On Jan. 6, after 15 ballots, Republicans elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker. While every Democrat voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, McCarthy faced resistance from a group of 21 Republicans. In the final ballot, 15 of the Republican holdouts voted for McCarthy, while six voted Present — they did not vote for any candidate. The number of Present votes lowered the threshold for McCarthy to win to 216 votes, allowing him to secure the speakership.
The last time it took more than one ballot to elect a House Speaker was in 1923, when it took nine ballots to elect Frederick Gillet as the House Speaker of the 68th Congress. The Republicans’ current lack of unification raises concerns for the future of the 118th Congress.
In order to flip the Republican holdouts’ votes, McCarthy had to make significant concessions. McCarthy limited his power, allowing a single member to motion a vote to remove the House Speaker. Previously, under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this motion required a majority vote from one party. In addition, he agreed to compromises that increased the difficulty of raising the House’s spending, and promised to give more Republican seats on desired committees.
On Jan. 6, Pelosi stated in an interview, “What we’re seeing is the incredibly shrinking speakership, and that’s most unfortunate for Congress. It is not a good thing for the House of Representatives. We are the people’s house. We have to negotiate with the Senate. We have to negotiate with the White House. And instead, we are diminishing the leadership role of the House.”
Throughout the election, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida made his distaste for McCarthy as House Speaker clear. Before nominating Rep. Jim Jordan as House Speaker on Jan. 6, Gaetz announced, “[McCarthy] will not have the votes tomorrow, and he will not have the votes next week, next month, next year.” In addition, Gaetz voted for President Donald Trump for the position three times — in the seventh, eighth, and 11th ballot.
On Jan. 7, Minority House Leader Hakeem Jeffries delivered a speech recognizing the disorder in Congress. He stated, “The American people, understandably after the events of this week, recognize that the Congress is at a fork in the road, and are asking the question in what direction will we choose? On this first day, I do not pretend to answer that question on behalf of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but we do extend our hand of partnership to you. And want to make clear that we extend and intend to try to find common ground whenever and wherever possible on behalf of the American people. Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, not as independents, but as Americans.”
(Sources: CBS, NY Times, NBC)
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