Kevin McCarthy wins speakership

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy bangs his gavel for the first time after being elected. The photo was taken shortly after midnight after a grueling 15 ballot long election.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy bangs his gavel for the first time after being elected. The photo was taken shortly after midnight after a grueling 15 ballot long election.

On January 7th, 2023 Republican party leader Kevin McCarthy was elected House Speaker after one of the longest House Speaker elections in U.S. history–second only to the two month long 1855 election. After fifteen rounds and five days McCarthy received the gavel at roughly 1:00a.m. EST. McCarthy has wanted the position for many years, and at last he has achieved success– but why did it take so long?

     The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected every two years and holds an incredibly powerful position in the American government. Their duties include appointing members to committee posts, determining which bills will be debated and voted on, and upholding decorum in the house. In addition to those responsibilities, they are also third in line for President after the Vice President. 

     In order to be elected, a candidate must secure a majority vote. As of November 8th, 2022, the Republican party (GOP) took control of the House.They gained nine seats for a total of 222 and set the balance of House seats in favor of the GOP. However, given the small margins, McCarthy needed almost every single vote from his party to win the speakership. This is the root cause of the five-day, 15-round voting battle that took place. 

     Out of the 435 members of the House, 213 voted for current House minority leader and Democratic party member Hakeem Jeffries, leaving McCarthy with 222 votes to secure in order to be elected. Of those members, six refused to vote for McCarthy all fifteen rounds and another fifteen eventually gave McCarthy their vote by the last four rounds.  

     So how did McCarthy secure his position? 

     The small group of Republican party members that refused McCarthy, also known by the New York Times podcast “The Daily” as “Never Kevins”,  consisted of representatives Biggs, Boebert, Crane, Gaetz, Good, and Rosendale. Although they were adamant about refusing McCarthy their vote, they were eventually persuaded by other house members including McCarthy himself and even former President Donald Trump to change their minds. Trump called various House members, urging them to give McCarthy their vote so that the House may proceed with their work. He faced resistance at first, although eventually he and other House members urged the “Never Kevins” to vote present. In voting present, a member of the house can refuse to vote for any candidate, lowering the number of votes needed for McCarthy to gain the speakership. However, in securing his position as Speaker, McCarthy might have given himself more challenges than he anticipated. 

     In exchange for a ‘present’ vote, Boebert, Gaetz, and others asked that McCarthy push for some changes in the House. These changes will essentially weaken McCarthy’s position as House Speaker. Among these changes are the reinstatement of a one-member sponsorship of a motion to remove Speaker, 72-hour notice before voting on a bill, and the establishment of a “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” which is meant to investigate what conservatives see as the politicization of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department Of Justice. 

     According to Monte Vista U.S. Government teacher James Rossi, the House is in for a challenging year in terms of how much work they are able to get done. 

     “Both the president and the party will be looking to position themselves for [the upcoming] election…as opposed to real legislation” Rossi said.