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Longest, most contentious speaker election took 133 votes, nearly two months


(The Center Square) – After four days and 11 failed attempts to elect a Speaker of the House on Thursday, many political pundits demanded that roughly 20 Republican members give in and elect U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House Speaker, arguing not doing so was creating a “crisis.”

But according to historical records, this is the 15th time it’s taken multiple votes to elect a speaker.

The “longest and most contentious speaker election in House history,” according to the office of the Historian of the House, was in the 34th Congress (1855-57).

As House Freedom Caucus members hold out over demands requiring border security, stopping illegal immigration and the modern-day slavery of human trafficking facilitated by Mexican cartels and enabled by Biden administration policies, as Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, has argued, conflict in 1855 also centered around slavery and immigration.

Unlike the vote today, however, over 21 members ran for the speaker position in December 1855. After two months and 133 ballots cast, the House finally elected U.S. Rep. Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts, a member of the American Party and former Democrat, on Feb. 2, 1856.

Banks defeated U.S. Rep. William Aiken, D-S.C., by a vote of 103 to 100. He’d serve as speaker for two years, retire, and go on to become Massachusetts’ next governor.

A Feb. 4, 1856, New-York Tribune headline of the vote said, it was the “end of the great struggle” and a “triumph of the Republicans.”

Since 1789, the House has elected a Speaker 127 times, according to the office of the House Historian. “In the modern era, the Speaker is elected at the beginning of the new Congress by a majority of the Representatives-elect from candidates separately chosen by the majority- and minority-party caucuses. In cases of an unexpected vacancy during a Congress, a new Speaker is elected by a majority of the House from candidates previously chosen by the majority and minority parties.”

From 1793 to 1925, from the 3rd to the 68th Congress, there were 14 instances when it took multiple ballots to elect a speaker, the Historian’s office notes. Among them, 13 occurred before the Civil War, “when party divisions were more nebulous.”

“The last time a Speaker election required two or more votes on the floor happened in 1923,” the office states. It also notes that the House “has filled vacancies in the Speakership three times using a resolution.”

In 1923, members voted nine times before they finally elected a speaker. At the time, several members refused to vote for either Democrat or Republican candidates but agreed to vote “after the Republican leadership had agreed to accept a number of procedural reforms these Members favored,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

But nearly 100 years later, several Freedom Caucus members have said they will never vote for McCarthy. Roy said he and others won’t budge unless McCarthy meets their demands, which Roy says include: “Restore Article I, Legislate; Stop Spending Money We Don’t Have; Repeal Executive Overreach; End Reliance on Judicial Policymaking; Defund Woke, Entrenched Bureaucrats; Empower States, Agree to Disagree; ‘A Republic, If You Can Keep It.’”

Roy said it was important for the House to debate who the next speaker should be. Not voting for McCarthy “wasn’t personal” and “was about the future of the country.”

“Americans are wondering why we can pass $1.7 trillion bills that are unpaid for,” he said in a speech on Tuesday. McCarthy and establishment Republicans vote for Democratic bills that “just slide in $45 billion for Ukraine and not pay for it,” he said, including “language in a bill that prohibits our ability to secure the border.”

Referring to the omnibus that Congress passed without debate or time to review its over 4,000 pages, Roy said, it was “rammed through and we know exactly how it gets rammed through. … The Rules Committee sends a bill to the floor and we have no debate … We haven’t been able to offer an amendment on the floor of this body since May of 2016.”

“This place has to change,” Roy said. “And the change comes by either adopting rules and procedures that will make us actually do our jobs. Or it comes from leadership.

“I want the tools or I want the leadership to stop the swamp from running over the average American every single day.”

His remarks were interrupted by cheers and clapping.

Matt Rinaldi, chair of the Texas Republican Party, expressed support and respect for Roy and two other Texans joining him, Michael Cloud and Keith Self.

Kevin Roberts, who formerly led the Texas Public Policy Foundation and who now leads the Heritage Foundation, said, “The Washington Establishment hates today’s House proceedings because it’s precisely the kind of disruption that threatens their grip on power.

“We need more of this if we want to re-establish regular order in Congress – and self-governance.”

Published with permission from The Center Square.

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