The Hitchhiker’s Guide to what’s going to go down tonight with the speaker’s election


Fox expects the House to elect Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker either late tonight or in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

We don’t know if McCarthy will win on a potential 14th ballot right after the House returns at 10 pm ET. But Fox is told GOP brass does expect McCarthy to prevail tonight.

We do not know the exact “magic number” for McCarthy to win. However, if all 434 members are present, the number is 218. Reps.-elect Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, and Ken Buck, R-Colo., were absent earlier. Fox is told both will be back tonight. Both are McCarthy supporters.

It is possible other members-elect could be absent from the other side of the aisle. That would lower the threshold for McCarthy and could potentially help him win the speakership depending on who is absent.

CHANCES ‘LOW’ HOUSE SPEAKER DRAMA ENDS SOON, ZERO VOTES MAY BE SWAYED AFTER MCCARTHY TALKS: SENIOR GOP SOURCE

Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., prepares for a ninth round of voting for speaker during a meeting of the 118th Congress Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Moreover, Democrats could be absent. Or, if McCarthy fails to flip the six holdouts, they could vote “present.” A “present” vote does not count against the overall tally.

Three former speakers — Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — all won various speakers’ elections with fewer than 218 votes.

The total needed to win the speakership IS ALWAYS IN MOTION. That’s because it depends on how many members actually cast ballots. The math is tricky.

Here’s how I expect things to go down.

McCarthy is elected speaker—on whichever ballot that may be. Keep in mind that nothing is final until House Clerk Cheryl Johnson announces the totals. There is always a lull of about 15 minutes between when the last ballot is cast when the tellers tabulate the votes.

Then, the House will appoint an “escort committee” to bring the speaker into the chamber. This will involve another lull.

US House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., center, is acknowledged in the House chamber during the second day of elections for speaker of the House at the US Capitol Building Jan. 4, 2023, in Washington, DC

US House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., center, is acknowledged in the House chamber during the second day of elections for speaker of the House at the US Capitol Building Jan. 4, 2023, in Washington, DC
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The House will present the speaker. It is likely that incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. will present the gavel to McCarthy.

The dean of the House—the most senior member of either party—then swears in the speaker. In this case, it’s Rep.-elect Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who was elected in 1980.

The speaker will then swear in members and give a speech from the dais.

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Fox is told the House expects to approve the “rules package” for the 118th Congress at some point afterwards.

The rules package will be an important component to the “deal” McCarthy cut with holdouts to secure their votes. The rules package is a crucial and often controversial component to House operations. For instance, the Senate has 44 “standing rules” that carry over from one Congress to the next.

However, the House rules do not carry over. So, the House must adopt the rules package to govern how the House will operate.

The exterior of the US Capitol is seen during the second day of orientation for new members of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, Nov. 14, 2022.

The exterior of the US Capitol is seen during the second day of orientation for new members of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, Nov. 14, 2022.
(Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

THE VOTE FOR HOUSE SPEAKER: LIVE UPDATES

Two major ironies here:

McCarthy and others have made a major point about giving members a full “72 hours” to “read the bills” before the House votes on them. The rules package is NOT a bill. There is often wiggle room on enforcing any modicum of a “72-hour rule” for “bills.”

That’s because much of the House’s legislative traffic involves resolutions, reports, “substitute” amendments (say from the Senate), et al. Not just “bills.” This “rules package” is a “resolution.” However, the full text of this measure has not been out for 72 hours. So, it will be ironic if the House votes on this overnight.

Republicans were often apoplectic about Democrats passing big bills “in the dark of night.”

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It appears the new House GOP majority will likely elect its speaker and approve its rules package for the 118th Congress late Friday night or the wee hours of Saturday morning.

The internal forecast for timing suggests the majority will have things together on the speaker and swearing-in of new members by about 12:45 am ET. The debate on the rules package would come after that, followed by another vote series. They believe EVERYTHING should be wrapped up by around 3 am ET

But two caveats, both from “Star Wars.”

“Hard to see, the future is,” said Yoda.

And…

“This is not going to go the way you think,” Luke Skywalker declared in “The Last Jedi.”

There are always anomalies to the process. This may wrap up much easier or run much later. Hard to forecast.

malek

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