McCarthy elected speaker after 15 votes, amidst internal GOP tumult


Joseph Zuloaga '23

Last month, California Republican Kevin McCarthy had a hard time getting members of his own party to vote for him. After 15 votes, he was elected Speaker of the House through extensive negotiations.

Joseph Zuloaga '23, Editor in Chief

After four long days and 15 ballots, Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress.

When the new Congress convened in Washington at 12:00 p.m. on Jan. 3 it took them until 12:37 a.m. on Jan. 7 to elect a new speaker. It was the longest speaker election since before the Civil War. 

Normally, the election of a House Speaker is a formality as the majority party would rally behind one person and unanimously elect them. 

“It’s usually easy because they would want to show unity as a party,” commented AP Government instructor Jeff Isola ’98.

However, the 2022 midterm elections were an anomaly as there was no Republican “red wave.” While they ended unified Democratic control of Congress, Democrats held control of the Senate and the GOP only obtained a slim six seat majority in the House. 

Prior to Congress convening, Republican infighting was put on display with 31 GOP members opposing McCarthy’s candidacy for Speaker in internal party elections, due to McCarthy not being “conservative” or “radical” enough. Nevertheless, he won a majority of his conference and became the GOP’s official nominee for Speaker.

On the House floor, as the first ballots rolled, it became evident that a far right bloc of 20 Republicans would never vote for McCarthy. This included figures of the Freedom Caucus like Lauren Bobert and Matt Gaetz. In the end–after some hard negotiations, big concessions, and even a near fist fight on the floor–14 of the 20 switched to McCarthy and six voted present, lowering the threshold needed for a majority to 215. The final tally on the 15th ballot was McCarthy (R-CA) 216, Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) 212, and Present 6.  

Bradley Campos ’23 stated, “It’s a shame how the GOP is being factionalized between the pro-Trump faction and status quo and how people in government–who run our country–act like literal children and want to fight.”

“The Republican Party has shattered as one half wants to leave the Trump image while the other wants to embrace it. The future of the party leans on their next presidential nominee as [they] need a new populist candidate to unite the party once again,” added Bryan Santana ’23.

The new GOP majority soon set its sights on placing hard checks on the Biden administration, reviewing their actions on the border crisis, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and more. They have also used their oversight power to scrutinize Biden over his mishandling of classified documents, while downplaying Trump’s mishandling of documents as well. Biden has cooperated with the DOJ and the National Archives, whereas Trump did not, leading to the FBI raiding Mar-a-Lago.

Chuck Todd called it two car wrecks: “One is an accident, the other is intentional.”

From Isola’s perspective, “We are using the lowest common denominator of what people can have a reaction to rather than what are the implications of it and in reality, probably not that much, other than to get people ticked off, polarized and fighting each other.”

It is still to be seen what else Speaker McCarthy and the GOP will do until 2025, when a new Congress is sworn in. 

Campos concluded, “It’ll be a miracle if anything passes.”