The seemingly endless roll call was a sign of the inability of the House of Representatives to choose a speaker for the new Congress. But however long it takes to select a speaker, it may be time to get used to hearing the names of hundreds of representatives.
Whoever wins the Speakership looks set to be in a precarious position thanks to a combination of a slight Republican majority in the House and deep suspicion between supporters and opponents of Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican majority choice of House Republicans for speaker.
As leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives during the last Congress, McCarthy was first in line for speaker when the Republican Party won the most seats in the 2022 midterm elections.
More:Austin State Representatives Chip Roy and Michael Cloud endorsed Rep. Kevin McCarthy for the speaker.
But in the first 10 ballots, McCarthy failed to convince about 20 members of his caucus to vote for him, leaving him without the majority needed to win (and trailing minority Democratic candidate Hakim Jeffreys of New York, who had partisan support). unanimous support).
If all members of the House are present and vote, the Republicans have a five-seat majority at the start of the 118th Congress. The Democrats have had an equally narrow lead of five seats over the past two years. But during that period, the Democrats were almost completely united under the leadership of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, something the Republicans have yet to demonstrate.
Whoever becomes speaker can be excluded from voting
There are many variations on how the speaker’s vote might end. McCarthy was able to make enough concessions to win over some of his critics. Or he could fall back in favor of an alternative candidate like Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, who was Republican No. 2 in the House of Representatives during the last Congress. Or, less likely, but not impossible, some sort of coalition could be formed in which Democrats en masse agree to support a moderate or pragmatic Republican.
Even though the speaker vote is jarring, critics will probably be able to vote to change speakers quite easily.
The details of how to oust the Speaker will be finalized after the members are sworn in and adopt a set of rules, which will be the new Speaker’s first job.
Details for the next two years have yet to be determined, but the rules have long allowed for a “move to vacate the seat”—essentially a new vote for the speaker.
Historically, such proposals have been rare—one of them was last voted for over a century ago—and under Pelosi, Democrats have made the task more difficult. Under the rules of the last Congress, a proposal for release could not be put to a vote except “at the direction of a party meeting or conference”, presumably meaning party leadership. But the speaker representing the majority will most likely not allow such a vote. The minority leader might try to do so, but he probably wouldn’t have enough votes to overthrow the speaker under normal circumstances.
During the previous Congress, the internal policy of the Republican Party required that a majority of party members agree to submit a proposal for release – a pretty high bar. After the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections, McCarthy agreed to a much lower threshold of just five members.
And after failing to win the speaker’s seat for two days in a row, McCarthy made a concession to the opposing GOP bloc: Any member could propose a release in the next Congress, news outlets report.
Having a speaker that is easy to remove makes the task of passing laws much more difficult, experts say, because it empowers dissidents and factions at the expense of an incumbent speaker.
Depending on how well or badly the speaker treated them, Democrats may not be in the mood to bail out the speaker, said Eric Shikler, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
“The waiver proposal is embarrassing, but it can be survived if some[Democrats]vote for ‘in attendance’, but that’s not possible if the Democrats are so angry and stubborn that they will all vote for the vacancy,” Schickler said.
Compounding the problem is another concession that McCarthy may be willing to make: He has “expressed willingness” to include more members of the House caucus on the House Rules Committee, a key procedural gatekeeper that sets the parameters for the consideration of legislation in the room.
“This is a big step forward,” said C. Lawrence Evans, State Professor at the College of William and Mary. If four or five Republicans in the rules group vote no, along with all the Democrats, “McCarthy can’t push legislation into Parliament. Including them in the rules, in fact, involves them directly in the process of setting the agenda. It will be very interesting. decades since we’ve seen open conflict like this in the Rules.”
Experts say giving too many concessions almost results in weakening, constant risk to the speaker. And it will reduce the already limited power of the House of Representatives compared to the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate.
“After the election, it became clear that the prospects for the legislature for the next two years would be dim, with the Senate controlled by Democrats and the House of Representatives by Republicans,” said Rich Cohen, chief author of the Almanac of American Politics.
- PolitiFact, “Kevin McCarthy won the GOP nomination for Speaker of the House of Representatives. Being elected can be difficult, November 15, 2022
- ABC News, “What is the ‘liberation movement’ a key stumbling block in the battle of GOP speakers?”. January 5, 2023
- Washington Post, “McCarthy Makes New Concessions in Trying to Win Far-Right Republicans as Speaker”, January 5, 2023.
- Email interview with Rich Cohen, principal author of The Almanac of American Politics, January 5, 2023.
- Email interview with C. Lawrence Evans, State Professor at the College of William and Mary, January 5, 2023.
- Email interview with Matthew Green, political scientist at the Catholic University of America, January 5, 2023.
- Email interview with Eric Schickler, political scientist at UC Berkeley, January 5, 2023.