Sunday, December 25, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Full House Or Empty House?

The threat to oppose Republican Congressman Kevin

McCarthy’s bid to become the new speaker of the U.S.

House on January 3, 2023 has created the unusual

possibility that the new members of the 118th Congress

will not be sworn in just after noon on that date — and

therefore no U.S. House of Representatives  will exist 

until that election is resolved.

The U.S. constitution states that the terms of the 

members of the previous Congress automatically end

at noon on January 3. The clerk of the House at that

time convenes the new session, a prayer is said,

followed by the pledge of allegiance. The clerk then

conducts the election of the new speaker. When that

speaker is elected, he or she then swears in all the


Since 1924, the election of the new speaker has taken

only one ballot, and the technical circumstance of "no

existing" House of Representatives has only lasted a

few minutes.

In order to be elected speaker, a member must receive

a majority of those present. The U.S. House currently

has 435 members, so a majority is 218. One newly

elected Democratic member has passed away, but the

majority is still 218.

At least five Republicans have indicated they will not

honor the previously taken vote which selected Kevin

McCarthy as speaker-designate by a vote of 188 to 31.

The man who lost that vote, Andy Biggs, has decided to

run against McCarthy on January 3, and if the five (or

more) fellow Republicans vote for Biggs, McCarthy will

be one vote (or more) short of the required 218. (There

are 222 Republicans elected to the new House.)

The Democrats will nominate Hakeem Jeffers for

speaker, but he would only have 212 if his entire

caucus votes for him. The election will then go to a

second ballot, and if McCarthy fails to receive 218

votes on that ballot, there will be a third ballot, and

so on until someone (technically not necessarily

an elected member) does obtain a majority.

Only once in the past 150 years has there been more

than one ballot for speaker. In 1923, it took nine ballots

for Republican Frederick Gillett to win. But in 1855, it

took 133 ballots and two months to elect Nathaniel

Banks as speaker.

In addition to opposition to McCarthy based on his

record as minority leader, his opponents have called

for a change of House rules which McCarthy has so

far refuse to say he would do. McCarthy has received

praise for his recruitment of Republican members in

2022, and for the success of his campaign fundraising.

He has been endorsed by virtually all Republican


At this writing, neither side has budged. An agreement

could made before January 3, but unless that happens,

there will be a lot of suspense in the House chamber

on that date at the noon hour.


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


No comments:

Post a Comment