
209
Nancy Pelosi (CA)
216
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)c
1
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
1
Source: Journals of the House of Representatives (for 2003-2011, Congressional Record, daily edition, and for 2013-2019, Clerk of the House website). Party designations are
taken from the Congressional Directory for the respective years since these reflect a Member’s official party self-designation; historical sources may differ as to the effective
party affiliation of certain individuals.
CRS-8


Key:
Elected candidate in bold.
“Other” candidate’s name formal y placed in nomination in italic.
Party designations of “other” candidates: R = Republican, P = Progressive, F-L = Farmer-Labor.
Notes:
a. Special election to fil a vacancy in the speakership caused by death or resignation.
b. Elected by resolution, not by rol cal from nominations.
c. Not a Member of the House at the time.
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Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021



Author Information

Valerie Heitshusen

Specialist on Congress and the Legislative Process


Acknowledgments
This report was initially written by Richard S. Beth, former CRS Specialist on Congress and the Legislative
Process. Updates in recent years were coauthored with the current author, who is available to answer
inquiries from congressional clients on the topic.

Disclaimer
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