Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is struggling to get the 218 votes he needs, he must be elected Speaker of the House in January.
Because voters this month gave the GOP a slim majority, only a small bloc of conservative rebels could deny the California Republican the president’s gavel at the start of the new Congress. Already, several enemies of McCarthy have said they would not vote for him in all circumstances.
“He doesn’t have the votes,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus party. “Some of the stages of grieving include denial, so there will be some denial, and then there will be the negotiation stage where people try to figure out… will there be some kind of consensual candidate that emerges .”
This places McCarthy in a precarious position: he is won his party’s nomination for the presidency while fighting for his political life.
In this game of chicken, if the conservatives don’t blink and McCarthy refuses to back down, it could lead to a chaotic brawl with House members taking multiple votes for president – something that hasn’t happened. produced for a century.
Here are other examples throughout history where the talking hammer hasn’t come easy.
1855-1856: The longest presidential election in history
December 3, 1855 began like any other opening day of a new Congress. The House was called to order at noon and the House proceeded to the first order of the day: the election of the Speaker.
But there was no favorite for the position. Twenty-one candidates received votes for the speaker on the first ballot, with none obtaining the necessary majority. “There was no other choice,” said the Congressional Globe printed That day. The House held three more unsuccessful votes for the Speaker that day before adjourning just after 2 p.m.
In the weeks that followed, the House was deadlocked as no candidate was able to win the necessary votes. It wasn’t until the 133rd ballot that Representative Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts was elected Speaker of the House, beating Representative William Aiken of South Carolina by a vote. vote of 103 to 100.
The date was February 2, 1856two months after the first vote of the speakers.
The House concluded its proceedings that day by unanimously deciding pass a resolution thanking the Clerk for presiding “during the arduous and protracted race for the presidency”.
1923: The last time the President’s vote was repeatedly voted
When the House met on December 4, 1923, Frederic Gillette sought re-election as president. The Massachusetts Republican had held the position since 1919 and his party had retained control of the chamber.
But after the first round of voting, Gillett did not have the necessary votes. Three more votes were held, and each time enough progressive Republicans backed other candidates, preventing Gillett from regaining the hammer.
“Mr. Clerk, it seems quite obvious that no good purpose can be served by holding another ballot tonight,” Republican Leader Nicholas Longworth said. said on the ground before the House adjourned that night.
The problem was the rule changes that progressive Republicans wanted. For two days, the group refused to budge and on a few ballots, the Democratic candidate even led the count.
Longworth finally reached an agreement with the Progressives and on the ninth ballot, Gillett was re-elected President.
There was only 14 instances in the history of Congress where it took more than two ballots for a candidate to win a majority. The first 13 happened before the Civil War.
“The Civil War set that norm…where parties agreed to air their dirty laundry in caucus, but then coalesce around the leader of the party, whoever got a majority in caucus,” said Professor Charles Stewart, co-author of the book “Fighting for the Speakership: The House and the Rise of Party Government”.
2013: Conservatives plot coup against Boehner
In 2013, the Tea Party movement that swept Ohio Republican John Boehner into the office of president turned against Boehner himself.
A group of 20 conservative rebels – furious that Boehner ousted some of them from committees and cut a tax deal that raised taxes on the wealthy – huddled in a Capitol Hill apartment the night before the president’s vote and plotted a coup against their own leader, according to author Tim Alberta’s book, “American Carnage.”
Among those in the room were Representatives Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Raul Labrador, R-Idaho and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, Alberta writes. Republicans won 234 seats in the 2012 election; if 17 Republicans opposed Boehner, they said, conservatives could prevent him from getting the 218 votes he needed to remain president.
But some suspected there were Boehner spies in the room, and the Tories began pointing fingers at each other, according to Alberta. Labrador said they actually needed to get 30 dissenters because surely Boehner would be able to reverse some of those downvotes, telling the group, “We need 30 to get to 17 because half of the people in this room are going to give in tomorrow.”
Labrador was right. When their names were called in the House the next day, some involved in the conspiracy were left cold and did not vote, vote present, or vote for Boehner. In the end, only 12 Republicans refused to support Boehner.
Two years later, Boehner suffered 25 GOP defections in the presidential vote — the most defections in 100 years — but he would easily win the president’s gavel with 216 votes due to a number of members missing the vote; Democrats had attended the funeral of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and several other lawmakers were unable to travel to Washington due to inclement weather.
In September 2015, Boehner announced his resignation, after a conservative agitator, Rep. Mark Meadows, tabled a “motion to vacate the chair” that would have forced another floor vote on the unpopular speaker.
2018: How Pelosi put down a rebellion
Typically, when a party regains a majority, the minority leader will have a clear path to the presidency. But in 2018, after 16 years in office, Nancy Pelosi faced a rump rebellion from a new generation of Democrats who wanted her out.
Thanksgiving week that year, 16 rebels in Pelosi’s Democratic caucus signed a letter announcing their opposition to her as a spokesperson. Other Democrats who did not sign considered challenging Pelosi for the job.
“As we head into the 116th Congress and reclaim our Democratic majority, we believe more strongly than ever that now is the time for new leadership in our caucus,” wrote the 16 Democrats, including Reps. Tim Ryan, D- Ohio, Kathleen Rice, DN.Y., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass.
If his enemies held the line, they would have enough votes to block it on the Chamber floor. But Pelosi, who calls herself a “mistress” legislator and vote counter, was just getting started.
The first female Speaker of the House began to eliminate her opponents one by one. Pelosi huddled in her office with a potential challenger, Rep. Marcia Fudge. The Ohio Democrat was later going endorse Pelosi and be appointed chair of a sub-committee overseeing the elections. pelosi too conquered Rep. Brian Higgins, DN.Y., pledging to prioritize his Medicare proposal and work with him on infrastructure.
And she won the support of a handful of holdouts, including Rep. Ryan, who challenged her in 2016, accepting a agreement on term limits for the main party leaders.
In the end, 15 Democrats broke with Pelosi: a dozen voted for other people and three voted present. But that was not enough to prevent her from serving a second time as Speaker of the House.
“Every two years we gather in this chamber for a sacred ritual,” she said as she accepted the hammer. “Under the dome of this temple of democracy, the United States Capitol, we are renewing the great American experience.”