Written by Annika Lilja
For the past 3 days the US House of Representatives has been in total chaos, trying to determine who the next Speaker of the House will be. If there is no Speaker there are no active House lawmakers because the Speaker is who swears in the other members. There is also no active committees until a Speaker is elected. Meaning that, "right now, there is no functioning U.S. House of Representatives" (NBC News).
The 118th Congress began on January 3rd and the first order of business for the House is to determine who the Speaker of the House will be. The Republicans now have the majority in the House and Kevin McCarthy, as the highest ranking Republican in the House (being the Minority Leader for the past two years) has been trying to secure the position of Speaker. Meanwhile, the Democrats have been consistent in backing Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker.
As I write this post (Around 11pm CT, Jan 6th, 2023) the House is on their 15th vote. For context, it is pretty rare for it to take more than one vote needed to elect a Speaker. The last time it took more than one vote was 100 years ago in 1923. However, the record for the most votes needed to elect a Speaker was 133 votes in 1856. This is the most amount of rounds of voting needed to elect a Speaker since the Civil War ended.
There are 435 members of the US House, and if all representatives are present and voting 218 votes are needed to make a majority and elect a Speaker. There were initially 19 Republicans voting against McCarthy, another representative joined this group, meaning there were 20 Republicans voting against McCarthy. These 20 held strong until the 12th vote when votes started to change and McCarthy gained some momentum by picking up some votes. If you want to see the full breakdown of votes you should check out this tracker from the Washington Post.
There are some serious repercussions from this chaos of electing a Speaker. Firstly, the Republicans in the House appear to be divided, raising concerns for future votes on actual bills. If the Republicans who hold the majority have this much difficulty electing a Speaker there are serious concerns about the ability of this new House to pass bills moving forward. There is also the question of what did McCarthy promise these Republican members who refused to vote for him for so many rounds?
Update as of January 6th (11:33 CT), 2023: McCarthy has been elected Speaker of The House. The 212 Democrats in the House voted for Hakeem Jeffries, and 216 Republicans voted for McCarthy. 6 Republican members who previously voted against McCarthy voted “present” on the 15th vote meaning they didn’t vote for a specific candidate, but this has the effect of bringing down the number of votes needed for McCarthy to win, thus making it possible for McCarthy to get the majority and be elected Speaker of the House.