Last week the nation watched as Representative Kevin McCarthy fought to maintain control of his political party—the public demonstration gave outsiders a glimpse of how effective McCarthy’s leadership really was.
- A group of 20 Republican dissenters opposed party leader Kevin McCarthy as the pick for Speaker of the House.
- Despite no other obvious candidates, the opposition was able to prevent McCarthy from being elected through several rounds of votes. After providing several concessions and negotiating rule changes, McCarthy was elected on the 15th round of voting.
- The very public nature of the disagreement drew the nation’s attention as the multiple rounds of voting marked the first time since 1923 that the House had taken several votes to elect the Speaker.
- One of the Speaker’s duties is to control the order and proceedings of the House. McCarthy’s inability to rally his party and maintain control glimpses a potential flaw in leadership.
Why it’s important
Twenty Republicans opposed Speaker McCarthy’s leadership, claiming that the California representative hadn’t done enough to win over their vote during previous sessions of Congress when he served as the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader.
The disagreement turned particularly ugly as Republicans’ slim majority in the House meant that McCarthy needed a nearly unanimous vote from his party to win the speakership. While the dissenters suggested other options for the role, McCarthy was the only one to throw his hat in the ring himself.
During the initial disagreement, McCarthy refused to bend to dissenter’s demands—perhaps fearing that the concessions would make him appear weaker as a leader in the party. Eventually, McCarthy did give in to his opponents’ demands, some of which weakened his authority as Speaker.
McCarthy is facing a difficult reality as the Republican party begins to splinter into two factions—traditional conservatives and the newer emerging party more aligned with former President Donald Trump. After this test of his leadership, McCarthy will likely have to continue the fight to maintain control of his party and the House.
One of McCarthy’s concessions was allowing any member of the House to make a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. This ability formerly belonged to any member of the House. A congressman could trigger a vote to remove the Speaker of the House. In 2019, former speaker Nancy Pelosi changed this rule to require a majority vote from the controlling party. With the traditional rule back in place, McCarthy will have to be more wary of upsetting members of his party.