House parliamentarian to retire, will be succeeded by deputy

Tom Wickham has served as parliamentarian since 2012

House Parliamentarian Tom Wickham, who has served in the role since 2012, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Parliamentarian Tom Wickham, who has served in the role since 2012, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:20pm

After almost a decade on the job, House Parliamentarian Tom Wickham is stepping down.

Wickham was named to the job in February 2012 and began as deputy parliamentarian in 2005. He will be succeeded by Jason Smith — no relation to the Republican congressman from Missouri’s 8th District — who currently serves as deputy parliamentarian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday.

“Tom Wickham is a master of House rules and procedure, whose incisive legal acumen and absolute professionalism have strengthened the People’s House and benefitted the American people whom we serve. In his 25 years of distinguished service, Tom upheld the great Constitutional underpinnings of the historic role of Parliamentarian with excellence and integrity,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Smith’s appointment to the role came with bipartisan support, according to the speaker.

“Jason brings outstanding experience, a brilliant legal mind and great rigor of judgment to this historic responsibility, and I am confident that he will uphold and advance the proud traditions of this critical office. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing to work with him as he takes on this new role,” the California Democrat said.

Smith will only be the sixth individual to hold the title of parliamentarian; prior to 1927, House officials performed aspects of the parliamentarian’s duties as “messenger to the speaker” and “clerk at the speaker’s table.”

The House parliamentarian advises chamber leaders and other lawmakers on rules and precedent, sometimes on a confidential basis. Although appointed by the speaker, the position is nonpartisan and requires an unbiased interpretation of legislative and procedural rules. Parliamentarians are expected to advise on the rules of the House without regard to party.

“As we transition to a new Parliamentarian, we do so committed to fostering diversity in the running of this office and its future leadership,” Pelosi said.

In addition to his deputy parliamentarian duties, Smith once offered an opening prayer on the House floor as a guest chaplain in November 2018.