By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023
HouseSpeaker: Multiple Ballots — For the first time since 1923, the US House of Representatives conducted multiple ballots to elect a new Speaker and have yet to overcome the impasse; this, after three complete 434-member alphabetical roll call votes produced only one representative who changed his vote.
With 20 Republicans voting against the conference nominee, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), and 19 of those over three separate votes, the logjam can only be broken in his favor if 15 of these members change their position and agree to support him later today.
Since McCarthy’s ability to somehow finding a magic bullet to save his quest for the Speakership seems rather unlikely at this point, speculation is rampant about what may happen. Many believe that incoming Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) may be able to construct a coalition large enough to reach the 218-majority figure. Others feel that he is viewed as too close to McCarthy – being, in effect, a “McCarthy Light” – which might be enough to disqualify him.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) has floated the idea of attempting to build a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to vote for a more centrist Republican. This strategy has worked in some state legislatures, Alaska and Texas being the most prominent, as well as in the New York state Senate for a time. Yesterday, the moderate Ohio House Republicans and Democrats forged a successful coalition to claim the Speakership in that body.
Because personal relationships are stronger in smaller state legislatures and generally more bipartisan, coalition strategies in these bodies have a much better chance of success than they do in Congress. In the current US House situation, with all 212 Democrats holding tight for conference nominee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), peeling off even one such member to join a bipartisan coalition is likely out of reach.
Jeffries and the Democrats’ best chance is that the McCarthy team attempts an end run around the rules by having some of their votes not be present or by voting “present” in an attempt to lower the number of votes McCarthy would need to secure majority support.