League of Women Voters urges the House to choose a speaker; McCarthy inches toward 218 votes

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 8:16 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Day four of the battle to elect a new House speaker proved to be the turnaround Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) had been hoping for.

During a 12th vote, McCarthy won over the majority of 20 Republicans who for three days voted against him.

As House clerk Cheryl Johnson read the vote totals.

“The honorable Kevin McCarthy of the state of California has received 213 votes. The Honorable Hakeem Jeffries of the state of New York has received 211,” said Johnson.

One by one, some of the more conservative members who had been against McCarthy ascending to the speaker’s job stood to announce their vote for him.

“Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Chris Roy of Texas who had earlier opposed McCarthy.

Congresswoman Mary Miller of Illinois said when her name was called to vote, “Based on negotiations, McCarthy.”

Robert Collins, Ph.D., a Dillard University political analyst, believes McCarthy will lock up the remaining votes needed to reach the required 218.

“So, I think now that it’s looking inevitable that he will become Speaker I think the issue is going to be whether Kevin McCarthy as Speaker can actually govern the House of Representatives,” said Collins.

The vote came as the League of Women Voters called on the House to end the stalemate, noting that Friday was also the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection.

The group said in a press release: “Today marks the second anniversary of the deadly insurrection on our nation’s capitol and a historic threat to our democracy that we will never forget, and we must ensure it never happens again. The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, passed by a bipartisan majority in the previous Congress, is one step to protecting the results of future elections. But there is more work to be done to defend our democracy. We need Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.

“It is time for Congress to get to work. It is time for the House of Representatives to elect a Speaker of the House. Democracy can be messy, but Congress needs to do its job. Together, the Senate and House must begin governing for the people who voted this new Congress into office. We call on all elected representatives to come together and elect a Speaker so that important work can be done to serve the American people.”

Rosalind Blanco Cook is co-President of the New Orleans arm of the organization and said it is imperative that Congress get to work.

“Organizations that are into promoting good government and democracy know that the hold out of not having government function is detrimental to people whether it has to do with you trying to get a passport, contacting your House member, getting things done, if you’re having problems with your Social Security check,” she said.

Louisianan Steve Scalise remained loyal to McCarthy during the revolt by some Republicans and will serve as the number two person in the House in the GOP-controlled chamber.

Collins says Scalise will wield a lot of power in that position.

“Steve Scalise will become the Majority Leader of the House which was the plan all along for him and so he will continue to have a lot of power as far as determining the agenda, determining which bills make it to the floor,” he said.

And voting enthusiasts hope the protracted House Speaker battle on Capitol Hill will encourage more people to take interest in the workings of government.

“We hope that all of this in the last few days may cause people to get a bit more interested in government. Certainly, these last few days we’ve come to know different names that many people wouldn’t’ve been aware of, different personalities,” said Cook.

But, Collins who worked on Capitol Hill predicts concessions McCarthy made to win over some of his fellow Republicans will come back to haunt him.

“The threshold at which point any member can call for a vote to vacate the chair which means remove the Speaker, that threshold is now one member, so that means any member of Congress at any time can call for a vote to remove the Speaker from office,” said Collins. “So, it could end up being a very contentious situation whenever the members of him are unhappy with him.”

McCarthy is now confident he will get the handful of remaining votes to make him the new House Speaker.

Collins says Democrats’ choice for the job, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York has already demonstrated his leadership abilities. If McCarthy indeed becomes House Speaker then Jeffries will be the minority leader in the House.

“Hakeem Jeffries has proven that he can hold his caucus together on every vote, no matter what, even the fringes of the party, he has brought them back into the fold,” said Collins.

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