By Julia Bae
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, January 7, Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, was elected Speaker of the House. McCarthy’s path to Speaker consisted of fifteen rounds of voting across five days, which is the fifth-longest Speaker election in history, as well as the longest in 64 years.
In the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House serves as the elected leader of the body; their responsibilities include running House meetings, enforcing House rules, and choosing representatives to serve on various committees. In order to be elected Speaker, a representative must obtain a majority of 218 votes out of a total 435 representatives. However, in some cases, representatives vote “present” instead of voting for a candidate; in these instances, the necessary number of votes is decreased. In addition, the election process involves the candidate selection from each party before the actual vote for Speaker. The Republicans, who hold a 222-213 majority, selected McCarthy, while the Democrats nominated Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). However, these selections do not guarantee that every representative will vote for the candidate from their party.
Throughout the election, McCarthy’s primary challenge resided in a small group of ultraconservative Republicans. Most notably, Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Bob Good (R-VA), and Ralph Norman (R-SC) were outspoken in their opposition to McCarthy. Anya Weerapana ’25, a member of Winsor’s Current Events Club, commented that “the fifteen rounds of voting seems to correlate with the divisive nature of political parties nowadays.” Despite the fact that both Former President Donald Trump and far-right Representative Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) endorsed McCarthy, he continued to face resistance from the same few representatives. As a result, McCarthy was forced to obtain the needed votes by making several concessions, many of which have since received criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. One significant concession was McCarthy’s agreement to a rule that would allow any individual, as opposed to the previously required five, to call for a motion to “vacate” the Speaker. Essentially, this agreement allows any representative to call for a reelection for Speaker at any given time, which is a constant threat to McCarthy’s position. In addition, some of the other concessions McCarthy made were splitting up a comprehensive spending bill into 12 separate proposals and creating a “weaponization of the government” committee, which will investigate how the federal government utilizes information on individual citizens and conducts investigations.
McCarthy’s election also has many significant implications about the current dynamics of the Republican Party. Amelia Kwak ’25, co-head of the Winsor Current Events club, shared her main takeaways of the election, explaining, “This event is important to talk about because it signals the far-right’s growing power in America; just a small group of fringe politicians were able to stop the entire House of Representatives from functioning.” The few ultraconservatives managed to prolong the election to a week, and they were also able to obtain concessions that give them lasting influence for the entirety of McCarthy’s leadership. Overall, McCarthy’s Speaker election not only provides many insights into the state of the Republican Party, but it also raises the question of how the fight over Speaker will affect the functionality of the House moving forward, and if the turbulent election process will affect the opinions of voters in future elections.