McCarthy Elected House Speaker After 15 Rounds of Voting

Vote distribution that propelled McCarthy to secure the House Speaker position.

The New York Times.

Vote distribution that propelled McCarthy to secure the House Speaker position.

Arya Kaul

Just after midnight on January 6th, 2023, Representative Kevin McCarthy was voted Speaker of the House. He won because a group of six ultraconservative Republicans voted “present”, lowering the threshold needed for him to win. This group of holdouts, which is made up of Representatives Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and other election deniers, are jokingly called the “Never-Kevins” because they adamantly stated they would never vote for McCarthy (New York Times). 

In order to win the election, McCarthy needed 218 votes given that every member of Congress was present and voting. According to CNN, he could only afford to lose four Republican votes, and by the fourteenth round of voting, all but six of the 21 opponents of McCarthy, had flipped their votes (CNN). Contrastingly, all 212 Democratic members of Congress voted for Representative Hakeem Jefferies, who is the new minority leader after former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, stepped down from her House leadership positions. 

McCarthy’s election came exactly two years after the January 6th attack at the Capitol, a day when McCarthy himself voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. What seemingly prevented Trump supporters, like Representative Matt Gaetz, from voting for McCarthy was that he pleaded with President Trump to tell his supporters to stand down, as the riots were getting out of control (The New York Times). Representative Matt Gaetz even nominated Trump for House speaker. 

There has not been a Speaker vote that lasted more than one round in more than 100 years. McCarthy survived one of the longest and most chaotic speaker elections since the Civil War. AP Gov student Ava McCann was “shocked that the election took so long” and she believes “it is reminiscent of how divided our country is.” Now, with the Republicans in control of the House, the GOP has vowed to fight back on narratives around the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, COVID-19, and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden (USA Today).

As stated by CNN, McCarthy recently administered the oath to all members-elect, officially swearing in the members of the 118th Congress, kicking off the House legislative business and his new role as Speaker of the House (CNN). Mr. Van der Molen, who teaches AP Gov, noted that the “role of Speaker is one of the most important in the US government. The Speaker of the House is third in line for the presidency and has a lot of power over legislation.”

What this new era of Congress will bring is unknown. With a split Congress, a Democratic Senate, and a Republican House, and the political divide running deep between the two parties, and within the Republican party, the legislative future of America is uncertain.