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It's All Politics

House Speakership: A 75-Year Timeline Of Mounting Frustration

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Sam Rayburn, D-Texas, lifts the House gavel as he takes over the duties of Speaker of the House.
AP
Sam Rayburn, D-Texas, lifts the House gavel as he takes over the duties of Speaker of the House.

Though it holds immense power, the House speakership seems like the worst job in Washington these days. Current Speaker John Boehner wants to leave, but after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suddenly dropped out of the contest, it could be anybody's race. Rep. Paul Ryan doesn't want to do it, though he's been prodded, and it's not clear any other candidate has enough consensus to win on the House floor. The House now plans to choose a new speaker at the end of this month, if it can.

Today's struggle seems like a lot of drama, but a look back a the speakership shows that, at least since the 1940s, it's had more than its share of tension, struggle and rebellion. And extreme partisanship on Capitol Hill has made the job even more unmanageable:

(We have a look at the rise of power in the House here, including why some earlier speakers were called czars).

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