House divided: No speaker after three votes

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 4, 2023

Republicans took back the House of Representatives in November’s election, but they’re finding it impossible to elect a speaker in January.

The House adjourned Tuesday evening after three failed attempts to elect a speaker.

As National Review reported:

The decision to adjourn came shortly after House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy failed to win the speakership in a third vote on Tuesday. A handful of Republican holdouts coalesced around Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) instead.

Representative Chip Roy (R., Texas) nominated Jordan on the third ballot, despite Jordan having nominated McCarthy before the second round of voting.

“We need to rally around him,” Jordan said of McCarthy before the second ballot.

The vote headed to a second ballot for the first time since 1923 after 19 Republicans voted against McCarthy in the first round. He could only afford to lose the votes of four House Republicans in order to hit the 218 vote threshold needed to win.

Wisconsin’s six Republican House members were among 203 representatives who cast their ballots for McCarthy, including McCarthy.

“If there’s good news it’s that we’re finally taking away the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi,” U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) told Empower Wisconsin before the 118th Congress opened on Tuesday.

That was about the only good news for a Republican Party that holds a thin majority in the House. Democrats cheered McCarthy’s failure to secure enough votes, and applauded House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) who received all 212 Democrat votes.

Democrats used the occasion to roast divided House Republicans, McCarthy and former President Donald Trump — their hatred for Trump still seething. 

“He does not traffic in extremism,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, House Democratic Caucus chair, said in praising Jeffries. “He does not grovel to or make excuses for a twice-impeached, so-called former president… He does not bend a knee to anyone who would seek to undermine our democracy.”

It’s been nearly a century since an election for speaker has taken more than one ballot. There have been 14 instances of speaker elections requiring multiple ballots, according to House Archives. It took a whopping 133 ballots to elect Massachusetts Republican Nathanial Banks speaker at the start of the 34th Congress (1855-57).

The House will try it again on Wednesday, with no signs of McCarthy or the Republican renegades budging. The House is prohibited from considering legislation, creating committee assignments, even setting rules to govern its own affairs until a speaker is elected.

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