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Keeping Up With Congress: What’s Going On In The House?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Recently, the U.S. Congress has been my new favorite reality show. I’ve always had an interest in politics and try my best to stay involved and informed. With the recent fiasco, I’ve been glued to my phone, waiting for constant updates and watching the House crumble.

Most people, however, don’t have the time to follow every political debate and the constant changes can be confusing, and a little intimidating. Even as a political science major, I found myself getting lost in what’s going on in government and what it all means. Here is a simple breakdown of the three-week-long saga of the removal of the Speaker of the House and where we go from here.

Let’s Start At the Beginning

This January, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was voted to be the Speaker of the House, after Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stepped down in November 2022. Voting in McCarthy was grueling, to say the least, requiring 15 rounds of voting and lots of arm-twisting to secure his position. 

In late September, McCarthy faced a tough decision to make as the time was running out; side with the Democrats and avoid a government shutdown that would deny millions of Americans their paychecks and cut access to government-funded programs, or please the Republicans by meeting their requests to reform the entire system of government spending and reframe how Congress works completely.

His choice to side with the Democrats, which ultimately allowed for the government to continue functioning, was the beginning of the end of his short time as Speaker. After only nine months, McCarthy had a target on his back as the House Republicans felt he betrayed the party. On Oct. 3, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) rallied the troops and made an unprecedented move: called to remove McCarthy as the Speaker of the House. The House came to a vote and McCarthy was officially ousted.

Wait, What Does This Mean?

The Speaker of the House is the leader of the House of Representatives and is second in the line of succession to the Presidency (after only the Vice President). Congress can not function without a Speaker, so McCarthy’s removal paralyzed the House, and the rest of Congress, for three entire weeks.

It’s also important to mention that this is the first time in American history that a Speaker of the House was ever voted out of office. It’s especially shocking that this effort was led by his own party! Congress is a messy line of work, but one thing that is pretty much guaranteed is party loyalty.

Just keep Voting!

Now that Congress is Speaker-less, the best part of the story begins! Nothing can happen in the House until a new Speaker is elected. So, each party has the opportunity to nominate a representative and the House comes together to vote. In order for a Speaker to be elected, they must be voted for by a majority of the entire House. There are 435 members, so Speaker hopefuls would need to secure 217 votes to win.  

The House Democrats nominated Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the House minority leader (and a representative from my home, NYC!) They organized and completely backed their nomination. The House Republicans, however, scrambled to find someone they could all agree to nominate, and here’s where the fun really begins.

Over the past three weeks, the House Republicans cycled through nominations and struggled to come to a common consensus. The first, and most natural choice, was to nominate Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La) as he is the House majority leader. But his health issues and tough competition made it difficult for all House Republicans to get on board. 

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was heavily favored by the far-right members who sparked this whole mess to begin with. But, winning 217 votes proved to be exceedingly difficult as he tried (and failed) three times before dropping out of the race. A number of different Republican House members tried their hand at running for Speaker, extending the process even further.

And the Winner is…

Finally, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) was nominated and voted in to be the Speaker of the House, ending the chaos and getting the House back to business as usual. Johnson has been in Congress for about two years now and is not as well known as the other House Republicans who ran against him. Still, he was able to secure 220 votes and is now the Speaker of the House. His involvement in the Jan. 6 storming of the capital and dedication to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, coupled with his inexperience, has cast a lot of doubt if he is fit for the role. He is bound to hit a few bumps in the road (and already has) but the House is back to normal (for now).

Sydney is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She was born and raised in New York City and loves to find hidden gems in the city with her friends. She also volunteers with Big Brother Big Sisters at the local elementary school and works with the Photo section of the Daily Campus, UConn's student-run newspaper. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you'll probably find Sydney with a Dunkin iced coffee, listening to Frank Ocean, and hanging out with friends.