In January 2023, the Republican-controlled United States House of Representatives held 15 rounds of votes to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker of the House. This was the first instance since 1919 that the House failed to elect a speaker on the first round of voting, and had the most votes held before confirming a speaker since 1859.
On October 3rd, after less than a nine month tenure as speaker, McCarthy was removed from his position when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a member of the far-right contingent of his party, called for a “motion to vacate” to remove him from the position, a historic first. Eight Republicans voted to remove him, ostensibly because he worked with House Democrats and President Joe Biden to pass emergency funding that allowed the government to continue operating. All House Democrats present voted to remove him at the urging of their leadership, which some say was due in part to comments McCarthy made in interviews that blamed Democrats for the narrowly-averted government shutdown.
This necessitated that House Republicans choose a new speaker. Unfortunately for them, this session of voting was just as fraught as the last. Before the election began on October 17th, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was unanimously nominated by House Democrats. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was nominated by House Republicans, but then withdrew from the race the next day, and was replaced with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
In the first official round of voting on the House floor, Jeffries received 212 votes from all of the House Democrats, and Jordan received 200. Scalise, despite having withdrawn from the race, received seven votes, and previously ousted speaker McCarthy received six. Two more rounds of voting occurred, in which five Republicans switched their votes away from Jordan. On October 20th, House Republicans voted 112-86 to remove Jordan as their nominee.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) served as speaker pro tempore while the position of speaker was vacant. While some House members attempted to expand his abilities in that office, he refused, stating that his only duty was to oversee the election of a new speaker. This meant that it was impossible for the House of Representatives to pass legislation for almost a month.
On October 24th, House Republicans nominated Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), the current House Majority Whip, as their new candidate for speaker. He dropped out of the race four hours later after failing to win votes from far-right members of his party. That night, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) won the nomination after several rounds of voting within the Republican party.
Another round of voting on the House floor occurred on Wednesday, October 25th, with Johnson as the Republican nominee and Hakeem Jeffries still as the Democratic nominee. The vote was split entirely on party lines, with Johnson receiving all of the votes from Republicans who were present. This gave him enough votes to be confirmed as speaker of the House, ending the position’s vacancy after 22 days. Johnson is now the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives, and will serve until he is removed, either by Democrats gaining a majority in the House or by another split in the Republican party.
Johnson is a controversial choice for speaker, partially because of his involvement in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He is a close ally of former president Donald Trump, and was a member of his legal team in both of his impeachment trials. His views on many subjects are also polarizing, such as the fact that he is a young-Earth creationist, and does not believe in the existence of human-caused climate change. Johnson also supports criminalizing gay sex, endorses conversion therapy, and condemns gay marriage. He has campaigned for a national abortion ban.