By Ethan Percival
On January 3rd, 2023, the previous House of Representative was disbanded as the new House was sworn in, as is the case with most of US history. Except, no one was sworn into office as a US Representative, meaning the United States did not have a House of Representatives for nearly four days. Why did this situation happen in the first place? Simple, there was no Speaker of the House.
Historically, at the beginning of a new Congress, the members nominate and elect a Speaker of the House, the Speaker then swears in every member of the House. However, in the speaker elections this year, a speaker was not elected for several days.
Between January 3rd and January 7th, a stalemate in the speaker elections occurred and it marks the first time in a hundred years a speaker vote has taken place more than once. And even with the US Senate being fully sworn in, without a House of Representatives, no bills could be passed in Congress, nor were any of the House’s committees active with no representatives to fill them. The continued stalemate with no speaker elected could have caused serious problems in our legislative process.
Thankfully, we have avoided such a problem. As of now, California Republican Kevin McCarthy has won the Speakership of the House with New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries now leading the Democratic Party in the house as minority leader. The result came after a staggering 15 elections over the course of four days, the fifth longest speaker vote in US History with the all-time record going to the 1859 Speaker Vote, which took over 133 elections and two months for a speaker to be elected.
During the first vote, 19 Republicans voted for other candidates over McCarthy, keeping him from achieving the majority. In the second and third rounds, the remaining Republican votes went to Ohio Republican Jim Jordan who gained 20 votes by the end of the day. On the second day of voting, many of the votes Jordan received went to Florida Republican Bryon Donalds, who received 20 votes in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds of voting. On day three, the remaining 20 votes were divided between Donalds, Oklahoma Republican Kevin Hern, and former President Donald Trump. On the final day, McCarthy was able to pull the remaining Republican vote his way, giving him a 50.5% majority, winning him the position of Speaker.
Though tensions ran high during the fight for speaker, with several Republicans including McCarthy himself getting into heated debates over the last days of the election as McCarthy tried to gain the majority of votes.
Following his win, McCarthy credited Donald Trump for his victory. Ironically, their relationship may have been why so many Republicans initially refused to vote for him.
As House Speaker, McCarthy has gained significant power over key functions of the US House. The position enables him to give members permission to speak on the house floor, assign members to committees, and several other key powers in the house. Only the future will tell how he will use his new position.