How the House speaker vote will work
As lawmakers poured into the House chamber Tuesday for the first time this year to kick off a new Congress, members held a dramatic vote to elect their next speaker, culminating in an intense battle for the gavel between California Rep. Kevin McCarthy and some of his Republican colleagues.
The big picture: In a historic moment, McCarthy failed to secure enough votes on the initial ballot — marking the first time since 1923 that the House has had to hold multiple ballots to elect its next speaker.
- If no candidate secures the majority on the first ballot, the process repeats until a speaker is elected.
- Here's an overview of how the vote works.
Catch up quick: The 118th Congress convened at noon Tuesday, after which the House clerk led a call to order. A chaplain then led a prayer and the clerk led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a quorum call.
- Then, candidates for speaker were nominated from the floor. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of House GOP leadership, nominated McCarthy, while Rep. Paul Gosar nominated fellow Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan was also nominated.
- Nominations were followed immediately by a "viva voce" roll-call vote, or a vote where members-elect respond orally to the calling of their names.
- McCarthy needed 218 votes — or a majority of the House — to secure the speaker's gavel, but failed to do so, with 19 Republicans voting for other candidates.
- The House on Tuesday afternoon held a second ballot, which McCarthy also lost, with 19 Republicans all voting for Jordan instead.
What's happening: A speaker can win with fewer than 218 votes if not every member shows up, or if some vote present.
- "Under the modern practice, the Speaker is elected by a majority of members-elect voting by surname," per House rules.
Context: House Republicans greatly underperformed in November's midterm elections, leaving them with a razor-thin majority.
- That small majority meant McCarthy could only afford to lose a handful of votes within his party to secure the gavel.
- McCarthy has spent weeks courting those in his conference who oppose him, making a series of major concessions — but those efforts have yet to pay off.
Zoom out: The last time a House speaker election took multiple ballots was in 1923, when Frederick Gillett (R-Mass.) was re-elected on the ninth ballot.
- Of the 14 multiple ballot-elections for House speaker, 13 occurred before the Civil War.
- And the longest speaker election in House history was in 1856 — when it took 133 votes and two months, per the Washington Post.
Go deeper: McCarthy's math problem
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.