Reviews | What a failed presidential vote means for Kevin McCarthy and Republicans

The House cannot function until a Speaker is elected and sworn in. So the immediate order of business would be to simply vote again. The last time the first vote failed, 100 years ago, it took nine ballots over three days to choose a speaker. In 1856, the presidency was not resolved until the 133rd ballot.

After a failed vote, the procedural options for Mr. McCarthy and his critics would be quite limited. Prior to another roll-call vote, the House may hear nomination speeches, whereby any member may rise and speak in favor of a candidate. Although nominations are usually brief, this process can provide McCarthy’s allies with an opportunity to advocate for his presidency. Lengthy nominating speeches could also be used to buy time as members work to reach agreement in real time on the House floor. But the process could also spark a circus on the floor, with Republican critics using the opportunity to question Mr McCarthy’s suitability for the job.

Lawmakers could decide to change the process for electing a president. Twice the House voted to allow a president to be elected by plurality rather than majority. Both cases predate the Civil War and only arise after weeks or, as in 1856, months of stalemate.

The House could also move adjournment, either to a certain date or to a certain time. Republicans may want to halt the vote to hold a meeting and try to resolve the issue privately. But, like everything in the House, adjournment requires a majority, which could prove difficult. House Democrats are unlikely to want to help Mr. McCarthy, while Republicans blocking him may not want the poll to stop.

In the event of a stalemate, Mr. McCarthy could face an important strategic question: keep members on the floor to vote while he seeks to strike a deal, or invite an even more unpredictable closed meeting of his conference? He may find the best way out is to pass – continuing to vote in a test of wills with people who challenge their choice of conference.

In the House, if you have the majority of votes, you can do whatever you want. If you don’t, there’s not much you can do. It’s easy to imagine multiple rounds of voting before someone wins or members cave in and adjourn.

Mr McCarthy won an overwhelming vote in the House Republican conference to be the next speaker. Those who oppose him know they are outnumbered, but they simply don’t care. Representative Andy Biggs has proposed himself as the symbolic candidate of the opposition. Despite aggressively fundraising for his candidacy, Mr Biggs has no chance of becoming a speaker; if Mr. McCarthy fails, another Republican will take the hammer. But the object of the agitators is not to obtain the presidency of one of their own; it’s to weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever else is running as the next speaker in the House. Embarrassment indeed may be the point.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button