Monday, January 9, 2023



The protracted balloting to choose a new speaker

of the House of Representatives, anticipated by

The Prairie Editor on this website in late December, 

has now been resolved after more than three days, 

and considerable debate with the election of  Rep. 

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to the key post.

Mr. McCarthy had been selected as the new

Republican majority’s choice in a caucus vote by

a wide margin in December, but because the GOP 

has only a narrow 222 to 212 lead in the full body, 

it was possible for a small group within the majority

caucus to prevent Mr. McCarthy from receiving

the 218 votes necessary to be elected.

Before the January 3 vote, a group of five GOP 

members expressed their unhappiness with the 

rules that had governed the House under 

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and contended 

that Mr. McCarthy as speaker was likely to

perpetuate them. They said they would not vote

for him. Another two dozen GOP members indicated 

they might also vote for someone else.

In spite of some concessions by Mr. McCarthy to 

this unhappy bloc, he received only 202 votes on

the first ballot, 16 votes short of the necessary

majority. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, Nancy Pelosi’s

successor, received the vote of every member of

his caucus, 212, and he continued to receive that

number of votes in all the remaining 14 ballots.

Then began a series of negotiations which eventually

brought 14 of the dissidents to vote for McCarthy, 

while the five hardliners agreed to vote “present,”

thus enabling Kevin McCarthy to be elected speaker.

Reactions to the three-day spectacle and its

conclusion have been predictably partisan. The

Democrats, now in the minority, boasted of their

unity in the voting — despite having their own

factions, including the five members of the leftist 

group known as “The Squad.” Democratic leaders

during the balloting understandably used the occasion

to repeat the liberal mantras of their policy issues.

Some Republicans, after the balloting, reflected some

uncertainty, having put Mr. McCarthy in the

speakership, how the GOP agenda would be able to

proceed, especially with the return to the old rule

of one member being able to challenge the 

speaker’s tenure.

This uncertainty was expressed by some in the GOP

establishment, many of whom felt the public display

of discord within their caucus weakened their voter

support. This view was also echoed by the Democrats

and the establishment media which routinely has

supported President Biden and his very liberal


Another view, however, suggests that the Republican

House majority, albeit small, will now be able to be 

more effective as a check on the Biden administration, 

the Democrat Senate majority, and their efforts to 

promote and enact legislation and policies which 

conservatives oppose.

The reality is that, regardless of any personal motives,

the GOP dissidents have brought back a much more

transparent House of Representatives. In enforcing

Democratic “unity,” former Speaker Pelosi had

concentrated power in her office and her leadership

coterie. Debate on the floor and the ability to offer

amendments to legislation was prohibited. The right

to hold the speaker accountable was effectively

eliminated; the ability of the opposition to participate

in House business was curtailed. Further, Speaker

Pelosi had effectively sealed off the House from

public access under the rubric of security concerns.

Speaker McCarthy will inevitably face disagreements

within his caucus, but he has already given several

of those who are members of the more conservative

Freedom Caucus and others who initially voted against 

him more prominent  committee roles, thus significantly 

reducing incentives for caucus conflict in pursuing their

conservative agenda.

The bottom line appears to be that the Republican

House will more likely be able to be a consistently

conservative opposition as the new political cycle 

leading to the presidential election in 2024 now begins 

in earnest.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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