What you need to know about how a House speaker is elected

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Kevin McCarthy is set to face a case of déjà vu come Tuesday. The political future of the 57-year-old will once again be at stake as Republican lawmakers decide if he should become House speaker.

It’s a journey the California lawmaker took once before in 2015, fruitlessly, facing the same opposition from the right flank of the party he is expected to meet this week. His first speakership run came when then–House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, resigned after an internal party battle with members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.

More than seven years later, he is the party’s nominee for speaker after leading the Republican Party to a slim majority in the November midterm elections. He secured the support of most of the conference during a closed-door leadership vote shortly after and overcame a challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.

While McCarthy is as of now facing no serious Republican challenger for the constitutionally mandated office, which would make him second in line to the presidency, his ascension to speaker is an open question — even as, according to an MSNBC report, he has already moved into the speaker’s opulent suite of offices. He is facing entrenched opposition from a small number of conservative lawmakers who in a 222-213 majority could well tank his nomination.

It is believed his candidacy could absorb no more than four defections. Some 14 Republicans, in the wake of a Sunday letter signed by nine House Republicans, have publicly vowed or suggested continued opposition to a McCarthy speakership.

House Democrat Eric Swalwell suggested those nine letter signers would ultimately return to the McCarthy fold, while the other five holdouts have characterized themselves as “never Kevin” Republicans.

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See: McCarthy’s longtime ambition of becoming House speaker to come to head on Day 1 of new Congress

Here’s what you need to know about how the House elects a speaker:

No speaker, no House

Choosing a speaker will be the first vote the House will take before new and returning lawmakers are even sworn into office on Tuesday. As set out under the Constitution, the session will begin at noon on Jan. 3, with all the lawmakers seated on the House floor and members from both parties joining in the vote for speaker. It is not a secret ballot.

The chamber cannot organize until it has a speaker since that person effectively serves as the House’s presiding officer and the institution’s administrative head.

The House can elect a new speaker at any time if the person occupying that role dies, resigns or is removed from office. Barring that, a speaker is normally elected at the start of a new Congress.

Lawmakers call out the name of their choice for speaker from the floor, a rare and time-consuming roll call that heightens the drama on the floor. Members often liven up the proceedings by shouting or standing when casting their vote.

Who can be nominated for speaker?

In the weeks after an election, the Republican conference and the Democratic caucus hold an informal vote among their members to decide who they want to nominate to lead their party in January. McCarthy won the majority of the Republican vote in a closed-door November meeting. Weeks later, Democrats unanimously chose Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, to become their leader as the party transitions into the minority.

But, once Jan. 3 comes along, members are not obligated to vote for the party’s chosen candidate. While it has been the tradition for the speaker candidate to be a member of the House, it is not required. In past years, President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and even a senator, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, have received votes for House speaker.

To be sure, none of them came close to a majority of the vote.

Let the voting begin

Once the House is in a quorum — meaning the minimum number of members are present to proceed — the speaker nominee from each party will be read aloud by the respective leaders before a roll call vote to elect a new speaker. The clerk then appoints lawmakers from each party as tellers to tally the votes.

The candidate to become speaker needs a majority of the votes from House members who are present and voting.

Historically, the magical number has been 218 out of the 435 members of the House. But many previous speakers, including outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have ascended to the dais with fewer votes than that, as some members voted present instead of calling out a name. Every lawmaker voting “present” lowers the overall tally needed to reach a majority.

See: Nancy Pelosi portrait unveiling at Capitol reduces John Boehner to tears

Also: House Democratic caucus confers ‘speaker emerita’ title on Pelosi as Jeffries takes up party leadership reins

Many are skeptical that McCarthy will reach a majority to become speaker on the first ballot. Should he come up short, it is likely the clerk will repeat the roll call several times until he is able to garner a majority. McCarthy is expected to be making concessions and compromises with the holdouts until the moment he is able to grasp the gavel, telling reporters on Monday at the Capitol that he expected to “have a good day” on Tuesday.

From the archives (July 2021): Trump and allies work to rebrand Jan. 6 rioters as patriots, heroes and martyrs

Also (January 2022): Toeing of party line outweighs deliverables for constituents for many of today’s congressional Republicans

Also (February 2021): Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene removed from House committees; 11 Republicans cross aisle in vote

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Gavel passing

Once a speaker candidate won a majority of the vote, the clerk will announce the results of the election.

A bipartisan committee, usually consisting of members from the home state of the chosen candidate, will then escort the speaker-elect to the chair on the dais where the oath of office is administered. The oath is identical to the one new members will take once a speaker is chosen.

The outgoing speaker will usually join the successor at the speaker’s chair, where they will pass the gavel as a nod to the peaceful transition of power from one party leader to another. This time around, that will be Pelosi, the California Democrat who has held the gavel for the last four years.

MarketWatch contributed.

Read on: U.S. Rep.–elect Santos should consider quitting over résumé lies, says veteran House Republican

This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.

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