Kevin McCarthy Caught in Most Contentious House Speaker Election Since 1859 After Losing a Ninth Time

Kevin McCarthy Caught in Most Contentious House Speaker Election Since 1859 After Losing a Ninth Time

Posted For: MugsMalone

by Kyler Alvord

Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House Republican Caucus, is heading into Thursday evening hoping that 10th time’s the charm in his ongoing bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives.

Around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the House completed its ninth round of voting for a House speaker — and like the eight times before, no candidate received more than half of the votes, leaving the chamber without a figurehead and signaling a 10th vote, which is already underway.

Until a speaker is elected, House members can’t be sworn in, or introduce legislation, or do anything, really.

Since the Civil War, House speaker elections have primarily functioned as ceremonial events, when the majority party leader formally ascends to the nation’s third-highest-ranking role. This year, though, the election is functioning as a ruthless display of the Republican Party’s division, as a handful of far-right House members air their grievances for the world to see — over and over again — by refusing to vote for McCarthy.

To become speaker of the House, a candidate needs to receive the support of more than 50% of the full congressional body. At the beginning of every new Congress, Democrats and Republicans will each nominate their caucus leader for the position. Representatives generally vote along party lines, handing the win to whichever party has more members.

Right now, there are 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats in the House. McCarthy only needs to get 218 votes to pass the 50% threshold and secure the position, which normally wouldn’t be difficult. But a right-wing group of representatives are determined to keep McCarthy out of the position — and despite McCarthy’s attempts at negotiating with them in order to earn their support, the defectors aren’t budging.

Now, the House has no choice but to continue voting as many times as it takes until McCarthy either steps aside for another candidate or convinces his opponents to get in line.

The last time that a House speaker election produced no winner on the first go-around was 100 years ago, in 1923. That year, it took nine ballots for someone to finally receive a majority of votes.

Now that this year’s House speaker election is officially more contentious than the 1923 election, McCarthy has set a new modern-day record: the first time since 1859 that it has taken more than nine rounds of voting to determine a speaker. (In 1859, it took 44 rounds of voting.)

In the November midterms, Republicans narrowly took back control of the House after four years with a Democratic majority. The House’s days-long process of conducting its first order of business has already hampered Republicans’ promise to recalibrate the House, pointing to a fractured caucus with members that are as yet unwilling to unite behind a common goal.

Going into the 10th round of voting Thursday, McCarthy remained determined to secure his place as speaker, outwardly unfazed by his narrowing window of opportunity.

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