Dysfunctions with no Speaker in the US House

University of Kansas professor Karl Brooks discusses dangerous historical parallels and real world impacts that stem from protracted leadership struggles in the US Congress such as the current struggle within the Republican party over whom to support for Speaker of the US House.

So far this year, the US House has had its two most contentious processes for selecting Speaker since 1859-1860. In 1855 and 1859, the contest for speaker lasted for two months before the House achieved a result, according to Wikipedia.1 In 1860 – February 1 – Republican William Pennington was elected Speaker on the 44th ballot, two months after the first ballot on December 5 of the year before.2 A year later, 1861 – February 1 – Texas became the seventh state to secede from the Union.3

Radio Active Magazine regulars Craig Lubow and Spencer Graves interview KU Professor Brooks. Among other things, Brooks has been a presidential appointee who has testified before Congress and has had many dealings with members and committees in the US Congress. He is currently a public affairs professor at KU specializing in administration and law. He holds a JD from Harvard and a PhD in history from KU. His publications have focused primarily on environmental law.


  1. See the section on “19th century” in the Wikipedia article on “Speaker of the United States House of Representatives“. That article contains a section on “Multi-ballot elections“, which includes a table summarizing all the elections when the Speaker did not get a majority of votes on the first ballot, accessed 2023-10-30.
  2. Discussed in the “December 1859 – February 1860” section of of that same Wikipedia article.
  3. Discussed in the section on the “US Civil War” in the Wikiversity article on “Expertise of military leaders and national security experts“.


Copyright 2023 Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 international license Karl Brooks, Spencer Graves, Craig Lubow

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