Kevin McCarthy Elected Speaker of the House After Historic Holdout

On January 3rd, 2023, the vote for Speaker of the House began a routine election. The Republicans were expected to elect House Representative Kevin McCarthy, representing the 2nd District of California. However, issues arose when McCarthy did not please all members of the party with agreements that would have assured the vote. Thus, a small rogue faction of the Republican Party refused to vote for McCarthy.

When the voting first began, listeners and Congressional members, many of whom had brought their families to the ceremony, were shocked when, by the early part of the vote in the tedious roll call, enough Republicans voted against the California representative to block him from being elected. The Democrats, who saw the opportunity to embarrass their opposing party, all held steady and voted for Hakeem Jeffries, so that by the end of the vote, Jeffries emerged as the person with the most votes for Speaker of the House, with 213, while McCarthy gained 202, and other candidates held the last 18 votes. The Republicans continued to hold out for the first day, and as a result, the House members were not sworn in, and the session was not begun.

This trend continued for three more days until the 15th round finally secured enough votes for McCarthy to be elected as House Speaker. He accomplished this by making many concessions to the far-right holdouts, which weakened his power by making it easier to replace him as House Speaker, giving preferential treatment to the House Committees, and allowing 72 hours to read proposed bills before voting. While this certainly took the country by surprise, it is not unprecedented, as, in 1855, the voting lasted a two-month period with 133 rounds. Besides being direct evidence of a divided Republican Party, not electing a House Speaker, meant that the House was inactive regarding legislation during this period, which includes the passing of bills, swearing in new members, and assigning House Committees.

Many people see this as a bad omen of what is to come over the next two years, as the voting turned into a battle between moderate and far-right conservatives. With only a slim majority in the House, however, Republicans will need every vote they can get, which means securing support from the self-proclaimed “Freedom Caucus.” 

Story Page