The role of speaker is one of the few that appears in America’s founding document. The rules for picking one — and the powers of the office — are intentionally left vague. Instead, the rules have evolved over centuries. They’re more vulnerable to possible abuse or dysfunction. The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday to elect a speaker.
A majority of the chamber, 218 votes, is usually needed to be elected speaker. The 1856 fight for speaker took two months, the longest in history, and was resolved with a plurality vote.