Could Trump become Speaker? Your questions answered
Image Source, Getty Images Caption,
Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy together in the 2020 election campaign
Three days, 11 rounds of voting and countless popcorn emojis later, and the vote to determine the next House Speaker is still no closer to a result.
Now this centuries-old legislative process is suddenly a must-watch on TV. How long can it go on? Who will challenge Kevin McCarthy next?
Here are our answers to some of the internet’s most pressing questions.
Could Trump become spokesman?
On Thursday, the vote was not for Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, or for any other member of Congress, but for Donald Trump, the former US President.
Mr Trump has endorsed Mr McCarthy as speaker. But that didn’t stop Florida dissident Matt Gaetz from casting his token protest vote for the former president. This left many wondering…can they even do this?
Technically yes. The speaker can be anyone in the United States.
However, it is highly unlikely. No one has ever been elected speaker other than a sitting member of the House of Representatives. Anyway, Mr Trump was nowhere near the 218 votes he would need to win.
Watch: Republican Gaetz nominates Trump for speaker
When was the last time it took so long to choose a speaker?
Mr McCarthy made history, but for the wrong reasons. For the first time in a century, someone vying for the House role did not win the first round of voting.
In 1923, after several days and nine ballots, Frederick Gillet was elected to the post. The longest standstill before that was resolved in 1860 after 44 ballots.
But the all-time record was set in the 1855-56 election, widely regarded as the most contentious speaker confrontation in American history.
On that occasion, it took 133 ballots over the course of two months for Nathaniel Banks to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 34th Congress.
Who is Byron Donalds?
Mr Donalds and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries made history this week when they became the first black congressmen ever to be nominated for the post of speaker.
Mr Donalds is a Trump supporter, a staunch opponent of abortion and a staunch supporter of gun ownership.
The father-of-three, who was raised by a single mother, has previously spoken about how he transformed his life as a young man following a drug bust.
The 44-year-old congressman, who served two years in the House of Representatives, voted against confirming Joe Biden’s presidential victory in 2021.
What happens if nobody wins a majority?
No business can be transacted within the House of Representatives – not even the swearing-in of new congressmen – until a speaker is elected.
Since Mr. McCarthy does not achieve a majority, members must continue to vote until a winner is determined.
Mr McCarthy has vowed to keep fighting even if he doesn’t win straight away.
And there’s no other obvious candidate who could seriously contend for the speakership — so far, no Republican challenger has garnered more than 20 votes.
What is the problem between McCarthy and Gaetz?
Matt Gaetz was one of the leading forces behind efforts to block Mr McCarthy. As with many of the 20 Republican holdouts, some of his objections are political.
The Florida congressman has demanded concessions on how the House of Representatives operates, has reportedly campaigned for a chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee and has called for a special, well-funded panel to investigate the FBI and other government agencies.
With Mr. Gaetz, however, the objections to Mr. McCarthy appear to be personal. He has sharply condemned the California congressman for already moving into the Speaker’s office, calling him a “squatter” and calling him “the biggest alligator” in the Washington swamp.
Part of Mr. Gaetz’s animus towards the Republican leader of the House of Representatives may stem from his feelings that Mr. McCarthy did not adequately defend himself when he was the target of a House ethics probe and the Justice Department probe into sex trafficking allegations – an investigation that was dropped last year.
Who is domestic worker Cheryl Johnson?
Ms Johnson, the 117th US domestic worker to lead the case, has become an unlikely celebrity in the political drama crippling the home. In the House of Representatives this week, some members accidentally named their Madam Speaker instead of Madam Clerk.
Ms. Johnson, who hails from New Orleans and has a law degree, was first appointed clerk in 2018 by former spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi. The nomination was followed by two decades in the House of Representatives, where he served as an advisor to both Democrats and Republicans.
The little-known position is elected by lawmakers every two years when the House of Representatives convenes in a new Congress. The work is mainly administrative, with duties such as confirming the passage of all bills and resolutions by the Chamber.
There are also historic moments: Ms Johnson has twice been tasked with delivering Mr Trump’s impeachment hearings in person.
What is the speaker doing?
When used effectively, the position of Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful in Washington.
Depending on the partisan makeup of Congress, the Speaker can set or break a US president’s agenda, stymie opposition, and spearhead his party’s biggest legislative initiatives.
The Speaker is both traditionally and historically a sitting member of the majority party in the House of Representatives. However, this is not a constitutional requirement.
The speaker has almost complete control of the chamber. They set the House legislative agenda, control committee work, set the voting and work calendar, and are responsible for ensuring that their party members stand united behind major initiatives.
How is the speaker chosen?
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected by a simple majority of the voting members of the House of Representatives. In this case, that means the speaker must get 218 votes, or half (plus one) of the 435 elected members of the House of Representatives.
Although the House has had electronic voting since 1973, the Speakers are traditionally elected by roll-call vote. Each MP is named and says aloud who they are voting for. The votes are then counted by the clerk.
Technically, you only need the support of half the elected members voting for a candidate by roll call to be successful. This means that a speaker could be elected with less than half of all members if some of them do not turn up to vote or abstain (by saying “present” instead of a candidate’s name).
A few Republicans have voted “present” so far, making it a little easier for Mr. McCarthy to get a majority — but not enough to make a real difference.