Speaker, in U.S. government, officer presiding in the U.S. House of Representatives. Formally elected by the whole House, the speaker is in fact selected from the majority party by its members and holds powers of recognition, referral of bills to committee, and control of debates. Other, wider powers were stripped from the speaker after the term of Joseph G. Cannon (Rep., Illinois; 1903–11). During the long service of Sam Rayburn (Dem., Texas) as speaker (1940–47, 1949–53, 1955–61), he effectively advanced party programs by maintaining firm discipline. Thomas S. Foley (Dem., Washington) became speaker in 1989.
See also: House of Representatives.