Politics

Why All the Speakers Left, 1935-2018

Ryan will be the first speaker to finish out his term in decades

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during his press conference to announce his retirement. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“I know most speakers don’t go out on their own terms,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said at the press conference announcing his retirement. He will be the first speaker to not resign before finishing out his term in over three decades.

Here’s how past speakers left office:

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, looks at his notes while waiting for a vote on the new Speaker in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, looks at his notes while waiting for a vote on the new speaker in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

John Boehner (2011-2015) Boehner resigned from Congress in 2015 after facing criticism from conservatives over government shutdowns. Boehner recently joined the board of a cannabis corporation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conduct a news conference in the Capitol on the passage of the omnibus spending bill in the House. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conduct a news conference in the Capitol on the passage of the omnibus spending bill in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nancy Pelosi (2007-2011) Pelosi lost the speakership when Democrats lost 63 House seats to Republicans during the 2010 elections. She still currently serves as House minority leader.

Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, and John Lewis, D-GA, during the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington with a congressional celebration on Capitol Hill. (CQ RollCall File Photo)
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and John Lewis, D-GA, during a Capitol Hill celebration of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

John Dennis Hastert (1999-2007) Hastert resigned from Congress in 2007, not finishing out his term as Representative. His decisions came after Democrats took control of the House in the 2006 elections. Hastert is currently in prison serving time for crimes related to a scandal involving his abuse of young men while coaching wrestling before becoming a politician.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., makes his way to the Capitol office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., makes his way to the Capitol office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Newt Gingrich (1995-1999) When Republicans lost five seats in the House during the 1998 elections, many conservatives blamed Gingrich. He resigned as speaker and left his role as representative in January 1999.

Thomas Foley, former speaker of the House; in the Ronald Reagan building for the 9/11 Public Discourse Project discussion on "Congressional Reform for the Post-9/11 Era." (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Thomas Foley, former speaker of the House; in the Ronald Reagan building for the 9/11 Public Discourse Project discussion on “Congressional Reform for the Post-9/11 Era.” (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thomas Foley (1989-1995) Foley was the first sitting speaker to lose re-election in over a century. Before becoming speaker, he served as the Democratic Majority whip.

Speaker of the House Rep. James Claude Wright, D-Tex., House of Representatives Member. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Speaker James Claude Wright, D-Texas. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

James Claude Wright (1987-1991) Wright resigned as speaker amidst a House Ethic Committee investigation into his campaign finances. He was the first speaker to resign because of a scandal.

Speaker Tip O'Neill Speaker of the House, Rep. Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill, House Majority Leader, with man near Capitol Hill. (Keith Jewell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Speaker Tip O’Neill, right. (Keith Jewell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill (1977-1987) O’Neill announced his retirement from Congress after the 1986 elections, but finished out his term through 1987.

Speaker of the House, Rep. Carl Bert Albert, D-Okla., giving speech over microphone. (Dev O'Neill/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Speaker of the House Carl Bert Albert, D-Okla., giving speech over microphone. (Dev O’Neill/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Carl Bert Albert (1971-1977) Albert was accused of accepting gifts and bribes from a lobbyist shortly before announcing his plans to retire, but was never charged with a crime. He was speaker during the Watergate scandal, and presided over the investigation and impeachment hearings.

Speaker of the House Rep. John William McCormack, D-Mass., House of Representatives Member. (Dev O'Neill/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Speaker John William McCormack, D-Mass. (Dev O’Neill/CQ Roll Call file photo)

John McCormack (1962-1971) After calls to step down because of his age, McCormack announced plans to retire in 1970 and served out his full term.

Speaker Sam Rayburn was the 43rd Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Wikimedia Commons)
Speaker Sam Rayburn was the 43rd Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Wikimedia Commons)

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (1949-1953, 1955-1961) Rayburn died in office and did not have prior plans to retire. He succeeded Speaker William Bankhead, who also died in office.

Joseph William Martin, Jr., US Representative from Massachusetts was 44th Speaker of the House. (Wikimedia Commons)
Joseph William Martin, Jr., U.S. Representative from Massachusetts was 44th Speaker of the House. (Wikimedia Commons)

Joseph William Martin (1947-1949, 1953-1955) Martin served two non-consecutive terms as speaker, when Republicans briefly had control of the House. He remained leader of the House Republicans until 1958.

Speaker William Brockman Bankhead.
Speaker William Brockman Bankhead. (Public Domain)

William Brockman Bankhead (1935-1940) Shortly after losing the nomination for Vice President, Bankhead died in office while serving as speaker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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