Kevin McCarthy Elected Speaker of The House After Prolonged Vote

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

On Jan. 7, California Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected the 55 Speaker of the House by House Republicans. McCarthy received 216 votes, four more than his Democratic colleague Hakeem Jeffries. Though McCarthy’s election was expected, the process took longer than usual, and fighting within the Republican Party exposed weaknesses within the caucus.

To be elected Speaker of the House, a candidate must receive votes from the majority of the present members. In an ideal scenario, this means McCarthy would have needed 218 votes, but some members of his party did not support him. This group was large enough to keep McCarthy from reaching 218 votes, and prolonged the process of choosing a speaker. 

“It has gotten very divisive and because of the odds of McCarthy becoming Speaker of the House and the divisiveness that was just there on that decision, there was a lot of resentment about the 20 or so people who were opposing him. And he could not afford that because of the close party counts in the house,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School United States Government and Economics teacher Larry Schwarz said.

After initially refusing to give concessions to that group, and some Republicans refusing to support McCarthy, several days of negotiations ensued. McCarthy was forced to make deals with his fellow Republicans to gain their support. For example, to request a no confidence vote against the speaker now only requires one member, whereas before it took a majority of either party. Other agreements pertain to government spending and the national debt, as well as allowing certain members to be a part of some congressional committees.  

“[McCarthy] gave up a lot for people to finally agree to him becoming speaker, for their votes, and, you know, in a way by buying those votes, he has given up a lot of the authority that he normally would have. So it is gonna be very hard, and it is gonna be contentious in the Republican Party, too, ” Schwarz said.

At times, things on the floor of the house got heated. For instance, Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina had to be restrained by his colleagues following an argument with fellow Republican Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida.

“It is really untraditional, it is totally not acceptable. You know, they are expected in the chambers to address each other as the honorable representative from ‘this state.’ They are expected to have decorum. Of course, they can talk to each other and challenge each other. But that is as far as it is supposed to go,” Schwarz said.

After 15 rounds of voting, McCarthy won the election, though he was still two votes short of a majority in the House. This was because certain Republicans voted present instead of voting for McCarthy, and since they did not support any candidate, the requirement for a majority was lowered.  

“While history has said that the speakership vote is supposed to unify the party in power in a sweeping vote, what happened on January 3 foreshadows an uphill battle for moderate Republicans to solve major issues, ” MPSH junior and Model United Nations Vice President Owen Morris said. 

The partisan politics and fighting seen throughout the process of electing a speaker to the 118 Congress show cracks in the nation’s governance. For four days, the United States did not have a Speaker of the House, and it took the most rounds of votes to conclude since 1855. The Speaker of the House is a crucial position in the U.S. government, not only for its legislative duties but also because the speaker is second in line for the presidency. With a divided Congress and a split party, much is left to interpret as to how McCarthy can lead Congress and obtain results for the American people.