House speaker drama ‘a new way of thinking about politics,’ says Clarkson professor

118th Congress
118th Congress(MGN, Arturo Pardavila III / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 4:41 PM EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWNY) - After multiple failed votes, the House still doesn’t have a speaker. That essentially means no House of Representatives because members like Elise Stefanik and Claudia Tenney aren’t even sworn in yet.

“No member-elect having received a majority of the whole number of votes cast, a speaker has not been elected.”

Those words have been uttered six times this week. It’s history and political followers are watching.

“The idea that it’s acceptable to slow down the nomination process, to stop a speaker from being elected solely because you want to, is a new way of thinking about politics,” said Alexander Cohen, associate professor of political science at Clarkson University.

Republicans hold a slim majority and most are supporting Kevin McCarthy.

But Democrats are voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and about 20 McCarthy dissenters are casting votes for other Republicans. It’s a way for the 20 Republicans to try to pull the house further to the right.

There’s a formula to determine how many votes the next speaker needs and McCarthy continues to come up short.

Stefanik, who represents the north country’s 21st Congressional District, nominated McCarthy on Tuesday.

“On behalf of the House Republican Conference, I rise today to nominate the gentleman from California, Kevin McCarthy, as Speaker of the House to lead America’s new Republican majority,” she said.

Despite backing a man who has failed 6 times to get the nomination, Cohen says Stefanik’s reputation will likely be unscathed.

“As long as she doesn’t misstep, and she’s not prone to missteps, she’ll do what appears to be loyal and sit most of the bruising stuff out,” he said.

Cohen believes it could be days before a speaker is chosen, which means the U.S. government is on pause.

“Essentially nothing can happen until this is resolved. The Senate can’t vote on its own, and Biden’s executive authority is bounded,” he said.

Cohen says he believes the pressure of not having a House speaker and its implications mean McCarthy could get the nod.

He says the plan could be to draw it out until enough Republicans give up and let McCarthy become speaker.

It’s the first time in a century that a speaker hasn’t won the ballot the first time around.