U.S. House in Turmoil over Failure to Elect Speaker


A once in a century deadlock is unfolding on Capitol Hill as Republicans have now failed at least eleven times to elect their leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Without a speaker, an entire chamber of the legislative branch is paralyzed. No work can be done, no members can be sworn in, and a small group of dissenters have dug in their heels.  


After Republicans won the U.S. House by an unexpectedly small margin in November, Representative Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become speaker of the House suddenly became complicated. His party won just 222 seats, which is four seats over a majority. The U.S. House Republican caucus includes a small group on the far-right who appeal to voters by challenging the establishment in their party. Many of these far-right representatives blamed their party’s establishment for their underperformance in the election. 


Democrats have been united behind Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York. While McCarthy is winning an overwhelming majority of Republican votes, he is short of the 218 votes needed. A group of about twenty Republicans have either demanded major concessions from McCarthy, such as consequential leadership positions, or they have vowed not to support him. Something like this hasn’t happened since 1923, in which Republicans lost 77 seats and subsequently struggled to elect a speaker after narrowly holding on to the majority. 


Americans are frustrated with a dysfunctional government. In an age of elections taking weeks to count and being decided by thin margins, political deadlock has become as common as night and day. As a result, populism has become a rising political force. Voters are increasingly distrustful of the political system and have begun to support outsider candidates vowing to break all conventional rules. This is the pedestal that these 20 republican representatives are standing on. They are trying to challenge the establishment of Washington, while holding the government hostage.