Position still vacant: US House Speaker

Republican Kevin McCarthy still nowhere near the votes needed to become US House Speaker. Also covered: Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s defection from the Democrats.

12:37pm Tuesday January 10: The House rules package that was proposed to get the far-right Republicans to vote for McCarthy has passed the House by 220-213. Just one Republican voted with all Democrats against this package.

4:47pm Rep Kevin McCarthy has been elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives. In the 15th and final round, he defeated Dem Jeffries by 216-212, with the six previous holdouts all voting “present”. That lowered the requirement for a majority to 215 votes, with 428 total votes for all candidates.

3:47pm McCarthy may have done a deal with Gaetz. It was proposed that the House adjourn until Monday US time, but Reps changed their vote against adjournment, so there’ll be another vote today.

3:18pm Two of the remaining six holdouts voted “present”, but the other four voted for other candidates. McCarthy won 216 of the 432 total candidate votes, which put him one short of a majority (217). The present votes were Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.

9:25am Saturday: It’s been a great day for McCarthy as he flipped 15 of the 21 Rep holdouts in the two rounds this morning, and now leads Dem Jeffries by 214-212 with six votes for another. That’s McCarthy’s first plurality, though he’s still three short of the current 217 needed to win.

The House has adjourned until 10pm US eastern today (2pm AEDT). Two McCarthy supporters were absent this morning, and are expected to return. That will give McCarthy 216 votes, but the votes for a majority will also increase to 218. So McCarthy will need two of the six remaining holdouts to win.

12:17pm House is adjourned until noon Friday US eastern (4am Saturday AEDT).

11:45am Friday There have now been 11 rounds of voting, with five conducted today so far. Dem Jeffries still leads with 212 votes, with Rep McCarthy on 200. McCarthy lost a vote from the absence of Rep Ken Buck. The current threshold to win is 217 votes. There may be a deal between McCarthy and some of the holdouts, and we could see movement to McCarthy in votes later today or tomorrow.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

To win the US House of Representatives Speaker position, a candidate needs a majority of all those voting for a candidate. This is not necessarily a majority of the overall House because abstentions and those voting “present” are not counted. As in Australia, the Speaker position must be filled before the House can consider other business.

At the November midterm elections, Republicans won the House by a 222-213 majority over Democrats, and the death of a Democrat increased that to 222-212 until a by-election is held in February. Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) was the first sitting of the new Congress since the election.

There have been six rounds of voting for Speaker in two days – the first time the Speaker election has gone to multiple rounds since 1923. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries has united the Democratic caucus to win 212 votes, and is ahead of Republican Kevin McCarthy, who has had between 201 and 203 votes.

McCarthy’s problems are coming from his right, with 20 Republicans voting for another candidate in the latest ballot, and one voting “present”. McCarthy has dropped two votes since the first round to be on 201 votes. In the first three rounds the threshold to win was 218 votes, with that reduced to 217 owing to the “present” vote in the last three.

The longest Speaker election occurred in 1855, when it took 133 rounds of voting over two months for a new Speaker to be chosen. Without a Speaker in place, the House cannot set up committees or start investigations into Joe Biden’s presidency. Republicans want these investigations, so surely they will work out some deal for a Republican Speaker soon?

Senator Kyrsten Sinema switches from Democrat to independent

Most of this section is from this December 19 Conversation article. Shortly after Democrats won the December 6 Georgia Senate runoff election to seal a 51-49 federal Senate majority, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema defected from the Democrats to become an independent.

Slate reported on a September poll that showed Sinema was unpopular with all Arizona demographics sampled. Sinema was at net -17 overall, net -20 with Democrats and net -18 with Republicans. She performed better with independent voters, but was still at net -10 with them.

Sinema is up for re-election in November 2024. Democrats are likely to run their own candidate against Sinema and a Republican. A December poll for Democrat Ruben Gallego’s campaign gave Sinema just 13% running as an independent behind 41% for Republican Kari Lake and 40% for Gallego. If Sinema did not run, Gallego would lead Lake by 48-47.

Other news: UK, Fiji, Brazil and Israel

It’s over two months since Rishi Sunak became Britain’s PM. Labour continues to hold a massive lead over the Conservatives, with Labour at about the mid 40s and the Conservatives in the mid 20s. At a December 15 by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stretford and Urmston, Labour defeated the Conservatives by 69.6% to 15.9% (60.3-27.5 at the 2019 general election).

The 55 Fijian parliamentary seats are elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold. After the December 14 election, three opposition parties formed an alliance to oust Frank Bainamarama, who had become PM after a coup in 2007. These three parties combined won 29 of the 55 seats, to 26 for Bainamarama’s FijiFirst. At the December 24 first parliamentary session after the election, Sitiveni Rabuka was elected PM with 28 votes to 27 for Bainamarama, with Bainamarama conceding defeat peacefully.

Following his victory at the October 30 runoff election, the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) replaced the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as Brazilian president last Sunday. And in Israel, a right-wing government was sworn in on December 29 under former long-serving PM Benjamin Netanyahu after four right-wing parties won 64 of the 120 Knesset seats at the November 1 election.

28 comments on “Position still vacant: US House Speaker”

  1. * those voting “present” are not counted

    Hmm. Thanks for that. And I’ve clearly misunderstood. But then why would anyone vote “present”. You may as well just abstain. I suppose there’s a subtle difference between “present” and abstaining? (My incorrect thought had been that “present” was counted as a vote, meaning that the “majority of votes” had increased by one.)

