With Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner exiting stage right, I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to make a very special endorsement. I proudly endorse Kati Walsh for Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
Since I’m guessing that very few, if any, readers of this blog know who Kati Walsh is, I’ll talk a little bit about her. She’s a resident of Madison, Wisconsin and an elementary school art teacher in the local public school system in Madison. She’s also a very strong advocate for public education.
Now, many of you are probably thinking that Ms. Walsh is not a Member of Congress. Of course she’s not a Member of Congress. However, there’s no legal requirement in the U.S. Constitution that the speaker be a sitting member of the House, so anyone could legally be elected speaker by the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact, the U.S. Constitution could be interpreted as allowing for someone who doesn’t meet the constitutional requirements to be eligible to be elected a U.S. House member (at least 25 years of age, U.S. citizen for at least seven years, resident of the state in which he/she seeks to represent) to be elected speaker. Heck, there’s nothing prohibiting me from receiving votes for speaker, even though I’m not a Member of Congress, and I have zero interest in being speaker.
Do I think that Ms. Walsh will get a single vote in the upcoming election for speaker? Of course not. The vast majority of the Republicans will vote for one of their own House members, probably Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with a few hard-line conservative Republicans voting for Tea Party-types in protest. On the other hand, nearly all Democrats will vote for Nancy Pelosi, with the exception of a handful of centrist/conservative Democrats who will vote for either a Republican or a different House Democrat.
However, I’ve always thought of the idea of a citizen speaker (i.e., a U.S. House speaker who is not a House member) would be interesting, as a citizen speaker would have the power to preside over the House, but not be able to vote on legislation before the House, effectively making the speaker’s post non-partisan and technocratic in nature. If Kati Walsh can teach a class of elementary school children, then she’ll have no problem presiding over the U.S. House of Representatives and its 435 adult members.