Beginning on Jan. 3, 2023, the United States House of Representatives met to elect the Speaker of the House, the office in charge of all administrative aspects of the House. Breaking a century of single-vote elections, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) only received the majority vote after three days and 15 rounds of voting.
Through many of the voting rounds, McCarthy’s victory was hindered by a bloc of 20 Republican congressmen from the House Freedom Caucus, considered to represent the furthest right leaning members of Congress. Forbes reported that members of this group believe that McCarthy would be too willing to compromise with Democratic policy as both the Senate and presidency are safe Democrat sections of government.
“The narrow margins have empowered some conservative lawmakers to capitalize on McCarthy’s increasingly desperate situation by demanding the reinstatement of the motion to vacate, along with a rule that would forbid GOP leaders from being involved in primaries and another to require bills to be posted in their entirety 72 hours before voting takes place,” Forbes reported on Dec. 14, 2022.
McCarthy’s challenger, Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) received consistent backing from House Democrats over the rounds of voting but was unable to gain any Republican votes. Freedom Caucus members voted for several different Republican candidates including Jim Jordan (R-OH), Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ), or simply voted “present”.
According to Reuters, a Speaker vote did not take more than one round since 1923 and the most recent Speaker election requiring this many rounds happened in 1859. The highest number of rounds for a Speaker vote was in 1855, taking over 133 rounds of voting.
“The 57-year-old Californian suffered one final humiliation when Representative Matt Gaetz withheld his vote on the 14th ballot as midnight approached, prompting a scuffle in which fellow Republican Mike Rogers had to be physically pulled away. McCarthy’s victory in the 15th ballot ended the deepest congressional dysfunction in over 160 years. But it sharply illustrated the difficulties he will face in leading a narrow and deeply polarized majority,” Reuters said on Jan. 7.
With the election of Speaker McCarthy, congressional policy can be brought to discussion and presented, as well as the swearing in of new members of the House of Representatives. It remains to be seen how McCarthy’s concessions will impact the functions of the House over the next two years.