I am wondering what happens when the Speaker of the House is unable to come in to the U.S. Capitol Building due to sickness on a day in which voting is to take place. Is there anything written in the U.S. Constitution that says that the Speaker must be present in order for any voting to take place in the House chamber? Is all voting automatically postponed until the Speaker has recovered from his/her sickness and is able to attend?

I admit to not knowing too much on how things work in the House, or in the Senate, in regards to the issue of attendance on voting days.

1 Answer 1


No, votes would not have to be postponed.

The Constitution has nothing specific to say about this. (It's not that long - you can and should read it through and check for yourself, and searching is even easier.) The Constitution's only reference to the Speaker of the House is Article I Section 2: "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers [...]". (Other than the 25th Amendment which prescribes the role of the Speaker in receiving declarations as to whether the President is incapacitated.)

The House's procedures, and the Speaker's role in them, are left up to the Rules of the House of Representatives, which the House makes for itself. (US Constitution, Article I, Section 5: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings [...]".) Rule I, Section 8 provides:

  1. (a) The Speaker may appoint a Member to perform the duties of the Chair. Except as specified in paragraph (b), such an appointment may not extend beyond three legislative days. (b)(1) In the case of illness, the Speaker may appoint a Member to perform the duties of the Chair for a period not exceeding 10 days, subject to the approval of the House. If the Speaker is absent and has omitted to make such an appointment, then the House shall elect a Speaker pro tempore to act during the absence of the Speaker.

So if the Speaker is ill, she can appoint a temporary substitute (Speaker pro tempore), who can preside over all House business, including votes. If she cannot or does not do so, the House may elect a Speaker pro tempore with the same authority. (That election itself would be presided over by the Clerk of the House, an administrative official, as specified by Rule II Section 2(a).)

Either way, there would be no need for votes to be postponed.

  • Thanks for providing that information. I find it interesting that the Speaker can self-appoint a temporary substitute, so if she wanted to, she could appoint one of 'The Squad' members to be the Speaker pro tempore.
    – user57467
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 23:27
  • also, this now makes me wonder if say something were to happen to both the POTUS and the Vice President during a time when there is a Speaker pro tempore acting in the House, if this would result in the Speaker pro tempore needing be sworn in as POTUS and act as a 'President pro tempore' until the Speaker of the House recovers from his/her illness. A very unlikely situation, yet a possible one.
    – user57467
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 23:42
  • 2
    @user57467: That's a separate question, but AFAIK the Speaker pro tempore is not actually the Speaker and is not in the line of Presidential succession. If something happens to the President and the VP, the Speaker shall act as President even if she's ill. If she actually has an "inability" to serve in the sense of 3 USC 19 (which does not define it clearly), then we move down the line to the President pro tempore of the Senate. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 0:05
  • 2
    @user57467: "if she wanted to, she could appoint one of 'The Squad' members to be the Speaker pro tempore.": She can and has, as recently as this past October 26 when Congresswoman Tlaib was appointed Speaker pro tempore for the day. I am not sure why that would be particularly noteworthy. My understanding is that this sort of delegation is routine, for instance if the Speaker is simply busy with something else. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 0:14
  • 1
    (And in case you're wondering, Speaker Pelosi wasn't ill on October 26; she was involved in negotiations on pending legislation, and later that day she gave, or at least read into the record, a speech in memory. of deceased union president Richard Trumka.) Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 0:26

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