The Race for Speaker of the House

by Shannon Kelly '26 on January 29, 2023
News Staff


The latest battle for Speaker of the House was defined by compromise, political theater, and infighting. According to many political commentators, Kevin McCarthy’s bid for Speaker revealed the schisms within the Republican party. 

Following Nancy Pelosi announcing her resignation as Speaker of the House, it became apparent that someone new would have to take the job. The question was who would be willing to take the risk—and a few people were, in fact, willing to bear the onerous burden of leading the House of Representatives. There are 435 members in the House of Representatives, and in order to be elected Speaker, a member needs to receive a majority of votes. Pelosi expressed her desire for a new generation to come into power in the Democratic Caucus, as she had held the position of Speaker for two decades and is now in her early 80s. The House Speaker is chosen by the party that holds more seats, and since power has just shifted between parties, the House leadership was preparing to shift from Democratic to Republican. 

Hakeem Jeffries, from New York’s eighth district, quickly became the favored option for House Minority Leader and made history as the first Black politician to lead a caucus in Congress. His leadership was uncontested, which some say represents unity among Democrats. 

However, the House Republicans faced major difficulties in choosing a majority leader. Kevin McCarthy, from California’s 20th district, was initially the presumed leader of the House Republicans in the new session, as he was the minority leader when Democrats controlled the chamber. However, Republicans like Matt Gaetz from Florida’s first district, Chip Roy from Texas’ 21st, and Mary Miller from Illinois’ 15th chose not to vote for McCarthy. 

Those who did not vote for him generally opposed his unwillingness to hear others’ opinions and wavering stances on many political issues. It took 15 rounds of voting for Kevin McCarthy to get 216 votes. Usually, winning a majority would require 218 votes, but six Republicans chose to vote “present.”

There was a lot of drama on the floor of the Senate when Gaetz chose to vote “present” in the 14th round of voting, which deterred McCarthy from becoming Speaker and made a 15th round necessary. 

 A heated conversation involved McCarthy, Gaetz, and Mike Rogers from Alabama’s third district after voting had taken place. The Freedom Caucus, a group of extreme conservatives, originally did not support Kevin McCarthy, as they wanted to ensure that he had agreed to their demands. 12 of the 20 members of this Caucus have repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 Presidential Election and were worried about McCarthy’s loyalty to their radical views. The next weeks and months will definitely be telling as McCarthy takes on his new powerful role in the House.