The 118th Congress is now in session, and they have just started voting for a new House Speaker, with Republican Kevin McCarthy and Democrat Representative Hakeem Jeffries at the helm of the race.
Other nominees for House Speaker include Republican Representative Andy Biggs. A nominee must secure majority votes to gain the House Speakership. However, the threshold could decrease depending on how each member of Congress votes. Members of Congress will be called one by one; then, they will state the name of the person they want to vote for as House Speaker.
It could be their name, a name from the nominated candidate of each party, or any other name in Congress or present. When a member says ‘present,’ it will not be counted and will automatically be deducted from the majority threshold.
If no one gains a majority of the votes, a second ballot will be cast, and on and on, until a majority vote is achieved. For instance, during the House Speaker election in 1923, the poll reached nine rounds before a House Speaker was elected. And in 1869, the ballot reached 60 rounds over two months.
In the event of an extended election, Congress may choose to go in a recess before they resume voting. But until a House Speaker is elected, the House cannot proceed to other matters.
Two of the representatives nominated, McCarthy (GOP) and Jeffries (Democrat), are at the frontlines of the voting process. GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik set McCarthy for a House Speaker bid. Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Pete Aguilar stood from his chair and called on Jeffries as the Democrats’ nominee as House Speaker.
“We are unified behind a speaker who is an unapologetic advocate for protecting and expanding our freedom. He does not traffic in extremism. He does not grovel to or make excuses for a twice impeached so-called former president. Madam clerk, he does not bend a knee to anyone who would seek to undermine our democracy,” Aguilar said.
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McCarthy and his House Speaker bid
Before the 118th Congress started, McCarthy spoke in front of the press after a meeting with GOP members, expressing his bid for the House Speakership. He slams opponents and says that he will run as House Speaker not for himself but for the country.
“There’s times we’re going to have to argue with our own members if they’re looking out for only positions for themselves, not for the country. For the last two months, we worked together as a whole conference to develop rules that empower all members, but we’re not empowering certain members over others,” McCarthy said.
“I was presented the only way to have 218 votes — if I provided certain members with certain positions, certain gavels to take over the certain committee to have certain budgets. And they even came to the position where one Matt Gaetz said, ‘I don’t care if we go to plurality and we elect Hakeem Jeffries,’ and it hurts the new frontline members not to get reelected,” he added.
“Well, that’s not about America, and I will always fight to put the American people first. Not a few individuals want something for themselves. So we may have a battle on the floor. But the battle is for the conference and the country, and that’s fine with me.”
“I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don’t have a problem getting a record for the most votes for speaker.”
However, there were talks that McCarthy could not secure the needed votes to win as House Speaker. If the bid for House Speaker will proceed to the second ballot, the GOP could replace McCarthy with the number 2 nominee, Representative Steve Scalise. However, Scalise has already vouched for his support for McCarthy.
“Steve is trying to be very supportive. He has been public that he is supporting McCarthy. I think someday he wants to be speaker, so he’s got to be tactful,” said Representative Don Bacon.
“I think Steve Scalise is going to have some problems. If Kevin McCarthy doesn’t become speaker, then Steve Scalise has faint fingerprints on the dagger,” added a GOP member.
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The Democrats give their support to Jeffries
Several months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly announced that she would be relinquishing her post as leader of the Democratic Party. She, therefore, dismissed all possibilities of continuing the House Speakership. In light of her retirement, members of the Democratic Party publicly supported Jeffries, expressing their confidence that he would be a perfect replacement for Pelosi.
“If she steps aside, I’m very clear that Hakeem Jeffries is the person I will be voting for and leading the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for. Of course, I don’t always speak for everybody, but I’m very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries,” said Ohio representative Joyce Beatty.
“Nonetheless, a great deal is at stake because we’ll be in a presidential election. So my decision will again be rooted in the wishes of my family and the wishes of my caucus. But none of it will be very much considered until we see what the outcome of all of this is. And there are all kinds of ways to exert influence,” she added.
Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster