In the wake of the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans managed to narrowly flip the US House of Representatives. The majority is so slim that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could fall short of the votes he needs on January 3 to become the next speaker of the house. Currently, at least three Republican conservatives say they won’t vote for him, and others are suggesting they may not as well.
On Wednesday, November 30, former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was spotted walking the halls of the Capitol building, which led to speculation he could seek to lead the lower chamber despite no longer serving as an elected official.
Is McCarthy in Trouble, and Could Boehner Defeat Him a Second Time?
To secure the position of House speaker, McCarthy needs to get 218 votes; any way he can get them. He’s unlikely to get enough support from Democrats to put him over the top. Conservative Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Ralph Norman (R-SC) vow they will not vote for him. Other Republicans are reportedly leaning against voting against the California leader, as well.
Boehner’s presence on Capitol Hill isn’t helping matters for McCarthy. The US Constitution doesn’t require a member of Congress to serve as the speaker of the house. Yet, no one outside of Congress has ever held the position. Still, it may not be out of the realm of possibility Boehner could be the first, though it’s uncertain why he was in Washington, DC.
The Ohio Republican became Speaker in 2011 and resigned in 2015 after a conservative uprising ousted the more moderate Republican. Boehner’s tenure was challenging as he faced a divided government and a growing conservative movement inside the GOP. When he left, the leading figure to replace him was McCarthy. The right-leaning members rejected him then, as they appear to be doing now.
Why Is It Important?
The speaker of the house is a powerful office created by the US Constitution. Yet, the founding document doesn’t define its implicit powers or role. In the presidential line of succession, it’s next in line after the vice president.
The speaker fulfills multiple roles at the same time. It’s the presiding officer over the House, the leader of a political party, and the administrative head of the lower chamber. Still, the Constitution leaves the particulars up to Congress, which has defined the speaker as the person who maintains order, manages its affairs, and governs the administration of the lower chamber’s business.