What happens in the House until a Speaker is elected?

Without the speaker, the House cannot fully form, as this person actually functions as the chairman of the house and the administrative head of the institution.

WASHINGTON. What should have been a day of triumph for majority Republicans in the House of Representatives turned into chaos on Tuesday as a partisan fight over who should lead them in their new government ended without a speaker on the podium.

Republicans failed to elect a speaker after Kevin McCarthy failed to overcome opposition from the right wing of his party after many hours of voting on the first day of the new Congress.

Opposition by 20 lawmakers, including some of the House’s most conservative members, to Speaker McCarthy limited the House’s ability to begin its work and delayed the swearing-in ceremony for hundreds of returning members and freshmen.

GOP MPs on Wednesday will try to re-elect the Speaker, despite uncertainty about how McCarthy can bounce back after becoming the first House Speaker candidate in 100 years to fail to win the gavel with his party in the majority.

What you need to know ahead of the second day of elections for the speaker of the House of Representatives:


Needing 218 votes in the sell-out, McCarthy received just 203 votes in the first two ballots on the first day—even fewer than Democrat Hakim Jeffries in the GOP-controlled House—and fared even worse with 202 votes in the third round.

A growing chorus of detractors had been warning for months that the California Republican did not have the votes to win a constitutional mandate, which would have made him second in line for the presidency. In response, McCarthy engaged in endless negotiations with members, including representatives Andy Biggs, Scott Perry, and Matt Goetz, to gain their support.

Negotiations continued until Monday evening, when members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus presented McCarthy with their final proposal, which included demands for certain committee assignments in exchange for their votes.

McCarthy refused to comply, saying he had gone far enough to appease lawmakers.

“For the past two months, we’ve been working together as a conference to develop rules that empower all members, but we’re not giving some members more rights than others,” McCarthy told reporters early Tuesday.

As a result, these participants and more than a dozen others spoke openly against him in the hall.


Without the speaker, the House cannot fully form, as this person actually functions as the chairman of the house and the administrative head of the institution.

The swearing-in of members, the appointment of committee chairs, participation in meetings, and the commencement of oversight investigations will all be deferred until the speaker is elected and sworn in.

“Attention needs to be drawn to these 19 – now 20 – who are hindering the activities of Congress for which we were elected,” said Rep. Don Bacon, of Nebraska. – It’s about them.


It remains unclear whether McCarthy will cross the threshold to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, and if so, when. Currently, the number of Republicans who have declared support for other candidates is 20 people, and some suspect that this list will grow.

The House of Representatives is due to begin another round of voting for the Speaker at noon Wednesday. Once there is a quorum in the House—meaning that there is a minimum number of members to continue the work—the speaker’s nomination from each party will be read by the respective leaders before a roll call to elect a new speaker.

Anti-McCarthy Republicans fielded a slew of other candidates on Tuesday, including Biggs, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and even former Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York.

“I’m rising to nominate the most talented and hard-working member of the Republican conference who just gave a speech with more vision than we’ve ever heard from the alternative,” Gaetz said on Tuesday when nominating Jordan.

To be sure, neither garnered a majority of the vote, but that was enough to scuttle support for McCarthy, who, with a majority of 222–213, cannot afford to lose more than a handful of votes.

A candidate needs a majority of the votes of the members of the House of Representatives present and voting to become Speaker. Each MP voting “in attendance” reduces the total number of votes required to achieve a majority.

If McCarthy loses again on Wednesday, the clerk will repeat the roll call until he wins a majority or a deferment proposal is approved.


The last time the House of Representatives did not elect a speaker on the first ballot was in 1923, when the election stretched over nine ballots.

At the time, the Republicans gained a majority despite losing a staggering 77 seats, cutting their lead over the Democrats from 171 to just 18. Candidates, including a Democrat, won votes in a roll call.

This led to a series of votes for three days before House Majority Leader Nicholas Longworth, Ohio, held an emergency meeting with opponents. Their concerns, like those raised against McCarthy, concerned a number of rule changes that they felt merited fair consideration. Longworth agreed, and the next day Gillett won the 215 votes he needed to remain Speaker.

Associated Press contributor Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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