Kevin McCarthy Elected as Speaker of the House in Historic Election

Reagan Woody, Editor-in-Chief

As a result of the 2022 midterm elections, the Republican party gained control over the House of Representatives. This political power turn led former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D) to step down from her role as Speaker, who served as the Speaker of the House for eight years. Since Pelosi stepped down as the House Speaker, voting for a new House Speaker began in the chamber in early Jan. In the early morning of January 7, 2023, after a historic 15 rounds of voting, the House voted on electing Representative Kevin McCarthy (R- Calif.) as the new Speaker of the House.

The Speaker of the House is the leader of the lower chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, and it is a role set forth by the United States Constitution. In order for the House of Representatives to perform their daily duties, there must be a Speaker presiding over the House’s day-to-day matters. According to the BBC, the Speaker of the House’s duties include overseeing daily House business, setting voting agendas, being the leader of the largest party that is currently in the House, and is second in line for presidential succession.

Chairman of the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee Mr. Doug Smith shares details on what electing a new Speaker of the House entails. 

“The Speaker of the House is [from] whatever party wins the majority. They have to be voted by all members of the House of Representatives. So, those that are in the majority have the upper hand [in] getting the person of their choice of a House member to become Speaker,” said Smith. “Typically, Speakers that are elected [and] nominated are senior and experienced, and have built coalitions within the House.” 

Smith then commented on how the power change from the Democrats to the Republicans in the House will affect the country. 

“I certainly think there will be more optimism going forward. It’s been for the Republican Party a depressing, very upsetting past two years when you have a Democrat President, [and a] House and Senate run by Democrats,” said Smith. “We’ve even seen that in Virginia. So I think going forward [there’s] going to be a great deal of optimism that they will eventually take the Senate and increase lead in the House.” 

In the early stages of voting for the House’s newest speaker, the Majority Leader of the Republican Party, Representative Kevin McCarthy was expected to be quickly elected the newest Speaker of the House. However, a small group of far-right conservative Representatives had chosen not to vote McCarthy as the new speaker, causing him not to obtain the votes he needed to win through multiple rounds of voting. Since the House could not come to an agreement on who to elect as the new Speaker of the House, they had to repeat voting until a winner was elected. To secure the needed votes from fellow GOP Representatives, McCarthy had to make several concessions to win over the necessary amount of votes. 

US Congressman Mr. Ben Cline (R-Vir.) shares a first-hand account of his experience during the Speaker of the House elections. 

“Well it was exciting because the Republicans regained control of the House for the first time in several years. We were anxious to elect a Republican speaker and retire Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House,” said Cline.

Congressman Ben Cline speaks in the US House of Representatives. (10 News)

Since there was not an elected Speaker, the House was in a stalemate, as they could not perform their duties without an elected speaker. Cline continued to comment on what the House was unable to do while there was not an elected Speaker. 

“During the week that we saw a delay in the speakership vote, I was making the point regularly that every day that we don’t begin or elect a speaker and begin [legislating,] it is a day that we are not holding the Biden administration accountable for many of the egregious actions that we’ve seen from them over the past two years.” said Cline. 

Virginia Senator Mr. Mark Warner (D – Vir.) shared the following statement in regards to how the Speaker of the House election affected the Senate. 

“There was certainly a bit of excitement to start the year on the other side of the Hill, but now that we finally have a Speaker, I hope to see all of our counterparts in the House work to find some common ground so that we can continue building on the progress we made over the last two years.” said Warner. 

This Speaker election is significant, as it had not taken this long to elect a Speaker of the House since 1855. This occurred in the 34th Congress, when it took two months and 133 ballots in order to elect Nathaniel Banks (R- Mass.) as the new Speaker of the House. A similar situation occurred in 1923, when it took Frederick H. Gillett (R- Mass.) a total of nine rounds of voting in order to be elected the new Speaker of the House. 

Government teacher and historian Mrs. Valerie Clay shares her thoughts on why it took 15 rounds of voting for a new Speaker to be elected. 

“I think the Speaker vote took so long and took so many [votes]  because it’s indicative of where we are currently in our political landscape. Sadly, there are divisions in our country politically,” said Clay. Clay continued, “What’s been interesting though is that you are seeing a division within the Republican party, and I think that’s what was actually more of the reason why it took so long i[because]  there is a division there and that they’re just going to have to figure out how to work things out moving forward.” 

Now that the House of Representatives has elected a Speaker, they were able to return to their daily duties. The House returned to the chamber on Jan. 9 to adopt the rules of the 118th Congress, which allows for the House to make it easier to establish investigatory committees, allow the House to remove their Speaker if necessary, make it more difficult to raise taxes, and make it more difficult to spend federal money. 

Disclaimer: In an effort to give Representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties a voice in this article, I attempted contacting House Representatives from Virginia in the Democratic and in the Republican Parties to produce a politically balanced article. However, due to living outside of the Democratic Representatives’ districts, I was unable to contact them through their official websites and obtain interviews, as you have to verify that you live in their District before contacting them. In addition, I was unable to obtain a statement from a Republican Senator, as both Senators from Virginia align with the Democratic Party. Finally, I reached out to the Democratic Headquarters for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.