Can Paul Ryan run for Speaker from outside the House?

The United States Constitution does not require that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a member of that body.  It’s never happened before, but the members of the House are free to elect a Speaker from outside of the chamber — a scenario that would, in theory, give the controlling party an additional vote.

Political operatives close to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have suggested that, if the Republicans retain the House, he might accept the post if asked by the caucus to serve.  Such a scenario would, in theory, provide the party an additional vote — which could be strategically meaningful in the event that the caucus shrinks its narrow majority this election cycle.

The scenario would also put Ryan in an enviable position, able to run the chamber without being bothered by time-consuming constituent problem-solving and the refereeing of local political fights in his district.


When Ryan announced that he would not seek re-election to his seat, he cited time constraints and a desire to spend more time with his family.  The arrangement would accommodate that need, and allow the party to retain one of its few unifying figures with national name recognition.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, is vying to become the next Speaker — but that is highly uncertain in a raucous caucus that has had difficulty coalescing around a leader following the departure of former Speaker John Boehner.  McCarthy, being perceived as a West Coast moderate, could have trouble earning the support of the Donald Trumpian wing.

McCarthy is seen by many as a regional candidate who will earn the support of the California and Arizona caucuses but will have trouble earning the support of other factions of the party.  But the void of prominent figures in the House makes the task of unifying the party difficult for anyone.

Other party figures who might be embraced by the GOP caucus from outside of the chamber include former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley; Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  They are each seen as capable of growing the caucus into more moderate districts.

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has been floated by some members of the party as a potential successor to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

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