Political expert weighs in on impasse over House speaker

As of Wednesday, the US essentially does not have a House of Representatives
Patrick McHenry, Tom Emmer, Kevin McCarthy
Posted at 9:42 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 00:25:25-05

DENVER — As of Wednesday night, there has yet to be a successful vote to appoint the Speaker of the House of Representatives — a move necessary to get any other business done.

"When there is no speaker, there is essentially no House of Representatives," said Phillip Chen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Denver.

The impasse is historic. The last time a speaker was not decided during the first ballot was 100 years ago.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R - CA, has not gotten enough votes. A small group of Republicans are standing strong in their opposition, even after former President Donald Trump called for his party to support McCarthy.

Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is one of the opposers. She referred to Trump as her favorite president, saying, "The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, 'Sir, you do not have the votes and it is time to withdraw.'"

Democrats and Republicans have competing views on what the divisiveness means for the future of the House.

"The Republicans can't even select the leader. So it certainly does not bode well for our ability to deliver transformational things in the next Congress. But, you know, we have an obligation to try," said Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow.

Republicans who nominated McCarthy defended the ongoing discussions.

"I think my friends on the Democratic side misunderstand what's happening here. Sure it looks messy, but Democracy is messy by design. That's a feature, not a bug of our system," said Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.

Chen said no matter who becomes House speaker, voters could be concerned about what it took to finally make the decision.

"At this time, it is a really telling sign that there's some real fractures within the Republican Party. And it's gonna be really tough for McCarthy, or whoever the Speaker of the House is, to govern," said Chen.

Until a speaker is decided on, the House is not able to vote on any other business, including swearing in any of its members for this session. Chen said, technically, the U.S. currently does not have a sitting House of Representatives.

"They've won their election, but they have not actually been sworn in as a U.S. representative," said Chen. "Because of the way that the rules are set up, no other motions, no other business can take place until the speaker is elected."

He said there are possible ways that legislation could be passed in an emergency, but said it's not clear if those decisions would hold up in court without following the original congressional process.

Chen noted another possible scenario.

"We're already starting to hear some rumblings from some more moderate members of the Republican Party about potentially having to work with Democrats to elect what might be called a consensus candidate. I'm not sure that's a particularly viable option, but it could happen," he said.