In the current Congressional elections, the control of the House of Representatives is changing from one party to another, and the current Speaker did not run for re-election.

In this situation, is there a period of time where the post of Speaker is vacant, creating a gap in the Presidential line of succession? Starting and ending when?

2 Answers 2


There will be a gap in succession, but only briefly.

Speaker Paul Ryan's term extends past the election through the end of the 115th Congress, to 11:59:59 p.m. on January 2, 2018.

From there, the speakership is vacant until the 116th House of Representatives elects a successor. Traditionally, the House convenes at noon on January 3 of the year after an election. The election of the new speaker is -- as far as I can remember -- always the first vote taken in the new term.

The vote usually comes after a roll call, a prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance, so you can usually expect the speakership to be filled by 1 p.m., leaving a gap in the office of 12 to 13 hours.

  • This assumes an orderly election of the incoming Speaker. If Pelosi manages to lose the first ballot, things could get messy.
    – Kevin
    Dec 10, 2018 at 4:35
  • 1
    I was under the impression that the term of the outgoing Speaker did not end until the new speaker was elected, so there would be no gap at all. But I cannot find any source that states the exact moment when the term expires. Nor does the Wikipedia article quoted in the other answer make such a statement. Can anyone cite a source to support the statement that the term expires at midnight on Jan 2? Dec 10, 2018 at 6:24
  • 1
    @DavidSiegel Paul Ryan's term as a member of the House of Representatives ends on January 2; it's hard to imagine how his Speakership could persist after his Congressional term expires.
    – 1006a
    Dec 10, 2018 at 6:54
  • 5
    @1006a I have no trouble imagining it, and would like a source for your statement, not a mere assertion. You may well be correct, but it need not be so. Note that the Speaker need not be a member of Congress (as several official sources state) although all actual Speakers have been Members. Dec 10, 2018 at 7:37
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    @DavidSiegel See page 656: gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-HPRACTICE-115/pdf/GPO-HPRACTICE-115.pdf ("The Speaker’s term of office usually corresponds with the individual’s term of office as a Member, whereas the other House officers continue in office 'until their successors are chosen and qualified.'")
    – bdb484
    Dec 10, 2018 at 8:58

There will be no extended gap in succession. The House will elect a new speaker when or shortly after Ryan's term expires:

An election for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives will take place during the first week in January 2019, during the opening day of the 116th United States Congress, two months after the 2018 elections. 2019 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election - Wikipedia

The Democrats have a majority in the new Congress, so presumably the new speaker will be a member of that party.

  • 1
    "The date of the election of the new speaker will be when the House decides to vote on the new speaker during the last week of the current lame duck session, which ends January 3, 2019." It sounds like you're saying the speaker of the 116th Congress will be elected by the 115th Congress. That wouldn't really make sense, and it's directly contradicted by the Wikipedia quote. Do you really mean that, or do you want to clarify? Dec 10, 2018 at 2:33
  • @NateEldredge: January 3, 2019 falls on a Thursday, which is "during the last week of the current lame duck session" (i.e. the week of December 31) so there is no contradiction.
    – Kevin
    Dec 10, 2018 at 2:59
  • You're right, I could more clear; I was posting while uncaffeinated. Dec 10, 2018 at 3:00
  • This answer shows that there will be a gap. Just less than one day.
    – Daniel
    Dec 10, 2018 at 3:13
  • Why would Ryan tender a resignation? His term expires automatically. And even if he did, why would he do it on the day they elect a new speaker? By then, he's already out of office.
    – bdb484
    Dec 10, 2018 at 4:00

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