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How has the position of Speaker of the House changed over time?

The Speaker of the House role has evolved over time, growing in power especially since World War II. Early advocates like Henry Clay used it to pass key legislation. Today, the Speaker can either support a President's legislation or become a key opposition figure, like Nancy Pelosi with President Trump.

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Video transcript

- [Narrator] How has the position of Speaker of the House changed over time? - The position of Speaker of the House has changed a lot over time and it has had powerful early advocates, Henry Clay, an early Speaker of the House who had three different terms as Speaker of the House used the position to shepherd all kinds of legislation to improve America. He also played a crucial role in John Quincy Adam's becoming President because the election was thrown into the House. He was quite powerful. Then the job kind of got less powerful. There were periods during the Civil War where there wasn't a Speaker of the House for long periods because there was so much contention in the Congress they couldn't pick a Speaker of the House. The modern Speaker of the House has become increasingly powerful really growing with the growth of the federal government around let's say the second World War. Various different Speakers gaining more power and in the recent incarnation the Speaker is particularly powerful in two different ways. One is shepherding a President's legislation if the Speaker is from the same party and the other is in opposition. They become essentially the opposition speaking against a President of an opposite party. So people like that would be Nancy Pelosi now with President Trump or John Boehner with President Obama or Tip O'Neill with President Reagan. So they are the key person in doing combat with whoever's in the White House if they're from the opposite party.