Every two years, the House of Representatives elects a Speaker. It is their first order of business. For the last 100 years, it never took more than one ballot to elect a Speaker. This year, in the 118th Congress, it took fifteen. The process took four days and dozens of hours of painstaking name-calling and vote recording. To many, it seemed like Republicans were in chaos, but to some, it was business as it should be.
Let’s be clear, Kevin McCarthy was the right man for Speaker. He has the requisite experience and leadership skills to guide not only the Republican Conference but the entire chamber. However, that does not mean the goals of the 20 GOP members who held up the vote were inherently wrong. To become Speaker, a person must receive 50% of the vote plus 1. In this Congress, if all members voted, it would be 218 votes. To prevent a Speaker from being elected, 20 members voted for people other than Kevin McCarthy. These members cast their votes for people such as Byron Donalds, Chip Roy, Kevin Hern, Jim Jordan, and even President Trump. Why did they do this? Well, for most of the members, the answer is quite simple: leverage.
The members were simply leveraging their votes to provide support or dissent to a policy item to gain things they believe are important, as any congressman would. For about 14 of those members, it was support from Kevin McCarthy on reforms to how the House is run. Each side has things the other wants, leading to negotiation and compromise. That is how government should run, and that is how the GOP agreed on who would become Speaker.
Some commentators argue that what happened this week was dysfunctional or chaotic. While this argument is understandable, in the sense that there was no predetermined outcome; this process demonstrated strict adherence to the principles of a competition-centered system. Just because members exercise their rights in ways not previously common does not mean that it is inherently chaotic.
That is not to say the House Republicans are without blame. Throughout the week, we heard pundits compare this to the rule of Nancy Pelosi, and to her credit, we likely would never have seen 15 drawn-out ballots. Speaker Pelosi would never have allowed multiple votes to occur, probably opting to adjourn until an agreement was reached. Could the GOP have done something like that? Absolutely. In fact, we saw members adjourn on various occasions this week to do just that.
There was seemingly no reason to have 15 ballots which publicly embarrassed the party and the Speaker. This same behind-the-scenes negotiation process could’ve played out with only one or two ballots. However, it’s worth noting that Democrats voted against every motion to adjourn that was offered, actively hindering the GOP’s negotiations, and holding up the process.
Nevertheless, the House got its leader. The members used the rules to their advantage, how they were supposed to be used. While the GOP’s process was far from smooth, it was not entirely their fault. The Speaker’s race was not dysfunctional but a showcase of parliamentary procedure and how a deliberative body is supposed to work.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.