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The election for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives could complicate the new Congress

Profile photo: U.S. House Minority Leader McCarthy speaks at a press conference on June 23, 2021
Profile photo: U.S. House Minority Leader McCarthy speaks at a press conference on June 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The 118th session of the U.S. Congress will begin on Tuesday (January 3), and all attention will be focused on one thing: whether Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California will get enough votes from his fellow Republicans to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and second in line to the throne of the President of the United States.

McCarthy, 57, has been trying to lead the 435-member House for years, and he is now very close to winning the presidency but is not yet sure whether he will get the 218-vote majority he needs. 

Republicans won a narrow majority of 222-213 in November’s national House of Representatives congressional elections and will wrest control of the House from Democrats and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats, who have held 50-50 seats with Republicans in the Senate over the past two years, gained an advantage in elections nearly two months ago and will have a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

McCarthy is a staunch conservative who won 188 votes in the House Republican caucus last November. Since then, he has garnered more support and is trying to secure the 218-vote majority needed to be elected Speaker.

But a hard-right group of five or more Republicans in the House opposed McCarthy’s bid for the presidency, saying he wasn’t committed enough to the conservative cause.

These dissenters vowed to vote against McCarthy, which would prevent him from obtaining the required majority; Because all Democrats will almost certainly vote for their newly elected leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

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Over the past few weeks, McCarthy has had multiple conversations with Republicans who oppose him to try to gain their support.

He proposed to them various changes to the way the House operates, or to appoint committee members to consider key legislation. A change that would give a minority of dissenting Republicans the right to vote in the House to declare the House Speaker job vacant if they disagree with McCarthy’s handling of party legislative policy or the anticipated investigation into President Joe Biden and his administration.

But so far, with less than a day to go until Congress convenes at noon Tuesday, McCarthy’s quest for the presidency remains unresolved, although no one has received any substantial support as an alternative.

Votes on the House Speaker office have been decided in a single vote for a century, but that could change on Tuesday.

Typically, the selection of the speaker of the House of Representatives occurs even before the deputies are sworn in for two-year terms. Lawmakers will verbally shout the name of their chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives on the spot in the chamber.

If McCarthy does not reach the required 218 votes, or if some lawmakers vote for themselves to show “attendance” to lower the number of votes McCarthy needs to win the majority and get fewer votes, another or more votes must be cast. House clerks will continue to painstakingly name all 435 lawmakers until McCarthy or someone else wins a majority to become speaker.

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