Local political expert weighs in on House Speaker vote fiasco

NOW: Local political expert weighs in on House Speaker vote fiasco


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- It took more than a dozen votes to elect Republican Kevin McCarthy from California.

McCarthy claimed the speaker’s gavel after midnight, culminating four days of disarray and dissension in the chamber not seen since the Civil War.

The fighting led to tense moments and harsh words on the House floor during the 14th vote.

McCarthy had to flip more than a dozen conservatives to give him the majority he needed.

"And now the hard work begins. What we do here today. Next week, next month, Next year will set the tone for everything that follows," said Speaker McCarthy.

The new house rules which will be created next week may be the bigger story.

To win over his detractors, McCarthy had to agree to relinquish some of the very powers he'll need to lead.

Political science experts nationally, and here locally, say the concessions made by Speaker McCarthy mean this congress could face a lot of trouble acting in many ways, something they say was already the case before this happened due to such a narrow margin for the Republican majority.

"What all of us are used to is that American politics are either or," said UW-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus of political science Mordecai Lee.

Lee says what happened over the past four days may show that the Democrat-Republican dichotomy is weaker than everyone thought.

"I think what we've seen over the last three days is maybe the Republican Party is breaking into two parties," said Lee.

20 to 21 Republican representatives, with people like Florida's Rep. Matt Gaetz in the spotlight, holding out on instating Speaker McCarthy over issues like raising the national debt ceiling, something Lee says usually isn't a big deal.

"If you're the governing party, you sort of sooner or later have to pass it, because otherwise the government would shut down. And I think when we look at those 20, 21 votes, they sort of don't mind if the government shuts down," said Lee.

Lee says one concession made by McCarthy is one member of Congress being able to call for a vote of no confidence in the speaker.

"What they told us is that at any moment during the next two years of this Congress, they might be willing to topple the Speaker," said Lee.

Lee says this and other concessions may slow down proceedings.

"So, an appropriations bill might be debated for two months, three months, four months, because of all the amendments that people are submitting," said Lee.

According to Lee, this is just another issue Congress will face, as McCarthy already has an extremely narrow majority.

So close, that the numbers needed to pass legislation might not be there if a few members are sick, if someone passes away, or if they just can't make it to a vote.

"He's gonna be holding his breath, are we going to make it? Do we have enough people here?" asked Lee.

Lee says part of what's changed in the past 10-20 years is the proliferation of social media and punditry,

He says while in the past freshman representatives would work to gain prestige within Congress, now they often opt to speak to special interest groups or go on talk shows.

"There are a group of politicians who really don't care about becoming powerful inside the institution," said Lee.

One highlight of the whole process was the relaxed rules of press during the speaker voting process -- showing sides of Congress not usually allowed by either party once they officially take power.

"I almost wish that we could keep this because I think for American citizens who are interested in politics, this is a much better way to understand how Congress works," said Lee.

Wisconsin's six GOP representatives voted for McCarthy.

The two Democratic voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

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