How the House of Representatives elects a speaker


Kevin McCarthy will face a case of deja vu on Tuesday. The 57-year-old’s political future will once again be at stake as Republican lawmakers decide whether he should be elected Speaker of the House.

It’s been a journey the California lawmaker has taken once before in 2015, to no avail, facing the same opposition from the party’s right wing that he is expected to meet this week. . His first run for speaker came when then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, resigned after an intra-party battle with members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

More than seven years later, he is the party’s candidate for speaker after leading the Republican Party to a slim majority in the November midterm elections. most of the conference in a closed leadership vote that followed and passed a challenge from Representative Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.

Although McCarthy currently faces no serious Republican challenge to the constitutionally mandated office, which would make him second on the list of presidents, his becoming a speaker is an open question. He is facing strong opposition from a handful of conservative lawmakers, who have a 222-213 majority that could support his nomination.

Here’s what you need to know about how the House of Representatives elects a speaker:


Choosing a speaker will be the first vote the House will conduct before new and returning lawmakers are sworn in on Tuesday. As required by the Constitution, the session will begin at noon on January 3, with all lawmakers sitting in the House of Representatives and members of both parties participating in voting for the speaker.

The Chamber cannot hold until there is a speaker because that person acts as the speaker of the House of Representatives and the administrative head of the organization. The House of Representatives can elect a new speaker at any time if the person filling that role dies, resigns, or is removed from office. Except that, a speaker is usually elected at the start of a new Parliament.

Lawmakers named their chosen speakers from the floor, a rare and time-consuming roll call that added to the drama on the floor. Members often enliven the proceedings by shouting or standing up when voting.


Within weeks of the election, the Republican convention and the Democratic caucus held an informal vote among their members to decide who they wanted to nominate their party leader. them in January. McCarthy won a majority of the Republican vote in a closed-door meeting in November. Weeks later, Democrats unanimously chose Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., as leader. their own when the party switched to the minority faction.

However, when January 3 comes, members are not required to vote for the candidate chosen by the party. Although traditionally a speaker candidate must be a member of the House of Commons, it is not required. Over the years, President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and even Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky have received votes for Speaker of the House.

To be sure, none of them received a majority of votes.


Once the House of Commons has reached its quorum – that is, the minimum number of members present to proceed – the speaker nominees from each side will be read aloud by their respective leaders prior to a roll call vote. new speaker. The secretary then appoints each party’s legislators as tellers to count the votes.

A candidate to be a speaker needs a majority of votes from the members of the House of Representatives present and voting.

Historically, the magic number is 218 out of 435 members of the House of Representatives. But many previous speakers, including outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, took to the podium with fewer votes than that, as some members voted to be present instead of named. Each legislator votes “present” reducing the total number of votes needed to achieve a majority.

Many doubted that McCarthy would gain the majority to be the speaker on the first vote. If he is flawed, it is likely that the secretary will repeat the roll call vote several times until he can win a majority. McCarthy is expected to give in and compromise with the naysayers until the moment he can get hold of the hammer.


When a speaking candidate wins a majority of votes, the secretary announces the results of the election.

Then, a bipartisan committee, usually consisting of members from the candidate’s home state, escorts the speaker-elect to the chair on the podium where the swearing-in ceremony will take place. The oath is identical to the oath that new members will take after a speaker is selected.

The outgoing speaker will usually take the seat of his successor, where he or she will pass the hammer as a nod to the peaceful transfer of power from one party leader to another. This time, it will be Pelosi, the California Democrat who has held power for the past four years.

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