Republican Kevin McCarthy Wins House Vote After Almost a Week of Deadlock

Hunter Pierce, Content Editor

In 2022 the midterm elections were held in the United States, bringing in new members of the senate/house. With the new members of Congress coming in, a new speaker of the house must be elected by the members of the House, with Republican nominee: Kevin McCarthy of California, going against Democratic Nominee: Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and the winner being decided by a majority of those voting (If all 435 representatives vote, this number would be 218).

With the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives; 222 Republicans to 213 Democrats, McCarthy should have had an easy time winning over Jeffries, however, the story doesn’t exactly go that way. After 14 failed attempts at winning the majority vote and a near fist fight between two representatives getting broken up, McCarthy was voted in as the 55th Speaker of the House- ending the nearly week-long deadlock. 

Between Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023, and Saturday, January 7th, 2023, the government was at complete standstill. Beginning on that Tuesday, the first speaker of the house vote ended in 203 McCarthy votes, 212 Jeffries votes, and 19 “others” votes. Then ending on Saturday with 216 McCarthy votes, 212 Jeffries votes, and 0 “others” votes. While it seems like a short amount of time (only about 5 days) what happened in the house during this time, and what could have happened if the house had taken even longer, were history-making. 

The vote for the speaker of the house for the 118th Congress was the longest vote in 168 years, with the record being the vote for the speaker of the 34th Congress in 1855- preceding the Civil War, and the first time there has been more than one vote since the 68th congress. This was in 1923 when it took 9 votes.  

Mr. Brown teaching Government class.

The implications of not having a speaker of the house are immense. First of all, the entire Legislative branch is offline entirely, until there is a speaker voted in and sworn in. This means that all processes run by the Legislative branch cannot be accomplished. Such as crisis relief packages in events of large-scale natural disasters, domestically or overseas. “Essentially, business in the House was frozen,” said Eric Brown, a Government teacher at Clear Creek Amana High School, when asked about the deadlock in Government caused by the Speaker vote. It cannot pay its house members that are sworn in, can’t swear in any new house members, and those new house members cannot receive intelligence briefings. “National Security threats are a possibility at any time, it would quickly become an issue of National Security,” said Brown. This also means that members of the house and their staff cannot get paid, and the entire checks and balances system is completely off balance, among many other issues. 

Luckily, a speaker of the house was eventually voted in, albeit after nearly an entire workweek and 15 ballots. While there were not many consequences for this, if it had gone on longer (similar to the 1855 election) there could have been highly dire consequences, much more than that of in 1855, due to changes in the overall world in the past 150+ years. However, hopefully, that will never happen again.

Unfortunately, one of the conditions that McCarthy went through with to get one of his holdouts to vote for him, was that only one member of the house can call a motion to vacate the speaker. Meaning, that only one member of the house- Republican or Democrat, has to get upset at McCarthy, and with a majority vote, (reminder McCarthy originally had 14 holdouts in his party) McCarthy would get removed from the position of Speaker of the House and another vote for Speaker, just like the one at the start of the year would happen, potentially resulting in even more ballots than the original. “You could easily see a number of times where we have a repeat where on the motion to vacate, those 5 or so republicans vote to remove the speaker, the democrats might then join them, and then we will see a repeat of what we saw before,” said Brown on the consequences of McCarthy having such a low majority within his party.

For the time being, we must just wait and see. With rising national debt issues, McCarthy may have to come to an agreement with the Biden administration, which would not be a good look for him considering all his holdouts were on the hard-right side of the political system and could lead to him getting removed. Along with issues in Ukraine rising, and the summer consistently having hurricanes passing across America, a poorly timed motion to vacate the speaker could have disastrous consequences.