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Chaos in the House: Speaker Election

Michael shares the controversy of electing a new Speaker of the House.

For the past 100 years, the election for Speaker of the House by the incoming members of Congress has always begun and ended on the first ballot as a display of unity within the majority party. This year however, this would change, as for the first time since 1923, the Speaker of the House was not elected on the first ballot, with a small group of staunchly Trump-aligned Republicans not allowing Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to be elected until the 15th ballot until key concessions were made.

This situation stems from the extremely narrow margins between Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives following the 2022 midterm elections. The Republican Party would win 222 seats, while the Democratic Party would win the remaining 213, creating a margin of only 9 seats separating the two. The Republican party would be victorious, albeit very narrowly, which allowed the many of the most hard-line conservative Republican representatives to essentially hold the Speaker election hostage for Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as he needed their votes to ascend to the position of Speaker.

The first ballot would begin with Democratic nominee Hakeem Jeffries receiving 212 votes, Republican nominee Kevin McCarthy receiving 203 votes, and numerous hard-line conservative splinter candidates such as Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan receiving a total of 19 votes. Even though Jeffries received a majority of the votes, he did not win, as you need over 50% of the votes in order to become Speaker. Thus, the election would go on to a second ballot for the first time since 1923, where little would change, and McCarthy would in fact lose a vote to splinter candidate Jim Jordan on the third ballot before Congress adjourned for the night.

The fourth through eleventh ballots on the 4th and 5th of January would produce little change, as McCarthy’s vote total would fall from 202 to 200 by the ninth ballot, and was forced to make key concessions to the arch-conservative mutineers following Congress’ adjournment for the night after the eleventh ballot. The twelfth ballot on January 6th would see McCarthy’s vote total to 213, and would gradually increase throughout the day before he would finally win on the fifteenth ballot after reaching 216 votes, finally reaching the 50% threshold.

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Brendan Stephens
Brendan Stephens
14. Feb. 2023

very informative

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