Finally – A Speaker of the House

I’m realizing more and more there is so much I don’t understand about how the government of the United States functions. Thanks to the recent political drama, I find myself doing a lot more research and learning all kinds of things. 

Do you think that’s on purpose? Maybe it’s all one big scheme to get people like me actually caring about politics and learning stuff. I bet it’s all one big ploy drawn up by the writers of soap operas and primetime dramas. 

Those evil geniuses. 

By the power of whatever genius is behind all of this, my attention has been pulled towards the Speaker of the House. This is the highest ranking member of the House of Representatives and does a great number of things in Congress. Usually by the beginning of January a Speaker has been selected and we can start hating him or her.

Only it took a whole week to find out who.

What is the normal process and why did the House struggle so much?

First, let me just do some broad strokes to explain the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is one of two parts that make up the Legislative branch. The other part is the Senate. The two of them form Congress and together they make the laws that govern the whole country — at the federal level. 

Representatives of the House of Representatives are elected by state in November every two years because, well, the term for a representative is two years. During an election, state congressional districts either reelect the same person or they vote in someone new. Side note, we seem to REALLY like reelecting people. If you look through the list of current representatives, we have people who have been elected again and again for more than 40 years. That explains the number of shoulder pads, puffy bangs, and comb overs. 

Anyway, we just had a midterm election in November (midterm because it’s the election in the middle of a president’s four-year term of office — you’re welcome) and several new representatives were supposed to be sworn in on January 3rd.

Only they weren’t.

New members of the House of Representatives are supposed to be sworn in by a Speaker of the House. One hadn’t been decided until early Saturday, January 7th. This whole past week the House of Representatives have been voting and voting before a nominee finally managed to win the majority of the votes.

What was the problem? 

Usually it’s a pretty straightforward matter of members of the House getting together with fellow party members and picking someone to nominate. It’s similar to the way a Primary election works, only it’s conducted among members of the House in groups by political party. Each political party had already conducted their respective political party conferences and the Republican and Democratic parties had each chosen someone to nominate.

And usually, after that, it’s just a matter of which political party has the most members.

The midterm election results brought a change to the number of seats held by Republican and Democratic representatives. The Democrats had held the majority since 2018 but lost it to the Republicans in 2022. The Republicans now hold 222 seats out of 435 members, a majority of the House seats.

So why didn’t the Republican nominee win in the first round of voting?

For the simple fact that apparently the Republican representatives didn’t all agree and decided to nominate additional people during their nomination and voting process. I learned that the Speaker of the House technically doesn’t have to be a member of the House. Interesting. Several Republican members, rather than unanimously nominating the same representative who won during their Republican “meeting”, decided to nominate other people. This ended up splitting up the Republican majority and no one nominee won the majority of the votes. 

This happened 14 times. 

If only the House believed in alternative voting methods, like ranked choice voting or STAR voting. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.

It took a lot of negotiating to finally get enough Republicans to agree to vote in support of the Republican’s pre-selected nominee — Rep. Kevin McCarthy. During the 15th round of voting, he finally won.

But why would members of a political party not hash out their differences during their party meeting? Were the differences really that big that it took stalling such an important process before coming to a workable agreement? And I have to admit, I feel sad that there isn’t yet more collaboration across party lines. Or that we have party lines at all.  

Is this maybe a result of an underlying problem we have been struggling to figure out among ourselves? It makes me wonder about the underlying disagreements many of us have that are manifesting themselves in situations like this.

How long do you think it will take us?

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