How does the House vote in a new speaker?

Members of the House will convene next week to elect a new Speaker of the House

Ariana Baio
Tuesday 10 October 2023 10:31 EDT

Moment House of Representatives ousts Speaker Kevin McCarthy

For the second time this year, the House of Representatives is preparing to hold a vote to elect a new speaker of the House after Kevin McCarthy was suddenly ousted from the post.

Beginning on Tuesday next week, members of each party will have closed-door discussions to determine potential nominations within their caucus before the House holds a formal vote on Wednesday.

All eyes will be on the chamber as the unprecedented election gets underway to replace Mr McCarthy – who has become the first speaker to be removed through a motion to vacate.

There’s no telling how long it will take for the House to elect a new speaker, given the last election required 15 rounds of voting before Mr McCarthy claimed the gavel.

Ahead of the vote, here’s everything to know about how the House votes to elect a speaker

What is the role of House speaker?

The speaker of the House is a position within the House of Representatives that is typically elected at the start of a new congressional year – though an election is required if the speaker dies, resigns or is removed.

The speaker’s job is to preside over the House to ensure legislation is passed by setting the agenda, controlling the flow of debate on the floor, counting votes and more.

The position is third in line to the presidency, right behind the vice president.

As the administrative head of the legislative chamber, the House cannot perform its duties until a speaker is elected. There are very few qualifications for a person to become speaker of the House other than being nominated by a member and obtaining a majority of votes.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., waves the gavel on the opening day of the 117th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021

How does the House vote to elect a speaker?

In the days before an election takes place, each party will hold informal discussions to conclusively decide on a nomination for the position – though this does not mean everyone in that caucus must vote for that person.

At the scheduled time of the election, the House must meet quorum (the minimum number of members present to vote) then members of the House will verbally nominate people for the position.

Once nominations are finished, the House begins voting via roll call.

Although the speaker does not need to be from the majority party, it is almost always the case because they need a majority of votes to win.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters hours after he was ousted as Speaker of the House, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, at the Capitol in Washington.

How many votes are needed?

Since a majority is needed to win, the ideal number is 218.

However, that is not always the number necessary to win.

If fewer than 435 members show up for the vote, then the majority needed goes down. A similar situation occurs if members choose to vote “present” rather than for a nominee their vote is not counted toward the total.

When is the vote?

The House is expected to hold a vote for speaker on Wednesday, 11 October.

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