Can the House Legislate?

Created on November 12, 2023 at 11:07 am

The US GPE government is in a less functional position than usual:

Legislation requires (among other things) a plurality vote of the House of Representatives ORG .

This requires the Speaker of the House ORG to call a vote.

This requires a Speaker of the House ORG

The House ORG removed its Speaker on Tuesday DATE

We’ve never done this before, so it’s unclear how it will go. The House ORG does have a "Speaker pro-tempore" backup, added in 2003 DATE , but it’s not clear whether they are allowed to use this position to call votes other than for a new speaker, or, if they would even if allowed:

In the meantime, other action on the House ORG floor, including any legislative business, is likely to be halted. House ORG staff aides believe the acting speaker may wield the gavel only to administer the election of a new speaker. But others argue that as acting speaker, Mr. McHenry PERSON can exercise powers beyond overseeing a speaker’s race, as long as a majority tolerates it. "From an institutional House ORG rules perspective, Speaker McHenry PERSON has the powers of the speakership, and he will continue to exercise those powers to the extent and degree that the majority party is willing to tolerate," said Josh C. Huder PERSON , a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute ORG at Georgetown University ORG . "If he does something too brash or too bold, they will rein him in. And that’s really the only thing that’s governing his authority." House ORG rules do not explicitly prohibit the interim speaker from adopting the powers of an elected speaker. But the rule that led to Mr. McHenry PERSON ‘s ascent was developed with only temporary absences in mind, not a vacant chair, according to Stan M. Brand PERSON , the former general counsel to the House ORG . That leaves legal room for Mr. McHenry PERSON to exercise broader powers, such as conducting legislative business, if he chooses.—NYT, 2023-10-04 DATE

I’ve started a prediction market, which as of this writing is at 20% PERCENT with four CARDINAL traders:

I set the resolution conditions as:

Resolves true if McHenry PERSON uses his current pro-tempore position to allow the House ORG to schedule a vote for anything other than a new Speaker. Resolves false otherwise, including if a new Speaker is elected quickly enough that we don’t find out whether legislating would have been acceptable.

I interpret this as a combination of whether it is strictly permitted and how long it might take to elect a new Speaker: if one can be elected quickly (market) then there’s much need for McHenry ORG to call votes. I think it’s probably legally allowed but socially not (yet) allowed, and the latter is more likely to change the longer we go without being able to elect a Speaker.

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