How the U.S. will pick its next House speaker

Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, is the frontrunner to become the next speaker of...
Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, is the frontrunner to become the next speaker of the House, but he is short on the votes required
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 8:47 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Republicans will soon retake the House of Representatives, and their first order of business is picking a new House speaker.

Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, is the front-runner to win the post, but he is currently short of the 218 votes he would need to win the post if all members of the House vote on the process.

Because of Republicans razor-thin majority, McCarthy can only lose four party votes and win the position.

“Right now there are at least that many Republicans who do not want McCarthy to be the speaker,” Catholic University of America Political Science Department Chair Matthew Green said.

Green said the House is virtually impossible to run without a speaker, so if nobody wins, voting will essentially continue until somebody gains the seat. The last time this happened was 1923.

“It ended up taking over two days to elect a speaker and nine rounds of balloting,” Green said. “So we have been there before. We were there a century ago.”

Unlike many other votes, the vote for House speaker must be done in person. Technically, a speaker can be elected with fewer than 218 votes if members vote “present.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi won the position with 216 votes in 2021.

Georgetown University American Government Professor Michele Swers said Mccarthy can win votes through giving representatives more power. Swers brought up McCarthy’s promises to former critic Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Because she was kicked off of her committees by the Democrats, and she would like to be on the House oversight committee,” Swers said.

One change the House Freedom Caucus is asking for is a reversion to the process of removing the speaker that Nancy Pelosi changed.

It used to be any member of Congress could make a motion to replace the Speaker, but Pelosi required a majority of the majority party to sign off on the process.

“What these disgruntled conservatives want is to return to the old way of doing things, where any one member of the House, a Republican or a Democrat could force the vote at any time to remove the Speaker,” Green said.

The change would remove power from leadership and return more of it to rank and file members. These changes could make passing laws more difficult.

“So McCarthy has to balance, you know, what can he promise to the Freedom Caucus and other members that might that might be concerned with his speakership, with the fact that he’s going to have to govern,” Swers said.

The House is expected to vote on the speakership January 3.