The Lawfare Podcast: What the Heck is a Speaker Pro Tempore?

Scott R. Anderson, Molly E. Reynolds, Jen Patja
Friday, October 13, 2023, 8:00 AM
Molly Reynolds joins Scott Anderson to explain what exactly is happening in the House of Representatives. 

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The past two weeks have been a historical one for the House of Representatives. Last week, a band of dissident Republicans voted with House Democrats to remove Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, leaving the office vacant. In his stead, a never-before House rule turned to a secret list of temporary successors that identified Congressman Patrick McHenry as the new Speaker Pro Tempore. But what exactly he is able to do in this role—and what it means for Congress’s ability to pass much needed legislation—is far from clear.

To discuss this new predicament, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and Lawfare Senior Editor Molly Reynolds. They talked about the history of the rule behind McHenry’s appointment, what authority its authors intended for it to provide, and what it means for Israel, Ukraine, and the pending government shutdown.

Scott R. Anderson is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He previously served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as the legal advisor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Molly Reynolds is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. She studies Congress, with an emphasis on how congressional rules and procedure affect domestic policy outcomes.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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