What To Know: Speaker of the House Vote for the 118th Congress

January 3, 2023

Speaker of the House

Why this leadership position matters and why this year's selection process made history.
"The Speaker is simultaneously the House’s presiding officer, party leader, and the institution’s administrative head, among other duties."

United States House of Representatives. Speaker status became more prominent in the early 1800s and even more so after the two-party system further developed during the Civil War. The style of leadership seen in the position has varied over the last 200+ years. Some speakers have prioritized their party’s agendas, while others have prioritized keeping order in the House.

"The Constitution says almost nothing about the selection process for the speaker of the House. All it says in Article One … is ‘The House shall choose their speaker.’ That’s it."

Prof. Matthew Green, Catholic University of America. The House needs to vote on a new speaker when the new congressional term begins on January 3 (as determined by the Constitution). The speaker must be elected before other members of Congress are sworn in and official business can begin.

Important Context

  • The majority party elects the speaker of the House.
  • Republicans hold a small majority in the House of Representatives, so the speaker will be a Republican.
  • In order to secure the speaker position, a Republican needs at least 218 votes.
  • Historically, a speaker has been elected on the first vote, as the party unites behind a single leader.
  • The last time an election for House speaker took more than one vote was 100 years ago.

On Tuesday, the first vote for speaker of the House failed to select a leader. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the top contender for the position, did not get the votes required; his critics include those in the conservative wing of his party. The House will keep voting until a leader is selected.

McCarthy falls short in first vote for House speaker (The Associated Press)

How is the House speaker chosen? The Constitution doesn’t say. (The Washington Post)

How the House elects its speaker, and why Tuesday’s vote could make history (NBC News)

Speakers of the House (1789 to present) (History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives)

More Here: Speaker of the House (History, Art & Archives; U.S. House of Representatives)

Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2021 (Congressional Research Service)

When the House needed two months and 133 votes to elect a speaker (The Washington Post)

by Jenna Lee,