Division over House of Representatives Speaker

Members of the House of Representatives were divided on who to elect as House Speaker in the first week of Jan. 2023. Nancy Pelosi, former House speaker, announced her withdrawal from the position on Nov. 17, 2022. A new speaker is typically sworn in on the first day of new Congress [congressional elections], but the floor debate over Kevin McCarthy’s role as speaker has left the House without one.

“The Constitution mandates that Congress convene once each year at noon on Jan. 3, unless the preceding Congress designates a different day,” stated on Senate.gov  “In odd-numbered years, following congressional elections, a ‘new’ Congress begins.”

“The process for selecting a speaker is highly ritualized and follows a well-established pattern. Both parties will field nominations and hold votes to establish who their frontrunner will be. Sometimes leaders within the party can be challenged, as clearly has happened with McCarthy’s nomination,” Kevin Embick, AP Government teacher, said. “Usually, however, it is fairly obvious who the Speaker is going to be and the process is rather uneventful.”

The speaker of the House has three main roles: spokesperson for majority of the House, explaining legislative action to officials and overseeing House committees assignments. If a speaker is not elected by Jan. 13, it will affect how the House operates.

“Having a speaker at all times is essential to being able to get legislation passed,” Jill Dettman, President of Young Democrats Club and senior, said. “The House of Representatives is the closest representation the general public has to the government. Without a speaker and no bills being passed, the general public has no power in government.”

Kevin McCarthy, Representative of California, was elected speaker on Jan. 7. The election lasted four days and ended on the 15th ballot. The House assembled, including McCarthy, to consider the rules of the House Package for the 118th Congress which was passed on Jan. 9. 

The House Package is an agreement among Republicans that has a condition of supporting McCarthy for speaker that certain policy priorities will be elevated and that the House will make some procedural reforms,” Embick said. 

The new House Package rules allows for an easier removal of their own speaker, causes increased difficulty to raise taxes or spend federal money and establishes new investigatory committees. The package was favored by Republican Representatives, however, Tony Gonzales, Republican Representative of Texas, joined Democratic Representatives in voting against it.

In a National Review article, Gonzales states his concern for cutting federal defense spending.

“This has a proposed billions of dollars cut to defense, which I think is a horrible idea,” Gonzales said during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. 

For more information on the 118th House Rules Package: https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules118.house.gov/files/BILLS-118hresPIH-118th-rules-of-the-house-of-reps-V3.pdf