After 15 rounds of voting, Kevin McCarthy, of District 20 in California, was elected Speaker of the House in the early hours of Dec. 7. (Photo Courtesy of Facebook/Kevin McCarthy)

By Catherine Pugh,
Special to the AFRO

What does it take for Republicans to elect a Speaker? 

Apparently, in 2023, it takes 15 rounds of voting. 

Kevin McCarthy was finally sworn in as Speaker of the House in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, after arguments and even threats of physical violence were broadcast via livestream on CSPAN.

“As Speaker of the House my ultimate responsibility is not to my party, my conference or even our Congress. My responsibility– our responsibility– is to our country,” said McCarthy, shortly after his victory. 

President Biden congratulated McCarthy on Dec. 7. 

“The American people expect their leaders to govern in a way that puts their needs above all else, and that is what we need to do now,” said Biden, in a statement from the White House. “As I said after the midterms, I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.”

“Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided it is time for that process to begin,” said Biden.

Though McCarthy was ultimately successful, some pundits say rounds and rounds of failed votes, concessions and compromises have weakened him politically.  

McCarthy made several concessions to the group of 20 Republican holdouts. Now, if even one legislator wants to call for a vote to oust the speaker– they can. Still, McCarthy told media outlets, “I’m not afraid, I won’t be a weaker speaker.”

There are 222 elected Republicans in the House and 212 Democrats.  McCarthy needed 218 votes in his favor, give or take based on how many Republican lawmakers decided to only vote that they were“present” instead of casting a vote for McCarthy. 

The Majority Party gets to elect the Speaker of the House while the losing party elects the Minority Leader.  Democrats have unanimously elected Congressman Hakeem Jefferies as Minority Leader.  

The battle to elect a Speaker began on Tuesday, but by Thursday night, after more than 11 rounds of voting failed to compile the 218 votes, the struggle in Congress continued. 

Votes recorded in the eleventh round were as follows: 12 people voted for Congressman Byron Donalds,  Congressman Kevin Hern received seven votes, President Trump had one vote, and one person voted that they were only present. 

Representative  Byron Donalds, an African-American Republican, acquired as many as 19 votes through the first 11 rounds of voting. 

A fourth day of voting began on Friday. Again, McCarthy was initially unsuccessful. 

Multiple votes on Friday were needed as McCarthy failed to receive time and time again.

Finally, he won with 216 votes, after six Republicans chose to vote “present.”

According to the Federal Election Commission, Congressman McCarthy’s political action committee, since 2012, gave over $300,000 in contributions to 17 members of his party vehemently opposed him this week, including $50,000 to Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry.

No business could be conducted by Congress until a Speaker of the House was selected.  

Congress had not seen this kind of chaos since before the Civil War. 

According to the Office of Historian of the House,  “the record for the most rounds of votes is the 34th Congress when Nathaniel Prentice Banks, a member of the American and free Soil Party and an abolitionist, was elected by three votes after 133 rounds and two months of voting.”

The U.S. House of Representatives Archives reports that “after two months and 133 ballots, the House finally chose Representative Banks by a vote of 103 to 100 over Representative William Aiken of South Carolina.”

That year, no less than 20 people set their sights on the post because Banks was against slavery and conflicts over immigration.

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