Polling News

Speaker Elected in Somewhat Normal Way

January 12, 2023

On the 15th ballot, the Hon. Kevin McCarthy of California was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. This came after the first multiple ballot Speaker’s election the House has seen in a century. However, this was actually not the most contentious election when compared to earlier contests for speaker in our history.

Why It Matters: Democrats and many in the media are attempting to say Republicans were in a level of unprecedented “disarray” over the vote for Speaker that points to two years of dysfunction, chaos and intra-party conflict. Yet, America was founded upon the principle that democracy means people can disagree and our politics can be messy. That’s been reflected many times in the election of the Speaker. 

By The Numbers:

  • Before this year, 14 election for Speaker went more than one ballot: this was the 15th.
  • Seven speaker’s elections have gone to double-digits rounds of balloting.
  • In 1856, the House took 133 ballots over nearly two months to select a Speaker.


A Long Time Coming: While it’s true that this vote was the longest round of balloting in 100 years, it’s hardly the most contentious round. In 1923, the House went through nine rounds of voting; both parties were opposed to the major candidate of the other, and so the voting continued until Republicans made concessions to rebel progressives on the power of individual members and committee assignments; in a way not so dissimilar to those made in this Congress. 

Before the Civil War: The single most divided session of Congress, and indeed the longest vote for who would lead the House of Representatives, occurred over two months at the end of 1855 into 1856. Abolitionist Massachusetts Congressman Nathaniel Banks won the gavel, after cutting deals that earned the support of both the American and Free Soil Parties.

The Bottom Line: The test for  the GOP is whether it can now unite and find ways to build a constructive record of working on behalf of the American people. It must seek a balance between oversight and legislating, avoid mindless obstructionism, and convince voters that it is seeking commonsense answers to strengthen the country, restore prosperity, and promote the traditional values of ordinary families – faith, patriotism, freedom and liberty. 

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