  2. Daily Kos: The House is coming back in to resume voting for the speaker’s job. Or not. It’s not entirely clear right now if they are ready to keep voting or if Kevin McCarthy is done groveling to the maniacs. He gave in on one thing in the break they took this after: his Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund has agreed to the Club for Growth’s demand that it stop getting involved in safe open-seat primaries. Meaning the next generation of Boeberts and Greenes will have an even easier path to Congress. CFG now says it will endorse McCarthy.

  3. LR, I suppose the key difference is voting “present” is an active choice that goes on the record, rather than the implied, “I couldn’t be bothered showing up to vote” that happens when one abstains (same as absent?).

  4. All these discussions and concessions….. would they be recorded by aides? How will McCarthy remember from round to round what he promised and what he said to others he did/didnt promise?

  5. So the “game plan” of the Freedumbs caucus now appears to be to ensure that the Republicans remain repulsive to urban middle Americans under the age of 45 going forward; replicating Boeberts and Greenes as candidates in a demented Stepford Wives type of production line.

  6. A ‘present’ vote is counted in the denominator to get to majority – currently 218 of 434 possible (one Dem elected member having died since the midterms.

    A non-vote drops the denominator, so 217 of 433.

    Which is why the Dems are so keen to whip their 212 to stay voting

  7. Daily Kos:
    C-SPAN does not have up its chyron tracking the vote, but if we’ve counted correctly, McCarthy has lost for a tenth time.

  8. Looking at this right wing circus it occurred to me that this is where the LNP is heading down here in Aussie. They are reaching into pantomime villain territory that must even be tiresome for the old bloke who runs newscorp.

  9. At what point do the democrats start messing with the Republicans by nominating one of the few remaining moderates Repubs to Speakership? They only need to get 4 Republicans to think it would a solution to the crisis….

  10. Until the by-election in Virginia, the Democrats actually need 6 Republicans to vote with them because 5 would effectively tie the vote 217 for the Democratic and moderate Republican backed candidate, 217 split between the only Republican-backed candidates.

    If it is instead moderate Republicans abstaining, they need 11.

    Or it could be a combination of votes and abstentions.

  11. Sinema is, almost certainly, political toast next year.

    Her distant third polling will, hopefully, persuade the vast majority of Democrats not to vote for or endorse her in the general election.

  12. So Kevin McCarthy became Speaker not because he got 218 majority but because the 6 holdouts voted ‘Present’. So McCarthy wins with plurality of 216-212.
    The thing is Jeffries had won plurality vote for 14 rounds and Kev wins one plurality vote he becomes Speaker
    And the rules vote is adjourned to Monday. Great victory Kev!
    Republican party is the biggest clusterf**k of the century.

  13. As in Canberra, the desire of Washington politicians to get home to their families for the weekend is a factor that should never be underestimated in the resolution of parliamentary deadlocks.

  14. Ven, actually McCarthy won pluralities on all the final four rounds today, while Jeffries won pluralities on the first 11 rounds.

    I’ve fixed putting 228 votes for all candidates. It was actually 428.

  15. Adrian Beaumontsays:
    Saturday, January 7, 2023 at 7:12 pm
    Ven, actually McCarthy won pluralities on all the final four rounds today, while Jeffries won pluralities on the first 11 rounds.

    I’ve fixed putting 228 votes for all candidates. It was actually 428.

    Noted and stand corrected.

  16. “Present” isn’t a vote so is excluded from the calculations of the majority required.

    Current house membership = 434 (due to one vacancy in VA)

    Less 6 “present” = 428

    Majority of 428 = 215 (214 + 1)

    McCarthy got 216 so he won a majority of those voting.

    He met the requirements of the rules. Saying he won on a plurality is simply incorrect.

  17. The new rules package seems to be a major step forward by prohibiting omnibus bills, where many unrelated items and spending on members pet interests (pork barrelling) are included under one bill. Also requires at least 72 hours notice between tabling the bill and voting. These don’t seem to be crazy right wing ideas. No wonder McCarthy resisted for so long and the Dems voted against. Can’t allow clarity and accountability into their opaque and corrupt system.

  18. “ChrisC says:
    Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 10:12 am
    “Present” isn’t a vote so is excluded from the calculations of the majority required.

    Current house membership = 434 (due to one vacancy in VA)

    Less 6 “present” = 428

    Majority of 428 = 215 (214 + 1)

    McCarthy got 216 so he won a majority of those voting.”

    On the other hand, with that kind of shaky “majority” in the House and a minority in the Senate, we can only conclude that the mid-term elections were a complete disaster for the Republicans. This is good news for the Democrats in 2024… The harder the Republican internal Civil War goes, the better for the Democrats.

  19. @ChrisC: McCarthy won a majority of those voting, yes. Barely. On the 15th and last ballot provided for by the rules. After several of his fellow Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him and instead voted “Present” (despite McCarthy bending over backwards to their every insane demand), thus lowering the threshold of votes needed to win.

    With a nominal GOP majority of 5 (out of 435) seats, and (as is now clear) no working majority at all, I predict that the next two years of the House of Representatives will be…not terribly productive. Especially since they know that anything they can persuade/bribe/coerce the Tea Partiers to vote for is DOA in the Senate – or, failing that, the White House. So much for the “Red Wave” – gotta admit, I thought it would go worse for the Democrats back in November.

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