Following a historic 15 rounds of voting and negotiations with other members of his party, California Republican Kevin McCarthy secured the position of speaker of the United States House of Representatives over New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries.
In the first round of voting, 19 House Republicans cast their vote for Republicans other than McCarthy. In the second round of voting, the same 19 Republicans opposed McCarthy, voting instead for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio.
While Jordan, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, worked to convince the 19 voters to support McCarthy instead, on the third round of voting, the same 19 voters and one additional Republican voted for Jordan.
In the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of voting, the same 20 Republicans voted for Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, with one additional member voting “present.”
In the seventh through 11th rounds of voting, 20 Republicans withheld their support for McCarthy, and one voted “present.” Colorado Representative Ken Buck did not vote in rounds nine through 11.
By the 14th round, all but six of the 21 Republican voters, who had initially opposed McCarthy or voted “present” had changed their votes.
In the 15th round, the final six Republicans voted “present,” lowering the number of votes necessary for McCarthy to win.
Benjamin Peterson, Lecturer of Political Science and History watched televised coverage of the process. “As a political spectacle it was really quite amazing,” said Peterson. “I spent more time watching C-SPAN that week than ever before.”
“The freedom that news reporters had to film whatever they wanted during the debate really highlighted the drama because you could see negotiations taking place in real time,” said Peterson.
“. . . When McCarthy convinced Gaetz to change his vote to ‘present’ — and thus allow his nomination to move forward by changing the number of people voting for a candidate — was really one of the most striking things I have ever seen,” said Peterson. “It really brought home that these were real people in an extremely fluid and stressful situation.”
“. . . The balance of power and lack of bipartisanship in Washington ensures that . . . only the minimum will get done in Congress until 2024 anyway. I suspect if the Republicans had a chance of passing major legislation this session, they would have been a lot more willing to compromise,” said Peterson.
“The anti-McCarthy faction made a calculation of risks and rewards and weakening McCarthy to gain more leverage ended up making good sense as their agenda will stall in the Senate anyway,” said Peterson.
Like Peterson, Political Science major, Ryan Claypool (’23) kept up with the election process.
“As a political science student and political consultant, I regularly keep up with our government institutions and its processes,” said Claypool. “My first political volunteer work was with John James (MI-10) who gave a passionate nominating speech on McCarthy’s behalf for the seventh ballot.”
“The small bloc of ultraconservative members has discredited the beginning works of a GOP legislative agenda which will leave them with less pull in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate in conference committees or the White House,” said Claypool.