Why the U.S. House still doesn’t have a speaker

Two weeks after the historic vote that ousted Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House of Representatives still doesn't have a Speaker. Why?
u.s. house speaker

Two weeks after the historic vote that ousted Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House of Representatives still doesn’t have a Speaker.

This means the House is effectively at a standstill and can’t pass important bills that keep the government running.

So how did we get here, and what could happen next?


Earlier this month, a handful of Republicans, led by hard-right Florida representative Matt Gaetz, united with Democrats to vote out McCarthy, citing a broad range of concerns.

McCarthy confirmed he would not run to be Speaker again, saying it was “unfortunate” that a small faction of his own party could agree with the opposition to kick him out.

The House elected a temporary Speaker but still needs to agree on who will fill the position permanently.

House Speaker’s role

The House Speaker’s job is critically important. They manage the passage of bills and maintain order in debates.

Despite technically being an impartial role, the Speaker acts as leader of the majority party in the House.

The Speaker is also second in line for the Presidency after the Vice-President, meaning in the event that both the President and Vice-President are unable to perform their roles,
the Speaker leads the country.

Jim Jordan, Speaker hopeful

Ohio Republican Jim Jordan is the party’s current pick for Speaker. Jordan is part of a far-right faction called the Freedom Caucus whose members have wielded significant power this year, delaying McCarthy’s appointment to Speaker and later voting to oust him.

Jordan has never admitted that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and appeared at a rally denying the result in the days following Biden’s win.

The House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection identified Jordan as a “significant player” in the attack on the Capitol.

Failed votes

At an internal meeting last week, Republicans chose to nominate Jordan for the Speakership. The party vote wasn’t unanimous, foreshadowing trouble at the official vote.

Two House votes to elect Jordan have since failed, with the number of votes ‘against’ increasing in the second round.

Why? Some Republicans still support McCarthy, while others are concerned Jordan would insist on major budget cuts. At least one won’t support him because of his election denial.

Future votes

Jordan met with some Republicans who don’t support him today ahead of a third vote expected this weekend.

Multiple representatives told media the meeting hadn’t changed their mind.

Democrats are set to continue to vote against any Republican nominee.

When will the U.S. House have a Speaker?

A handful of Democrats and Republicans have suggested the House could give the temporary Speaker more powers, avoiding a government shutdown.

As it stands, the temporary Speaker’s job is to oversee the election of a new Speaker.

Until this happens, the House can’t pass any bills, including those that fund government departments and programs.

Biden’s role

Today, President Joe Biden asked Congress (the House and Senate) to approve billions in aid for Ukraine and Israel.

This can’t happen without a Speaker.

The U.S. President doesn’t sit in the House like Australia’s Prime Minister, so Biden can only strongly advise the House about what to do.

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