Chaos surrounds the new Speaker of the House elections


Francis Chung/POLITICO

January 3, the 118th congress started off the New Year struggling to find a new Speaker of the House. After an astonishing four days and 15 ballots later, the House swore in the leader of the Republican Conference, Representative Kevin McCarthy. This event became historic, serving as the first time a vote for the speaker exceeded one ballot. During the ensuing days of the speaker bid, opposition from Pro-Trump Republicans prevented McCarthy from receiving enough votes from the already slim Republican-majority House. Now, newly sworn-in McCarthy faces opposition to his efforts to pass a new rule package.

Rose Ordonio, Reporter

Following the aftermath of the 2022 November midterm elections, the Republican Party (GOP) became the majority in the House of Representatives, overtaking the former Democrat majority. January 3 began the first day of the 118th Congress and prompted the now-Republican-controlled House to determine who will become Speaker of the House. After a staggering 15 ballots, the House finally elected Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy on the early morning of January 7, but not without leaving behind days shrouded by conflict and drama. 

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the House Democratic Caucus, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the House Republican Conference, became the two candidates running for the leadership position. On the first day of voting for Speaker of the House, the House held three rounds but adjourned after the inability of any candidate to receive the number of votes to become speaker: 218. Day one ended without a Speaker, leaving them deadlocked. This became the first time the vote for a new speaker surpassed the first ballot since a century ago. This uncertainty continued for three days as attempts for either candidate to gain enough votes needed to become the new Speaker of the House up until the early hours of January 7. The 4th day ended the contest with McCarthy receiving the majority of votes needed to become the Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot and later sworn in just past 1:30 AM Saturday, January 7. President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden congratulated McCarthy and expressed the new house to fuel progress. 

As I said after the midterms, I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.  Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided it is time for that process to begin,” President Joe Biden said. 

The general population assumed McCarthy would become the speaker with the GOP receiving the majority in the House but hours prior to the bid, an opposition group of conservative representatives reportedly refused to support McCarthy and another not stating their support publicly. This made McCarthy’s efforts difficult, as the Republican party just barely won with 222 republicans over 212 democrats, and held limited breathing room not gaining the full support of Republicans. Part of the almost 20 members of the opposition groups belonged to the House Freedom Caucus, which consists of Republicans positioning themselves as right-wing. It also became known that the representatives made demands that if fulfilled, McCarthy would earn their support for the speaker. McCarthy already started efforts to gain the opposition’s support by granting concessions but revealed the actions did not yield the results he hoped for. 

Essentially, most of the modifications that I have seen and am familiar with, are modifications that are meant to increase the power of the average house member, particularly low-ranking members of the GOP and less than the power and authority of the leadership structure. Now, what that winds up doing essentially means that it’s going to be harder for McCarthy to find a coalition of people to support bills. Additionally, they’re going to get more scenes on things like the least means committees and a lot of high profile committees,” AP Comparative Government and Politics teacher Carolyn Galloway said.

During the four days of voting, an array of Republican representatives entered the race to challenge McCarthy. Republicans opposed McCarthy’s nomination by voting for other candidates or deciding to vote as present. This differed from the Democratic party, as Jefferies received the support of all 212 Democrat representatives.

During the four-day election process with no speaker to make rules on viewing coverage, it allowed cameras the ability to capture rare moments of the drama between lawmakers. News-network cameras caught them convening with others and displayed the tension-filled confrontation involving Republican Representative Matt Gatez and McCarthy after Gatez voted present during the 14th ballot. This dramatic moment further escalated when Representative Mike Rogers angrily walked over to Gatez and became restrained Representative Richard Hudson

With the deadlock over, Congress can start functioning again and begin to set out new proposals, as well as put rules in place over the House. McCarthy already began outlining his new plans for his Republican-controlled House, such as pushing back against Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spending and facing the continued immigration crisis at the Mexican border. McCarthy’s fight continues as his new rules package may not pass as a handful of republicans show signs of withholding their support for the package until further details become released of concessions for conservative republicans for his speakership bid.

“I like the rules package. It is the most, open, fair, and fiscally conservative package we have had in 30 years. I support it….but what I don’t support is a small number of people trying to get a deal done or deals done for themselves in private, in secret to get a vote or a vote present. I don’t support that,” South Carolina Republican representative Nancy Mace said.