Last month, the United States House of Representatives faced a routine procedure that is almost always a symbolic moment for the majority party: the election of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. In the midterm elections, the Republicans took control of the House which led the American public to believe that Kevin McCarthy, the previous House Minority Leader, would win the election for Speaker of the House with limited opposition. However, organized efforts to prevent his candidacy from reaching its goal, led by members of his own party, would lead to a historic race for his dream position.
It took 15 rounds of unforgettable votes over 5 days and 4 nights for Kevin McCarthy to become the Speaker of the House. The last time that a Speaker was not elected on the first ballot was in 1923 when, due to similar intraparty drama, the incumbent Speaker had to succumb to the demands of those who voted against him in order to reach the minimum number of votes. During this election, the country was exposed to different viewpoints on how the situation was playing out.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with Republican Representative Bill Huizenga representing Michigan’s 4th Congressional District and Democratic Representative Hillary Scholten representing Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District to gain more insight on not only the historic vote for Speaker from a firsthand point of view, but also other issues facing the new Congress.
From a Republican view, Representative Huizenga explained the difficult election process as, “A breakdown over a number of years of people sort of sniping at each other.” These so-called snipes only exacerbated the division between different factions of Republicans in Congress. The division can be seen by vows made by those who refused to vote for Kevin McCarthy, members of the House of Representatives whom we will refer to as the holdouts. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida’s 1st Congressional District made this vow after the sixth round of voting without electing a speaker, “He’s a desperate guy whose vote share is dropping with every subsequent vote and I’m ready to vote all night, all week, all month, and never for that person [Kevin McCarthy].”
Representative Huizenga also reemphasized his long-standing belief that “You need to have a relationship to build trust and you need trust to find solutions.” He went on to say that “The relationship part had broken down and therefore the trust had deteriorated so when it was time to trust each other a bit on some of these steps, people couldn’t get there.” For fourteen rounds of voting, they couldn’t get there. Eventually, there was a solution that allowed six members of the House that were still holding out, despite the concessions McCarthy and his leaders put together, to stick to their vows and never vote directly for Kevin McCarthy. Instead, they voted “Present,” which allowed him to obtain the speakership. The only remaining question is whether or not through all of this, trust was re-established by members of the Republican Conference.
Representative Huizenga hopes that this experience helps his colleagues rebuild trust with one another. A few hours prior to our interview with him, he met with one of the original holdouts. One of the topics they discussed was the election of the Speaker of the House. Representative Huizenga said this about what was discussed, “He and I both agreed that we thought it was a difficult but healthy exercise which will hopefully, and I say hopefully, help us as we’re moving through some tough policy issues as well because we’re going to have to build some consensus.” In summary, there does seem to be a chance that this established a little trust among Republicans in the House. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but there are those in the party that believe that the election was helpful for the future.
On the other side of the aisle, Representative Hilary Scholten wasn’t as optimistic about the lasting effects of the Speaker election. “The concessions that Kevin McCarthy was willing to make to the even more extreme faction of his party does leave me deeply concerned about the direction that this party is going and the direction the Republicans want to take this country.”
The next big issue that Washington faces is the debt ceiling. The United States has already hit the debt limit of 31.4 trillion dollars, but due to measures that the Treasury Department put into place the U.S. won’t be forced to default on its obligations until early this June. Luckily there seems to be some optimism in Congress that there will be a solution to this pressing issue. Both Representative Huizenga and Representative Scholten agree that it is necessary to find a solution to this problem in order to avoid the potential economic recession and other repercussions that come with defaulting on the debt. It has fallen to newly elected Speaker McCarthy to work with the White House to prevent this potentially devastating event from occurring.
Representative Scholten had this to say on the debt ceiling and the progress towards finding a solution under new leadership: “What we’re looking at with a potential default on our debt has huge consequences not just for the United States but for the entire world. I’m glad to see Speaker McCarthy took a meeting with the White House and he’s at least appearing to take this seriously.” However, she went on to say, “I worry that, again, there will be delay and lack of seriousness when it comes to dealing with the details of addressing the debt limit. I hope he took the meeting with the President seriously and I hope they’re going to take steps to resolve it. I continue to bring my optimism and problem-solving every day to this issue but I’m definitely concerned.”
When asked about the role of Congress in finding a solution for the federal debt crisis, Representative Huizenga said, “We have a moral and legal obligation to pay the bills we have incurred and we will do that. The question is, are we going to change or alter our spending habits?” He is of the belief that Congress should change the way that money is spent, “The debt we are saddling your generation and future generations with is going to limit what you are going to be able to do because it is taking money away from everything from the Department of Education to healthcare to the Department of Transportation, you name it. Not to mention the Defense Department, which is one of the few actual enumerated responsibilities of the United States federal government, the defense of our nation. We can argue about the level of it but we have to have a Defense Department. We’re limiting your generation, future generations, that’s a lot of what’s motivating me frankly, looking at some bipartisan ways to have that conversation. In a nutshell, in my opinion, we have got to change and modify how we are going about spending our tax dollars, your tax dollars, because it is not sustainable.”
We are extremely grateful to be able to use these interviews to inform on the state of the House of the Representatives at the moment, from perspectives on both sides of the aisle.
Hello! My name is Krishna Mano and I am a 9th Grader at City High School. This is my third year writing for the City Voice and first year as an editor. Apart from the newspaper, I am part of the Speech and Debate team, Student Ambassadors, and a board member of the NHS. Outside of school, my most favorite hobbies are reading, playing the violin, public speaking, skiing, and paddleboarding. If you have any questions about my articles, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi! My name is Sam Ostrow and I'm a freshman at City High School. This is my second year writing for The City Voice. I enjoy watching and playing Sports, reading books, and of course writing. I also like to debate and collect baseball cards. If you have any questions, email me at email@example.com.